Is your online persona an authentic representation of you? Have you taken any liberties in the description of your attributes, characteristics, skills or experiences? Is there any fudge whatsoever in a past title or scholastic achievement? Would someone recognize you from your current profile picture? In today’s digital environment, any and all representations are likely part of your permanent online record––whether you want it to be or not.
Person-to-person relationships are one thing in terms of familiarity, however, with the expansion of virtual networks across a myriad of social and professional networking sites and no validation of any kind taking place by the very platforms where our personal information is being posted, a real temptation exists for some to exaggerate and misrepresent their qualifications and backgrounds. Whether it’s an online profile or a professional resume, we are all playing by the so-called honor system. However, as tempting as a little “spin” might be, one should understand that there’s an increasing likelihood that a digital prevarication will be discovered––it’s probably just a matter of time and the consequences could be costly.
“Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats”—but “just by a little.” That’s according to the behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves. In addition, a professor from Cornell, Jeff Hancock, has done substantial research on the dynamics of dishonesty and concluded that at least one in 10 text messages involves a lie of some sort. In a recent survey done by Consumer Reports, one in four people admitted to falsifying information on Facebook. According to another study of online daters, over 80 percent exaggerated attributes on their personal profiles. Hancock says, “When people are spatially distant from the people we’re interacting with, they have an easier time lying.” Put differently, that might suggest that utilities like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, among others, are great “truth-stretching” platforms. And, if you’ve spent any time on these sites, you’ve likely experienced it firsthand with someone you know well enough to know that a misrepresentation is being made.
Many of us were taught early in our professional lives that anything we put in writing is discoverable and that was true even prior to email, Facebook and Twitter. Today, all communications leave a trail, particularly in this digital age where cloud storage, screen shots, cell phones, email chains, digital archives or a multitude of other storage and capture methods are recording the details of everything we do online––can you say Big Brother?
Based on both the efficiency and increasing personal preference for online interactions, more and more encounters are taking place digitally and that means it’s more important than ever that personal representations are not only accurate, but hold up to a closer-than-cursory look, particularly with the convenience and anonymity of 24/7 access to your various social media sites by anyone choosing to look. You have a burgeoning permanent record and you should make certain it’s accurate––there’s no going back.
Remember, you never know who’s looking.
Or, who’s keeping score.
- I’ve Seen You Online & You Look Nothing Like Yourself (tommccollum.me)
- The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely (sitflorence.wordpress.com)
- What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt You (tommccollum.me)
- Digital Exhaust – - What Kind of Trail Are You Leaving? (tommccollum.me)
- Research Heroes: Dan Ariely (indecisionblog.com)