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Rob Gould

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002). Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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Posted: January 7, 2015

Digital amnesia | People believe their own lies on social media

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Millions of social media liars are only fooling themselves.

We all have friends on social media who seem to be living perfect lives. However, according to a new survey, a frightening two-thirds of social media users embellish reality to create the illusion of a more exciting life. This phenomenon, which has been called an “airbrush reality” takes a toll on the embellisher’s psychological health too, according to experts.

Sixty-eight percent of social media users surveyed admit that they “embellish, exaggerate or outright lie when documenting events on social media” in order to make their lives seem more interesting and generally better than they really are, the study found. And half of respondents said they feel sadness, shame, and even paranoia when they are unable to live up to the online image they have created.

Here’s the really frightening part. Psychologists have discovered that “digital amnesia” is a side effect of lying on social media and essentially, it entails forgetting the truth and actually believing the lies. When a user lies on a social media website (like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) they actively help their brain rewrite their memories and eventually believe the lie they share. SO SCARY! Thank God I never lie on social media. Ever. Actually, come to think of it, my brain could use a little rewriting.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Psychologist Dr Richard Sherry, a founding member of the Society for Neuropsychoanalysis, warned that it could also lead to feelings of shame and worthlessness.

“Being competitive and wanting to put our best face forward – seeking support or empathy from our peers- is entirely understandable,” psychologist Dr. Richard Sherry, a founding member of the Society for Neuropsychoanalysis, told The Telegraph.“However, the dark side of this social conformity is when we deeply lose ourselves or negate what authentically and compassionately feels to be ‘us.’”

What causes so many people to be such bold-faced liars? A previous survey found that people often lied about what they were doing, their relationships, holidays and career success because they were afraid of being perceived as boring and even from jealousy of others’ posts.

“Many studies have demonstrated that even the simple act of imagining a childhood event increases a person’s confidence that the event happened to them in the past,” explains Dr. Sherry. “Researchers have demonstrated how readily false memories can form through the simple use of language. Even the phrasing of a narrative can shape how we later remember it.”

The studies were commissioned by the world’s first anonymous online journal repository Pencourage which aims to preserve true life chronicles by allowing users to anonymously post 200 words every day to their personal journal. I wrote a post about Pencourage in April 2013, you can find it here.

Looking at the bigger picture, there seems to be a growing sense that a lot of what people post on social media is, well, a big fat lie. Previously, a survey of U.S. teens and young adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Naver, a Korean Internet company, found that 69% of respondents felt their friends weren’t being true to themselves most of the time on social media, and 57% wished their friends would be themselves more. At the same time 40% of respondents said they feel like they can’t be themselves online either.


For more on digital amnesia check out this post from The Social Graf.

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