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This is great. Christine Whelan confirms my fears in her article “Looking to Lie? Do It Via Email.” I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the same lines of reasoning are true for social networking. I would love to see statistics for how often people lie on Facebook. (In fact, it would probably be impossible to measure. I hate the fact that so many people’s online identities are thoroughly false representations of themselves. Please do not write stuff you never would say. And if you are so shallow as not to have much of a personal identity, please do not try to create one out of borrowed phrases, cliches, and inane pictures.) If statistics please you, you may also be interested to know that 90% of people lie in online dating profiles. Why? Well, because lying is the foundation of that stable relationship you are seeking, right? Now, a word to those who say that the Internet makes us more human? Just how exactly??? By making it easier for us to succumb to our worst vices? The social disengagement theory… yes, social disengagement. That’s what Cyberspace is. No, I’m not against the web. But Facebook has got to go. The “Facebook makes us more human” ploy is something I just cannot comprehend. Please explain it to me if you can. Anyways, the article follows:
“People lie more via email than when using good old pen-and-paper, a new study finds. (Wait, people still write with paper and pen? Now we’re getting at the core of the real lie…)
OK, but it seems that lying increased by 50% between the pen-and-paper experimental condition and the email condition. So, why? It’s social disengagement theory in action: We’re more likely to feel OK about deviating from our usual ethical standards when we can tell ourselves that, in this situation, it’s not so bad, and when we’ve got some psychological distance from any bad consequences of our actions.
Both of these are encouraged by three characteristics of email:
- Less permanent: people think of it as a substitute for conversation rather than a letter. People feel they are ‘chatting’ more over email, rather than writing to each other. The impermanence of email is emphasised by a Gmail feature which allows users to ‘unsend’ a message within 5 seconds of sending (instructions here).
- Less restrained: as mentioned in this previous post on social networking profiles, people behave in a more disinhibited way online. Online exchanges show less conformity to social norms, people display much less restraint and are less worried about what others think of them.
- Lower personal connection: studies show that online, people feel less trust and rapport with others, leaving them with a sense of disconnection.
All of these may lead people to feel low levels of accountability for their emails. Hence more fibs.
You’ve got to admit that the 2nd and 3rd characteristics apply just as well to Facebook as to email. I would submit that the 1st does as well. Note: I am not saying that what is put on Facebook is less permanent; I am saying that people certainly think it is. Interesting.