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Posted on 08.27.2013

We All Lie Like Rugs Apparently, and Social Media Makes It So Easy To Get Caught

To be honest, I do not think it is always a good idea to tell the truth. And anyone who says they never tell a lie is the biggest liar of us all.

In fact, research shows that on average each person in the United States tells a lie 1.65 times a day. And Cornell University professor Jeff Hancock, who conducts research around dishonesty, has found that one in 10 text messages contains a lie. He also found that people lie less in emails than in person, something that isn't surprising as we have all become aware of the enormous "paperless" trail that haunts our every Internet move.

Megan Graber's article in "The Atlantic," cites Consumer Reports saying that in a recent survey, one in four people admitted to posting false information on FaceBook. I won't even mention the reported 81 percent (!) who fudge on online dating sites.

Most lies are innocuous enough: "Sorry I'm late; I am on my way," when you haven't left the house yet. "No, the pot roast is delicious; I'm just getting over a little stomach thing and not too hungry."

To anyone who is pious enough to think they are immune to telling a fib, ask yourself this: Your new baby is asleep in the next room and you're alone in the house when an intruder breaks through the back door. With his gun at your head, he snarls, "Is anyone else in the house with you tonight?" The CORRECT answer is, "no." Who cares if you're a liar? (Remember this example from your ethics course?)

Not that I think it is all right to lie when it can hurt another person or when it involves unethical behavior…but, I wholeheartedly agree with Graber that, "Deceptive behavior, researchers have speculated, might have aided the social cooperation that led us to flourish."  As in..."No, Darling, that dress doesn't make you look fat." (I mean, after all, if you are fat, it's probably not the dress that's making you look that way.) But you're an idiot or just plain mean if you spit out the truth.

One of the most shocking things I ever learned involved a mother told her small son, "I'd rather see you dead than to tell a lie." It was a cruel and stinging comment that, in my opinion, hindered the young man's ability to socialize in a healthy and meaningful way for the rest of his life.

On the other hand, it's really important to teach our children that lying, in general, is not a good idea. And one of the best things social media offers is some form of accountability. You can't decline a request to help your best friend move into a new apartment with the excuse that you have to work all weekend and then post your picture on Facebook at the beach. Well you can - but chances are you're inviting a little resentment. And if you lie on your resume and post it on LinkedIn, you run the risk of all kinds of cyber cross-referencing that can expose you, embarrass you and cost you your job.

Garber's column is a clever read and a reminder that social media can actually be a helpful tool to help teach children to be accountable for their actions and comments….or suffer the consequences of exposure, humiliation, or worse.

Are you surprised to learn how much people lie?

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