When I have my own undergraduate students read about the “true self” research, many are shocked by the results, having believed that the Internet was rife with dishonesty.
The idea that people could be, in some ways, genuine online than off strikes them as counterintuitive.
So the lies we tell online have the potential to be far more all-encompassing than anything we could get away with in person.
Despite that, most online lies, like most offline lies, are subtle, representing people’s attempts to portray themselves in the best possible light, with slight exaggerations (Zimbler & Feldman, 2011).
In one study asking undergraduates to communicate with a stranger in a lab for 15 minutes, it was found that the students were more likely to misrepresent themselves online than face-to-face (Zimbler & Feldman, 2011).
Online communication has become an integral part of most of our lives, and yet many people continue to view those they meet on the Internet with suspicion.
They imagine that online forums are filled with sexual predators and people using false identities. Online interactions vary in terms of two major questions: (1) What venues are we using to communicate, and, (2) What are we lying about?
This perception is fueled by sensationalistic cases like the Craigslist Killer and the false identities created by subjects on MTV’s . To address the first issue, there are many ways to meet people online—dating sites, chat rooms or forums, or social networking sites.
The second issue—what individuals are most likely to lie about—can be divided into several categories, including physical appearance, education, relationship or job status, and issues related to personality traits and interests.
When we might be especially honest Surprisingly, people can sometimes be more authentic online than offline in the way they express their personality.
In an earlier post, I discussed how people involved in online relationships can develop intense bonds due to the unique ability for the anonymity and control provided by online interactions to enable expression of the “true self”: traits that a person possesses, but does not normally feel comfortable expressing to others.
Research has shown that when we chat online, even briefly, these normally hidden traits become more cognitively accessible to us and we actually do succeed in expressing them to others (Bargh et al., 2002).