On the Internet, the New Yorker cartoon famously posited, Nobody knows you're a dog.
But now it seems that, while they may not have known it before, sooner or later, your doggy-ness will be outed.
This month's Atlantic has a great short article by Megan Garber on "The Way We Lie Now." She notes that "Technology makes it easier than ever to play fast and loose with the truth -- but easier than ever to get caught."
While no Luddite, I've been concerned that the distance created by the Internet makes it easier to play "fast and loose" with trust. It's hard to lie to a close friend, face to face. It's a lot easier in an email or a Facebook post. Garber has interviewed Cornell professor Jeff Hancock, who has studied dishonesty, and he agrees that "We tend to have an easier time lying ...when we're spatially distant from the people we're interacting with."
Of course, there are lies and lies. "Does this dress make me look fat?" almost begs for a lie. "I'll be there in two minutes" (when you're still 15 minutes away) is categorically different from "Money? What money?" (when you've pilfered the cash register).
But the good news, Garber notes, is that while it's easier than ever to lie, it's also easier than ever to get caught:
More than ever before, our communications leave trails.... Which means that the claims we make about ourselves, from the big to the banal, can, as never before, be cross-referenced against reality. Stuck in traffic? This real-time map suggests otherwise. Never got the e-mail? The sender's read receipt begs to differ. You're 25? That was true, a Google search says -- five years ago.I was a terrible liar as a child -- "terrible" as in "did it all the time", and "terrible" as in "not very good at it". Eventually, I discovered, as many of us do, that it's easier to tell the truth, mostly because it's easier to remember the truth than to remember which lie you told to whom.
It's nice to know that the Internet's going to back me up on this.