Is Social Media Changing Us For The Worse?
by Sim Lee

"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. Colossians 3:9 NIV

The Oxford English Dictionary has designated the word "toxic" to head the short list for its 2018 "Word of the Year", which so aptly describes much of the bias in our conversations on social media.

Aside from its toxic aspects, social media conversation is now recognised as being more dishonest than ever, comprising as much as 30% of the content of a typical social account update. Much worse, there is a growing acceptance of this "stretching of the truth" by those who view it.

It has long been known that people's ability to filter and restrict what they receive on social media has lowered their general IQ and awareness of current events, as well as that of those who are influenced them. It seems now that we tolerate and somewhat prefer a little lying in our conversations, both on social media and face-to-face.

As of 10/05/2018, there were 2.243 billion monthly active users on Facebook (DMR Business Statistics) and the number one comment being made by the majority of those users was about the amount of dishonesty in information given in user personal status, followed by dishonest updates.

Studies done by the Harvard Business School has determined that those who normally embellish the truth on social media continue to get the response they wanted to achieve. Further, they accept dishonesty from other unless it personally detracts from their on-line image. Why is it that from 10% to 30% of the content of extended social media messaging may be deceptive or outright intentional dishonesty? Human nature and current culture.

It is in the nature of men to lie about themselves, and in women to lie to protect the feelings of another they care about, but both sexes will lie on social media to some extent in trying to make themselves look better.

When participants in a British study were asked if they embellished their profiles and postings, 75% said "yes" and do so on a routine basis to remain popular. They said that only the most blatant liars ever get called out by someone who knows differently. Oddly enough, people on social media will lie the most to the ones they love the most, or "like" the most, so lying on social media can also be quite destructive as well.

In detecting dishonesty on social media, women do well on and men rarely do, but the people who detect lying almost immediately are also the most honest people on social media: those who are clinically depressed. They have no peripheral issues or crossing interests, so they are the quickest to see when the truth is being stretched.

Lying on social media has become so common a part of social media that the platform would suffer if all of the dishonesty were eliminated, as most users now prefer to view or post a bit of deceptive in their conversations, just to liven things up.

The lack of accountability on-line keeps that door to dishonesty wide open on social media, and the human nature aspect of our preferring that it stay open so we can lie about themselves online is best summed up by Rob Reihert:

"That’s an easy way to be the person you would like to be in real life, but for some reason you never achieved to be."**

Lying is unacceptable under any circumstance and is the furthest thing from setting a good model of behavior. Lead the right example in your own corner of this digital world and only deal in honest words when sharing yourself with others "out there".

*"The Truth About Lying", Psychology Today, Allison Kornet, (updated 6/9/2016)**"Why do people lie on social media?" Quora, Rob Reinert, B.A. Marketing & Business, 2017

Global - note on honesty: In the West, it is thought that it is better to hide the truth from those who dying as to their status, and in the East, especially among Koreans, it is thought that they should be told.

Sim Lee is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.

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