Delving into the Deep Dark World of Online Deception
Recently, a story bounced around the Plurk and Second Life communities that displayed a particularly horrid example of online deception. I won’t go into details about the deception, but I will say that the lies were extremely detailed and of a different variety than the old picture in the dating profile trickery.
In a blog post about online deception, I’d like to establish what I think are some basic truths:
First, and of course, the most basic truth of all, one lie usually leads to ten lies. Next basic truth, I believe that everyone lies in some form or fashion, both online and in real life. Lies of omission, lies to spare someone else’s feelings, lies told to yourself, are all still lies. If everyone lies, is one particular lie more dishonest than others? Does the intent behind the lie make it better or worse than another lie? If someone asked me if a much too-tight dress looked good on them and I lied and told them it did to spare their feelings, is that an okay lie? What if the too-tight dress was worn to a job interview, and subsequently, the job opportunity was lost due to the wearing of the dress? Was that lie still okay? Who is capable of making a decision to say one lie is somehow less deceitful than another? For the purposes of this post and honestly, my own opinion, is that a lie is a lie. The reason behind the lie doesn’t change what it is. It may change how I react to it, but for all general purposes, it remains a lie.
So, my three basic truths about lying:
1. Everyone is a liar.
2. All lies are lies.
3. Lies multiply.
Here is where I get a little murky about things and would like some feedback:
In a pretend world, why is it important to be honest?
Obviously, real life relationships have come out of online interactions and in those circumstances honesty is of utmost importance, but in a world where 40 year olds play 5 year olds and 25 year old college boys role-play as a tiger, aren’t the lines of honesty a little blurred. Should we really take anything as real truth without proof?
First, I think the level of honesty you should expect in your online interactions should be equal to the level of honesty you provide. Obviously, you may expect a high level of honesty and not receive it in return, but it’s a good starting point.
99.9% of my interactions online are for social purposes. I enjoy communicating with a variety of people, and I believe that I provide quite an honest glimpse into my real life, and I usually expect the same. When I discover that someone I communicate with regularly has voluntarily told me a lie or omitted a detail that I would consider important to our relationship, it diminishes my ability to communicate with this individual and since communicating is 99.9% of what I come online to achieve, there is no reason for me to continue future attempts.
Though the key statement in the paragraph above is “a lie or omitted a detail that I would consider important to our relationship”. I enjoy silly conversations. I enjoy people with a sharp wit. If someone chooses not to tell me that they are the opposite sex in RL than what they portray in SL or if they lied and told me they work on Wall Street when really they haven’t worked in 10 years, unless that was the basis of our friendship, it probably won’t change our relationship much at all.
Even though I know that if they told a lie about where they worked or what they looked like, etc., it was most likely to manipulate me into liking them more or to gain sympathy. The lie was a means to use me to gain something they wanted. Online, I would say most lies are told to gain sympathy or to gain social favor which means that everyone that hears the lie is being used by the liar for a specific purpose, whether intentional or not. I try not to take it that personally.
If I discover that someone I am communicating with is a liar, and I do decide to end communications, do I have a social responsibility to inform the rest of the SL and Plurk community of my discovery?
Obviously, informing others and displaying the proof, could possibly save heartache for people in the long run, but there is also the possibility that the person revealing the liar could be labeled as encouraging drama.
Do we have a social obligation in the small community of Second Life and Plurk to name and shame liars? If every honest person made a commitment to expose lies when discovered, could we eventually make a real difference?
Or should we instead of exposing liars work toward making ourselves less susceptible to those that seek to deceive?
What are your thoughts?