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Does Facebook Make Us Lie?

by Mitchell Cuevas on February 28, 2011

social network, marketing, facebookA few days ago we talked about how social media is changing cultural norms with regards to some manners. But, could Facebook and social media sites like it also be turning us into liars? We wonder, is a profile page a realistic representation of someone or just what they want to be seen as and not who they actually are?

An online image is easier to control and to manage than a face-to-face one that doesn’t always allow for tidying up or deleting certain parts of, but my experience is that people are actually more honest online than they are in person because of the small layer of separation. There is research to back that up, but at the same time, I have experienced the opposite also: The photoshopped pictures, posing, and general misrepresentation or disconnect between the person I know and the way they present themselves online.

We know that our dear Salty Waffle readers are quite the intelligent crowd so were asking for some help in this debate. Social media, engagement, activation, and authentic behavior are at the core of what we do, so this is an interesting question.

Do think people are more honest in person or online? Why is that? Does the small level of detachment free people up to make statements they probably wouldn’t otherwise or do you think most work really hard to create a perfect online image?

We would love to get your opinions on this so leave us a comment and keep this debate in your mind as you browse those profiles. What are you seeing more of out there?

  • suzette sommer

    My guess is that there are as many answers to that question as there are personality types and variances in human motivations.

    I see big differences by age group, for instance. One of my under 30 friends frequently posts about drinking and partying. Few of my older demos do. A few, maybe, but not with the same full disclosure as the younger guy, who does not hold back on any details of his misadventures, right up to the hangover the next day, or as on Sunday when he posted: “I am still drunk!”


    It also depends on how one perceives and uses FB. Many of my friends use it to be in touch with business associates or their business networking associates. While they do give glimpses of their personal lives and interests, I am sure there is some restraint, too.

    I’d say that is one big divergent area: is the user primarily connected to family and personal friends, or are they connected to people somehow in their business arena?

    Some people post minute details of their lives AND discuss their work.. some post mostly about their interests or concerns and causes. Maybe, some people go to some effort to produce a false or enhanced image on FB, but what is the point of that?

    If they do that on FB, my guess is that they also do the same thing in person.

    I used to live in LA, and the observation there was that people would lie about who they were, where they lived and what they did, because they were never going to see you again. So, I suppose on FB, where people may think they won’t ever meet many of their “friends” in person, there is ample room for experimentation.

    What is interesting to me is what I have been experiencing when I do finally meet someone in person whom I have initially connected with on FB. FB gives us an intellectual connection but leaves out the senses that we usually unconsciously use in the first few seconds of meeting in person, to decide if we like someone, or not.

    Sometimes, meeting someone in person is jarring, because the mental pictures we have made of that person from reading their posts does not fit the actual voice and personal presentation of the person “live.” Same thing can happen when one does a lot of business by phone, then eventually goes to a meeting in person. Who are YOU?

    We paint mental pictures of the people we interact with, whether online or by phone.

    I have had people assume that I am petite, only to be shocked when they finally meet me… and, I tower over them. Is it my name? My voice? I dunno. But, it happens. They expect me to be a tiny person. Oops!!!


  • Nicole Donnelly

    Thanks for the comment Suzette!

    I’m definitely in the business and personal dept with an appropriate amount of editing. There’s an accountability that goes with everybody now being a public figure.

    I love knowing what people are up to, then when we do see each other I feel like I know them better. I’ve got friends from all over the world and it’s like we live next door.

    The internet is the new place to build rapport, so I’m authentic in my engagement, it doesn’t serve me to be anything else.

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  • Nicoleshema

    I think that Suzette makes some great points, and I completely agree that people fall into different categories on this one. I am going to chime in on how I perceive this question in respect to my peers, people in their early twenties who have been on facebook since the start.
    My impression and interpretation has been that everyone on Facebook is trying to portray a certain image of themselves. I do believe there is a difference in the way people are authentic in their face-to-face lives, and when they have the power to pick and chose what others will use to define them.
    What’s interesting about this crafted image (which I do believe most are aware of tweaking), is that people fall on a wide spectrum of how they wish to be perceived. As someone from the age group who was the first to be on Facebook, when you still had to have a college email address, I think there has been a shift since the beginning. For this younger generation, when FB first started it was purely comprised of your peers. Sure, adults warned that you would never get a respectable job if you had trashy photos online, but it was still mostly a forum for college students- and inevitably included a lot of party pics for many. However, now that almost everyone you know is on FB, I think it is interesting how quickly some forget that it is not only their friends, but their family, their neighbors, their employers who see all those updates and photos as well. Therefore I think the biggest misstep here for some is forgetting half their audience.

  • Michele

    I believe it depends on who the person is and who they will accept as a friend on Facebook. I have friends that put everything out there and others who share most things, but censor their posts because they have family or co-workers as Facebook friends.

    It seems like only the minority advertise themselves as someone very different than who they actually are. The ones that I can identify in my friends list also do the same thing in person. For the most part, this isn’t intentional deceit; they just aren’t people who are capable of seeing themselves the same way others do.

    There will always be dishonest people; however, I think Facebook is encouraging people to be more honest about their feelings. In a network of so many people, there is almost always someone who has felt the way you do and is willing to offer a little bit of wisdom and support.

    Personally, I have elderly family members, my children, past employers, and potential future employers on Facebook. I share most of my thoughts and feelings quite honestly, but I hold back on profanity, drunken stories, and anything more than a mild complaint about work.

  • Kent Bernhard Jr.

    It doesn’t make me lie. But I am less blunt in my commentary than I would ordinarily be in person or even in a blog or column. Not sure why that is. The self censor is more powerful for me.

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  • Mel

    I didn’t think it was possible until this year.  Some of my friends post stuff and brag about being happy in their statuses and post pictures of themselves and their significant other as if their lives are so great, but I  know the truth because they tell me the real story. Things are definitely not always as they appear.  Sometimes it annoys me because basically they are being posers.  

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  • Reza85

    my friend are lie about them job as if I don’t know.

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