Raise your hand if you have never told a lie. Now, all of you with your hands up – drop them – cause you just lied.
We all lie from time to time. White lies to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Bigger lies to hide a horrible truth.
“No dear, you don’t look fat in that.” Lie.
“Don’t worry, your screaming child isn’t bothering me at all!” Lie.
“I can’t wait for my parents to come and visit us for two weeks!!” Most likely a lie, depending on your upbringing!
Canadian born television producer David Shore understood deeply this funny little quirk of our civilized society and used it to create one of the best TV shows in the last ten years.
‘House’ – which sadly aired its swan song episode last week – was built around a team of high-level diagnosticians at an American hospital. The show’s namesake, Dr. Gregory House, held one truth: everybody lies.
And while his ‘everybody lies’ mantra kept him cynical and twisted enough to figure out the most puzzling of medical cases, the lies he told in his personal and professional life helped create one of the most woefully damaged and destructive characters we’ve encountered in recent prime time.
White Lies and Whoppers
Now, let’s take House’s mantra to the online space. Many people online during the early days of the Internet were cloaked in anonymity. As the New Yorker cheekily pointed out in Peter Steiner’s classic editorial cartoon ”On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog!”
Today, while social media and social media marketing has made anonymity unacceptable, real ‘truth’ is a little harder to determine.
Here’s a rather benign example: when I say “Hello” on Twitter in the morning with a sunny disposition and some pithy statement about seizing the day, I’m probably lying. I probably had a crap sleep and am trying to figure out how to deal with any number of life stresses.
But why would I lumber my Twitter followers with my issues? Surely they have enough of their own to deal with! That said, there’s a massive difference between those little white lies tossed out for the greater good, and risking your personal or business reputation with an outright whopper.
Transparency and Trust
In a Rutgers Business School report, researchers found that people would lie more often when communicating through email. Why? They saw email as less personal than the written word – and easier to destroy.
And that’s where being deceptive online will come back to bite you. Delete doesn’t mean destroy. Whether you’re talking about email or social media, what you write or publish on the web will float around out there for a very long time – if not forever.
One of the key proponents of social media is transparency and trust. It can also feel at times like a bit of a ‘popularity contest’. If you’re just starting out, you might think it will benefit you to “embellish” a little – about who you are, what your qualifications are, or what you know.
Don’t do it.
Don’t lie about your credentials. Don’t lie about who you know or who you’ve worked with. And don’t pretend to be someone you – at your very core – simply are not. This holds true whether you are a brand, business or just an individual building a community.
While I might resort to false Pollyannaism from time to time in my pre-dawn postings, one of the best compliments I ever received was being told I am exactly the same offline as I am online.
It’s what everyone in the social space should aspire to be.