Are people more honest or dishonest on social networks?

Honesty on Social Networks

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when that beholder is you.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when that beholder is you.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

So are people more honest or dishonest when it comes to revealing things about themselves on social networks? There's really no way to know for sure, but we can look at some trends and human behavior to posit a good guess.

Consider this: An article from a British newspaper in March 2009 revealed that fraud investigators are looking at Facebook to bust people lying in order to get government sponsored financial benefits. They found that people claiming to be single and living alone may actually be married or living with other people. Of course, these are people lying to try to get money, so it's not the same as lying about your accomplishments to old friends. In fact, it's the truth telling on Facebook that's getting them in trouble in this case.

Before the huge growth of social networks, a study was performed at the University of Western Sydney in 2002 about honesty in chat rooms. Out of the 320 people surveyed, they found that men were more likely to lie than women and the lie was typically about how much money they made. Women were found more likely to lie for safety reasons. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise -- men are probably vying for attention from women who are more inclined to keep their details private until they feel more comfortable.

Internet dating sites were once rife with people lying about their looks, height, weight and how much money they made. That seems to have tapered off some as the less legitimate sites have gone away, leaving more reputable sites to honest people looking for a partner or friend. Lying on dating sites doesn't really do anyone any good anyway. Why bother telling a prospective date that you're six feet tall and athletic if you're really a short, dumpy couch potato? All will be clear as soon as you show up to meet at the coffee shop and you'll be exposed as a liar and likely reported and banned from the site. The popular dating site prohibits lying in its terms of service:

  • You will not provide inaccurate, misleading or false information to eHarmony or to any other user. If information provided to eHarmony or another user subsequently becomes inaccurate, misleading or false, you will promptly notify eHarmony of such change.