Myth #1: Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.
July 14, 2019 8:17 PM   Subscribe

A short Twitter thread about how secrets spread, by Melissa Caruso.
posted by Caduceus (39 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I appreciate this. I knew about the 'I won't tell anyone except for the one person I tell everything to' but didn't really put together that that's how secrets spread.
posted by Merus at 8:45 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is really perceptive about how the dam bursts (hints of conspiracy among secret-knowers), but I think the basic wisdom of the title is sound. There are too many SO/BFF exceptions to secret-keeping that sharing a secret is already giving away the game. Unfortunately, being the sole knower of a secret is very lonely. More unfortunately, that applies to the people you share it with.

(Also: this is what therapists are for.)
posted by sjswitzer at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2019 [7 favorites]


This is the main reason I don't superhero. Secret identities are tough.

Well, that and because I lack superpowers.
posted by mundo at 9:12 PM on July 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


Well, that and because I lack superpowers.

Are you sure you tried doing all of them?
posted by aubilenon at 9:16 PM on July 14, 2019 [18 favorites]


This is the difference between people who commit felonies and get away with it, and those that don’t.
posted by aramaic at 9:17 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


The best thing about my bff-who-I-tell-all-the-secrets-too is that she now lives 2000 miles away and the secrets are never about our mutuals, because at this point, we have very few mutuals. (or if they are, is about a mutual we both live far away from now).

It’s also the worst thing because I live 2000 miles away from my bff.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:35 PM on July 14, 2019 [11 favorites]


Are you sure you tried doing all of them?

Yeah. Well mostly. I squish most spiders before I can find out if they are radioactive.
posted by mundo at 9:37 PM on July 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


Well, that and because I lack superpowers.

*knowing glance*
posted by zamboni at 9:38 PM on July 14, 2019 [16 favorites]


obviously a gaming or writing group is going to want to up the drama and tension with hints and knowing glances and dam bursting - when in reality if you want to keep a secret, you simply create a persona to inhabit that doesn't know the secret.

Besides wouldn't someone whose very good at keeping secrets go around acting like a gossip who can't be trusted?
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 PM on July 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


A nice thing about being married for 20+ years is that I have a built-in BFF to share secrets with that won't spread, because she'll just share back to me if anyone.
Also everyone knows this about us, so they don't tend to share secrets with me that can't be shared with her.
posted by PennD at 9:43 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


A nice thing about being married for 20+ years is that I have a built-in BFF to share secrets with that won't spread

Ha... this is what I thought, until my husband blurted out a thing I told him in confidence in the middle of a dinner party. The general topic came up in conversation and my husband was just adding his two cents, completely forgetting that the only reason he had two cents to give is because I had told it to him in confidence. I was horrified... lol.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:16 AM on July 15, 2019 [21 favorites]


I had the experience of being told something in confidence by a friend and having to say “may I (or will you) also tell X, because it would not be great for me if I knew and she did not.” And my friend thought about it for a few days and said “sure,” so it all worked out, I guess. Except for the original “thing in confidence,” but that’s a different situation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:55 AM on July 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is kind of fun if you're into LARP i guess but don't uhh change your COINT strategy based on it ok?

TL;DR: "Myth #1: Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead."
(Later)
"You see, when multiple people know a secret, they start exchanging Meaningful Glances and Veiled References about it."


Please, DO go on.
posted by some loser at 4:20 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of my least favorite things is when someone tells me something and then says "oh, and that's a secret, don't tell anybody." I mean, I like to think I'm good at keeping confidences, but I'd like to know beforehand if I'm going to be burdened with something that can't / shouldn't be shared. Way too many "holy shit I did not want to know that" moments.

All I can say after nearly 50 years on the planet is... people are talky, my friends. Real talky. The number of things I've been told that I should absolutely not have been told due to NDAs, professional ethics, and so forth ... are way too damn many. I'm reasonably sure none of my friends have committed murder because it absolutely would have slipped by now. (Also because in many cases I'd probably be called to help dispose of the body...)

They try to hush others who are treading too near the secret with people who don't know in the room.

I have a work acquaintance I will not go to work dinners with or invite to work dinners any longer because after about 1.5 drinks if she sees two people speaking quietly she'll practically shout WHAT ARE YOU TWO TALKING ABOUT??? Fuck, mind your own damn business OK?
posted by jzb at 4:56 AM on July 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


This is dead on. And very apropos of my present situation.

That is, I have a secret right now and am not telling it to anyone (it's not mine to tell) But the temptation is to tell people I have a secret, and one friend, because she has the relevant experience and because she knows my situation, guessed what it was the moment I said anything. Fortunately, she is not in the network of people affected. So I can't tell anyone I have a secret any more. I can't tell my partner, even though the secret affects him, because he will tell all his BFFs immediately. And the person whose secret it is, is telling whoever they choose to tell, and even hinting at it on social media.

Oh god.

Luckily, it's not a bad secret and I don't mind having it, and it will come out eventually, but it requires so much discipline not to say anything that I will no doubt grow from the experience.
posted by Peach at 5:21 AM on July 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


And why I love it when a character does their *deep breath* big reveal and their friends are like "Well, obviously."

And then there are the secrets that are genuinely well-kept by the holders of the secrets, but dead easy for everyone else to figure out regardless. This is what happened to Mrs. slkinsey and I when we began dating. We had known each other for around a decade prior and were both part of a larger community of friends and colleagues who had known each other at least that long. Most of that time we had been married to other people, also members of this community, but ended up finding ourselves relatively newly single at around the same time and it took a while before we were comfortable sharing our relationship publicly. When we did decide it was okay to do so after a month or two of dating I revealed it to a friend at lunch and his response was to say, "FINALLY!" then whip out his cell phone to call his wife and say, "Yeah, so slkinsey finally told us they've been seeing each other. Tell everyone they can stop pretending they don't know." It was killing him to keep it a secret from us that everyone else hadn't figured out our secret.
posted by slkinsey at 5:33 AM on July 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


Is anyone else madly curious about what the secret WAS? Yes, there is a picture but I lack the context.
posted by Paladin1138 at 5:33 AM on July 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


* Sigh. Rather, it was killing him to keep it a secret from us that everyone else HAD figured out our secret.
posted by slkinsey at 5:40 AM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]



(Also: this is what therapists are for.)

'
Oh holy shit, yes.

There was a period of time when I was ostensibly seeing a therapist for general depression issues, and it happened to coincide with some nasty legal stuff that people I loved were just enough involved in that I became an unintentional, sworn to silence sounding board for them. And, like, thank god for my therapist.
posted by thivaia at 5:57 AM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Paladin1138: Is anyone else madly curious about what the secret WAS? Yes, there is a picture but I lack the context.

The demon/angel/wereraven really does like candles after all.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:27 AM on July 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


One of the things I find interesting about this is what it reveals about the asymmetry of friendships. Like, someone told their BFF their deep dark secret because they couldn't stand to hold it inside themselves. And then *that* person told *their* BFF -- who apparently wasn't *their* BFF.

Also, I am totally the veiled reference, wink-wink-nudge-nudge type when I know someone's secret and I fucking hate that about myself, but I also don't seem to be able to stop myself.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:43 AM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


(Personal secrets, that is. I do fine with professional confidences. Something about the threat of being disbarred or jailed for revealing national secrets makes my wink-wink-nudge-nudge tendencies mostly go away.)
posted by jacquilynne at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2019


And why I love it when a character does their *deep breath* big reveal and their friends are like "Well, obviously."

aaaaa it stresses me out in media when they leave it at this and then there's no conversation *about* the secret!! even if it was really obvious it clearly mattered to the friend and you should reassure them about it!!! even though the joke is really funny
posted by gaybobbie at 6:51 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Here's my fucking dilemma with this topic:

There is a secret involving Social Circle 1. This is definitely a situation where this secret should not be coming out, at least right now. I do not talk with anyone in SC1 about it, nor have I so far talked with anyone who knows anybody in SC1 even if they are not properly in the circle. I have only blabbed to people outside of the circle, who won't meet anyone in SC1 because they live in different towns.

HowEVER:

(a) I got asked point blank about The Secret by someone in what we'll call Social Circle 2, and at the time since everyone in SC2 has no overlap with SC1, eh, that's fine, right yet? Also I don't want to straight up lie if asked point blank because then you get caught lying.

But guess what: someone in SC2 who knows is going to be going to an event where people at SC1 will be. Odds are fairly high that she won't even actually interact with the secret topic, but I fear at some point I will need to pull her aside and say, "you're not going to blab about X, right?" and she'll say "oh no, of course not!" and I don't think she will, but...this was a lot more overlap than I was expecting.

(b) Also, I am now concerned that someone in SC1 might possibly figure it out on their own after what went down last week, and if he does, I am going to have to threaten death if he blabs.

So yeah, THIS is how secret shit comes out, probably. Someone needs to blab and then things happen unexpectedly.

When did my life become a fucking dumbass drama tawdry secret soap opera?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:37 AM on July 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is precisely why I am on Metafilter, or more specifically, AskMe, so I can safely give advice etc based on wisdom I have gleaned from knowing--and mostly keeping-- people's secrets.
posted by rpfields at 8:12 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


The murderer is right in this room. Sitting at this table. You may serve the fish.
posted by slkinsey at 9:16 AM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


When did my life become a fucking dumbass drama tawdry secret soap opera?

Humans gonna human. We love gossip. I would say I'm above it but nah, I kinda love it too. I have just learned to hold myself back from constant gossiping because I don't want to hurt people by telling something that has a backlash. But I have to remind myself of that and sometimes leave the conversation/avoid drinking so I won't.
posted by emjaybee at 9:32 AM on July 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


It can REALLY put a person in a tight spot if you've been told something in confidence and asked to keep it in confidence, and are then directly asked about the same thing by a third party who has a reasonable expectation that you will take them into your confidence. Keeping secrets under any circumstance is further complicated by the fact is that sometimes it's a good idea to keep the secret, sometimes it's a really bad idea to keep it, and doing either one can have serious consequences for your relationships with the person with the secret as well as the person(s) from whom the secret is being kept.
posted by slkinsey at 9:43 AM on July 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


I guess I'm the odd one, but I just don't understand the need to reveal someone else's secret. If there's a question or 'reveal' about someone else, I suggest it come from THAT person; not me. If I consider it a matter of safety for another person, then that's a different story all together.

And what's the need for someone to tell me their secret? I mean, telling me doesn't make their secret any different. What's the reason people tell their secret? Validation?

I'd rather not pry into other people's privacy or know some juicy gossip that I cannot verify. Akkkk! Understanding people is so frightfully difficult.
posted by mightshould at 9:47 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I not sure "Myth #1" is actually a myth since this story wasn't "two people know about the secret...the end".
posted by sideshow at 9:49 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


What's the reason people tell their secret?

Conversation in general is social grooming. It brings and holds people together. A secret is both a compelling topic of conversation as well as a demonstration of (perhaps misplaced) trust.
posted by explosion at 10:23 AM on July 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


And then there are the secrets that are genuinely well-kept by the holders of the secrets, but dead easy for everyone else to figure out regardless. This is what happened to Mrs. slkinsey and I when we began dating.

Can confirm.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


aaaaa it stresses me out in media when they leave it at this and then there's no conversation *about* the secret!! even if it was really obvious it clearly mattered to the friend and you should reassure them about it!!! even though the joke is really funny

There's this blindly-followed "rule" that you should never have characters repeat something the audience already knows, but this whole conversation demonstrates that one thing people love irresistibly is to be there and see someone's reaction when they find out the thing you know and they don't. Drama gold that filmmakers are constantly leaving on the table.
posted by straight at 11:18 AM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I thought the saying was, "three can keep a secret if two of them are dead." (On Googling: "Three may keep a Secret, if two of them are dead." - Benjamin Franklin)

The point being, if two people know a secret, there is a strong disincentive to leaking as the non-leaker will know the other leaked it. If three know a secret, the two non-leakers may not be able to determine who the leaker was if all three deny it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:30 AM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also, the worst are bullshit NDA work secrets that you know will have an affect on people you care about. I wish I didn't have experience with this.
posted by thivaia at 12:30 PM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


this is what I thought, until my husband blurted out a thing I told him in confidence in the middle of a dinner party. The general topic came up in conversation and my husband was just adding his two cents, completely forgetting that the only reason he had two cents to give is because I had told it to him in confidence.

Reminds me of this fictional scene.

And then there are the secrets that are genuinely well-kept by the holders of the secrets, but dead easy for everyone else to figure out regardless. This is what happened to Mrs. slkinsey and I when we began dating.
Can confirm.


Oh dear god, may I never, ever be that obvious about anything in my life :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:18 PM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I kinda hate people-drama.
There's enough drama in life without actively seeking it out or creating it, so I try to stem the flow when people want to get all gossipy by saying "that is not my story to tell." (TINMSTT)tm Because it isn't. Go to the source and leave me out of it. And also, if that person had wanted me to tell you something, I would have told them to do their own work.

I really like TINMSTT. It has gotten me out of all sorts of conversations that I didn't want to be in!
posted by heidiola at 3:14 PM on July 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Spreading Method #2: Reading the Room

One of the first people to figure out the Big Secret was someone who was just very socially perceptive, saw the character's reaction to something and figured out the secret based on that reaction and bunch of other tiny clues.


This is such a good summary of something that I have done many times, but never thought to describe. I have learned that it reeeeaaally pisses people off when you intuit their big secret. I lost a friend when I realized she was pregnant before she announced the pregnancy and she was mad at me for figuring it out.

I will also say that I currently have a juicy secret that I would love to share but can't for professional ethics reasons. It involves shocking wrongdoing that is not too upsetting (not violent or abusive but way beyond the pale of ethical behavior) so it would make a great story, and I just can't talk about it not even with my spouse. Argh it is so hard.
posted by medusa at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


i could read the whole thing but the pic wouldnt load and now its way later WHAT WAS THE SECRET
posted by emirenic at 7:42 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


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