Who doesn’t love calling out liars red-handed? From a senator guilty of plagiarism, to a pop singer lying about song lyric permissions, the media thrives on exposing tall-telling public figures. MTV even produced a spin-off of an indie series centered on ‘catfish’, revolving around what else—people deceiving other people. Business is good, apparently, with the show still ongoing with five seasons under its belt. Within our shores, even one of our presidents has fallen short, making empty promises and delivering short of expectations. Liars draw in attention, and it all starts with deception.
Deception is everywhere. Research has revealed that an average of 60 percent of people lie two to three times within a typical 10-minute conversation. That’s a lot. Now, for the purpose of this discussion, let us have a short test. Have you ever sent a text message barely awake, fumbling to reply “I’m on my way”, when you haven’t even opened both eyes yet? How about holding back a grimace, complimenting your aunt’s new designer bag, when you’re sure it would better suit someone maybe two decades younger? Perhaps most of you answered yes—60 percent of you, even. Lying has undoubtedly become pervasive in our society, with social media amplifying this culture even further.
Social media, or media in general, has not only effectively changed interpersonal relationships—it has revolutionized it. I could send a message to the other end of the globe with a single click. Half a century ago, that would have been unthinkable! Admittedly, everything has become more convenient and accessible now. However, this new, expanding online environment has also created new opportunities for deception.
‘Catfishing’ is a term used for conning or tricking someone into an online romance through deception. It poses a high risk to the experientially or emotionally naive, where they can be easily profiled, targeted, and victimized. In the same way a catfish patiently lurks along the river banks, attacking its prey within seconds, an anonymous troll waits to attract and trap unwilling and unknowing individuals. They lie about their age, gender, or physical appearances to entice and trick people into trusting and befriending them. Such people even change their behavior to extents completely different from who they are in person, in what we would like to call “creative embellishments”, or “inflation” of activities for peer approval.
People fibbing on social media is hardly surprising. We already know it happens, which makes it equally as alarming now that we perceive lying or ‘embellishing’ as normal.
Social media is effective and beneficial for keeping in touch. It keeps us on track with school-related concerns, like class announcements, upcoming events, or even birthdays. Honestly, would you have remembered whose and whose birthday without that notification popping up at the last minute? At the same time, however, social media provides a clean slate to modify or re-invent ourselves into new people, people who are better versions of ourselves. It lets us be funnier, happier, look more content, sound less boring—all in an attempt to receive as many ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ as we can. Hardwired straight to our ego, this number gives us a false sense of entitlement; a validation of our online existence. But making our life look more than it is demands time and effort, even going as far as to obsessing in front of the mirror to look extra good. In that sense, what we actually see on social media may not actually be real at all.
Although all social media outlets are guilty of perpetuating this, Facebook and Instagram are predominantly the gateways to these parallel universes. When it first started, Instagram was known as a haven for budding photographers, helping them add a professional touch to portfolios of tastefully displayed pictures. Fast forward a couple of years and it has transformed into an alternative universe of filtered selfies and unrelated motivational quotes. But let’s not focus on that. Instead, let’s shift our perspective to the manufactured reality that social media creates. Two clicks and three seconds is all it takes to virtually transport an avatar of yourself to a different world—online. Almost instantly, a false sense of reality settles upon the user, who can upload absolutely anything they please, and however way they please, be it real or fabricated. This leads people to become addicted, losing their real selves to their ideal selves.
The rise of social media has blurred the line between virtual reality and the real realm. Today, young people are more focused on the appearance of their profiles and photos rather than their actual selves. This is not to say that re-inventing one’s online self is unsatisfactory. It’s perfectly natural to strive towards attaining your ideal self. It is when we begin to mask our authentic “selves”, however, and we can’t express ourselves honestly that it turns into a problem.
Social media fulfills its purpose. It is a place to stay connected and a space to store memories. Truthfully, it isn’t social media that needs to be re-evaluated. The problem lies with us, and how we project ourselves. If you find that truth hard to look at, well, maybe it would look better with the X-Pro II filter.