Discover more from Random Minds by Katherine Brodsky
Word Misappropriation: THE SOCIAL GRIFTER
A verbal series. Part 8.
Merriam-Webster definition: A grifter might be a pickpocket, a crooked gambler, scammer, or a confidence man. Grift may have come from graft, a slightly older word meaning "to acquire dishonestly."
It has become rather popular to call out individuals as “grifters,” particularly in the social media landscape. Certainly, many of these accusations are unfairly made in these social contexts.
If a person dares to have an opinion that gets them a lot of attention with which a group or another individual strongly disagrees, accusations of grifting are liberally swung around. The individuals making the accusations see those they are attacking as somehow benefiting from their stances. The label is an attempt to discredit them or harm their reputation. It is not ineffective, though they more they are overused—not dissimilarly to words like ‘nazi’—the less seriously they get taken over time.
That said, there are also ‘real’ grifters out there—and what I refer to as social grifters.
What the social grifter has in common with the more traditional grifter is that both employ techniques of deception and persuasion to gain the trust of others in order to acquire what’s valuable to them. Money and other materials things are often the the most motivating end goal for the traditional grifter, but both types can also be attracted to status.
The social grifter is also particularly keen on attention as a currency.
Therefore the social grifter is someone who intentionally manipulates their words for engagement—often rage. They do so not because they simply genuinely believe in what they are saying, but because they know it will get them some sort of benefit, whether an increased following or financial gains. Although some of what they say might be rooted in a sliver of authentic belief, it is intentionally exaggerated in order to inflame, promote, or manipulate an audience.
An example might be to say something like: “I’m being censored for telling the TRUTH, retweet if you care about about free speech.”
Many tweets are designed to take advantage of people’s existing fears and anxieties by exaggerating the severity of situations or claims. They ignite existing anger and play on it. They knowingly post misleading information or fake videos.
And they tend to do well because they post with intention. They are the Anna Delveys of the social media world.
Will they be going away anytime soon? No. That’s why it’s important to become educated on their tactics and avoid giving them what they want most: engagement. Without your clicks, follows and attention, they’ve got nothing.
But just as important, we need to ensure that the term isn’t tossed around to discredit legitimate thinkers with whom we happen to disagree.
The difference between the two is that one believes what they are saying (regardless of whether they benefit or are hurt by it), and the other pretends to or exaggerates/sensationalizes for their own benefit.
[Part of an on-going series on word misappropriation]
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Who am I? I’m a writer with an overactive imagination and a random mind. Outside of Substack, you’ll find my work in publications such as Newsweek, WIRED, Variety, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Esquire, Playboy, Mashable, CNN Travel, The Independent, and many others.