Online communication has become an integral part of most of our lives, and yet many people continue to view those they meet or communicate with on the Internet with suspicion and apprehension. Based on a new study conducted by a team of researchers and published in the journal “Computers in Human Behavior” many people tend to treat online chat forms, dating sites, and some social media places as a web of deception and lies. Local tech blogger Kevin Andrews is here with us this morning to shed some light on this online honesty study.
Conducted by a team of researchers who were interested in online honesty, the main premise of this study was to find out whether or not people are depicting their true selves online. These researchers wanted to know about our own honesty — but also how truthful we believe others are. So they looked at this question across a few different types of websites: Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Online dating sites like Match.com and Tinder, along with anonymous chat rooms. And so, their main focus was to learn if the type of website makes a difference . In addition, not just in how much we lie online, but how much we expect others to lie online. And yes, the researchers did acknowledge that measuring dishonesty is difficult to do.
Michelle Drouin is a psychology professor at Indiana University Purdue Fort Wayne, and was one of the authors of this new study. She said people reported lying about all kinds of things — their age, their gender, their appearance, activities and interests. Of the different types of sites measured in this study, people seemed to be the most honest on social media sites like Facebook – albeit, only 32 per cent of people surveyed for this study said they were “always honest” on social media. And so, looking closer at this research reveals that one of the main reasons given why people tend to be more honest on social media is because we tend to have the most links to the outside world. People tend to feel it to be a lot harder to lie about your gender or your age, for example, when you have pictures and video of yourself and your family.
With that in mind, it looks like this study points to the fact that our expectations about others’ honesty tend to mirror our beliefs about our own honesty. In other words, on sites where we believe we’re being honest, we’re more likely to expect honesty from others. Be that as it may, if you look at the entire study it tends to show that our expectations of others’ honesty were pretty low. Between 55 and 90 per cent of participants in the study believed that others were lying at least some of the time about their age, gender, activities, interests and appearance.
The most commonly expected lie is appearance — 90 per cent of participants expected others to lie about what they look like. But perhaps most fascinating about this study is its finding that our expectations of other people’s honesty influences our own honesty — when we think other people are lying online, we’re more likely to lie ourselves.
Be that as it may, if we have a better understanding of dishonesty online — and the degree to which other people expect dishonesty online — we can be less naive in our online interactions. It might mean that we need to be a little more cautious when meeting or friending people, especially for the first time in a virtual environment, or that we need to ask lots of questions when purchasing items from others using online classifieds, and especially vigilant if you have children using social media.