Does Social Media Support Liars?
Does the potential for anonymity in social media bring out the liars in us? From lying about credentials to creating sock puppet accounts, there’s no shortage of dishonesty on social networks.
On the other hand, I despise the fact that social media also supports liars.
There’s a certain amount of anonymity involved. That’s always been the case, from the days of old school chat room and message board handles. I feel it’s that sense of anonymity that makes social media spaces such a prime playground for the dishonest among us.
Today I want to share a few of my “favorite” examples of the lies I’ve seen through social media. Then I’d like to hear your thoughts. Does social media make people more likely to lie, or does it just attract those who are already full of shit? And what kinds of lies do you see most often via social media outlets?
Social Media Lies: 5 Examples
I’m not even talking about major corporations or politicians here. I want to focus more on everyday folks — my own colleagues in some cases. With that in mind, here are some examples of lies I’ve seen in social media:
Post and Comment Deletions
I’ve seen colleagues in the freelance writing, PR, and social media world all be guilty of this.
For example, one colleague used to delete old posts sharing an opinion, and then in new posts they’d claim they never said those things in the first place.
Others delete things like negative blog comments and then act like everyone agrees with them. Both are a crock. And both are easily caught.
Remember, readers can subscribe to comments or posts including via email (including through third party RSS subscription services, so you can’t prevent this as long as you have feeds). You never know who still has an archive of your old material.
Mysterious Changing Stats
Some people are attention-seekers. Others constantly seek validation.
In one case there was a colleague in the latter group. They posted in a comment on a popular blog that they spent X hours per day on something for their own readers. When they didn’t get the oohing and aahing responses rolling in, within days that story changed.
On another site that number magically increased. They were suddenly doing more, and “deserving” of more praise and adoration. I guess they forgot when you post on sites in the same niche chances are good the sites or blogs have shared readers.
As a writer who understands the importance and value of pen names, I don’t consider handles themselves to be lies, especially when your handle can be tied to your real name in some way or at least you use it consistently as your online identity. But the same colleague I mentioned above took that a step further.
On another colleague’s blog they were being criticized. So they commented. And that’s fine. They were invited to do just that. But then they went too far. They commented again, this time anonymously.
I’ve had people do this on my own blog and have tracked down this variety of troll on more than one occasion. It’s often the people you’d least expect, and it can be pretty disappointing when you find out how dishonest even well-known people in your social network can be.
The idea is simple. If people aren’t backing up their point, they comment anonymously or under another handle or name to provide false support for their post or previous comments.
That’s dishonesty plain and simple. And it always makes me stop reading a person’s blog or disconnect from them via social media. After all, if they would lie in that way on someone else’s blog, who’s to say they don’t do the same thing on their own to make it look like they have more readers, commenters, or supporters? Pathetic.
Lying about credentials isn’t new to social media. People have “embellished” resumes for ages. But it does seem more widespread now.
Just consider the wave of self-proclaimed social media gurus for example. People twist something small (like follow-spamming their way to 10,000 Twitter followers) into an expert status in social media.
I had one colleague use an online community I helped moderate to blatantly lie to prospective clients claiming they had a degree when they didn’t. They were called out on it and tried to say they never claimed that in the first place. Funny thing about the social web is archives are usually still publicly available somewhere.
After being exposed, this person practically dropped off the face of the earth. And really, is it worth damaging your career for a quick buck? Never.
Another example was pretty laughable. Someone publicly advertised in a community offering press release writing services. They claimed major corporations flew them all over the country to write their releases. You can call bullshit right there. But forgetting that others in the community can see their public ad (beyond their prospects) this person messaged me privately since they knew I also offered the service. They admitted they were a kid working out of their parent’s place, and they practically begged me for advice on getting started.
Why people lie like this is beyond me. They will be found out, even if not usually through their own stupidity of admitting it.
Claims of Uber-Success
Sometimes these lies are rolled up into others, like false credentials. It’s a popular one in the freelance game. One time, for example, I came across a writer claiming they earned six figures. No big deal. Plenty do. But this person was using that as a way to attract more readers and attention for their blog.
So I looked at their business site. It never hurts to see what other successful colleagues are doing. Imagine my surprise when I saw their rate list and their “claim to fame” was $10 articles. That comes to more than 27 articles every single day — no weekends, no holidays, no sick time, no nothing. Yeah. Right.
The thing is, many people don’t check on claims. One of the biggest repeat liars I’ve seen in the blogosphere still has a loyal following because people just don’t pay attention. In the end, it frequently does catch up to you. In my experience thus far this seems to be a bigger issue among bloggers than anywhere else.
That’s just looking at the professional side of things. I know marriages that have broken up over social media enabling lying and cheating. Yikes.
So what about you? What kinds of lies in social media bother you the most? What seem to be most common these days? Do you think one outlet supports liars more than others? Share your thoughts in the comments below.