How Technology Helps us to be Truthful
Writer and dating blogger Hayley Thompson talks about the impact of technology on how we communicate with one another, and explores whether screens are actually helping us be more honest.
How many times did you lie today?
Were you late for work? Did you cancel some plans for later tonight? Or did you ever tell the waiter that you’re allergic to parsley?
How about, “Oh, sorry I’ve only just seen your text!”
Humans evolved to lie. It’s the survival technique that turned into your best efforts to seem polite. Most of us consistently lie around 2 to 3 times a day and, in return, if you’re reading this after a long day at work or a busy day of chores and chaos, you can trust me when I tell you, you’ve probably been lied to around 12.5 times. Although to be entirely truthful, gaining 100% accurate data on the topic of dishonesty is, by it’s very nature, extremely difficult. Who wants to admit to being a liar? Anthropologist and writer, Craig Harper, notes that although it’s a difficult statistic to judge, “most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likeable and competent.”
“I’m willing to lie about how we met.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spotted these eight cheeky words nestled in the middle of an online dating profile.
It’s an in-joke, a nod to the old taboo, but really who could blame you for thinking we need to lie? I mean, falling in love through a screen, it’s hardly a Rom-Com worthy ‘meet-cute’.
But, online dating is the trend, which outgrew it’s taboo. If you’ve not at least dabbled, the chances are you’re already engaged to your childhood sweetheart, you married before the ‘.com’ explosion or you just have a really poor Wi-Fi connection.
I tried out online dating pretty early. I was barely twenty and fairly confident, thinking of myself as most of those buzzwords, which we hold to such high importance, when creating our online dating profiles. Fun loving, down to earth, easy going, sociable, but above all I was curious. And, my curiosity into online seemed only natural, but repeatedly I was asked, why. Why online?
If you really are all the buzzwords you claim to be why would you need to be online to date? But as a member of the digital generation (a girl whose childhood included a pretty impressive playground top score on ‘Snake’) continuing my friendships onto msn and, extending my flirtations into Facebook, seemed inevitable. Cynic that I am, I never really trusted dating apps (which mostly rely upon geographical convenience to procure relationships) to deliver anything with any ‘staying power’. I have, however, always held an optimistic streak for online dating.
But the reason for my optimism may just surprise you. Again, how many times did you lie today? Are you willing to lie about how we met?
Linguists mostly agree that we’ve been communicating via speech for a little more than a hundred thousand years. But it wasn’t until around five thousand years ago that we began to write down and record any of our communications. Psychologist, Jeff Hancock, sites in a recent Ted Talk that it’s only extremely recently in our history (the last 500 years) that we’ve even been able to mass record and reproduce written communication, with the invention of the printing press.
“What this means is, all the people before there was any writing, every word that they ever said, every utterance, disappeared. No trace, evanescent, gone. So we’ve been evolving to talk in a way in which there is no record.”
– Jeff Hancock
With that in mind would it surprise you when I say my optimism for online in mostly based around honesty? Because, despite all you’ve heard about guys rounding up their height and women rounding down on their age. And all those ‘social smokers’ who’s realities would have to include some pretty sociable toilet breaks, to make that trait a truth, communication over the internet is amongst the most honest we’ve developed as humans.
Think about when you’re talking to someone face to face and, my god, you think they just might be telling you a porky! So, what are the ‘tells’ you’re looking for? Something in their eyes? A wrinkling of their Pinocchio’s nose? Or is it the way they just started fidgeting? Well stop that! The way you’re now staring is creepy and even if they are fibbing, there are no social ‘tells’ when it comes to face to face lying. However, verbal lying where there’s no record of conversation, be it over the phone, or face to face, is far more frequent than in that of online communication.
Sure we can all edit out our imperfections in our profiles but Jeff Hancock goes further to say that since the emergence of the new way we all share online, putting our virtual selves out there for all to see, email and online chat is now our most honest form of communication.
Think about all those late night heart to hearts you’ve had (the msn generation will know exactly what I’m talking about here) where emotion seemed easier, with a screen to hide behind, so you shared more. I’m not suggesting we all play out great love affairs over email, we can’t all be Meg Ryan, but online dating is a great starting point for honestly understanding who a person really is.
The future of dating is digital, our research shows that by the year 2031, half of all couples will have met their partners online. Falling in love through a screen may not have been the way you imagined meeting your soul mate, but try to remember, you can always lie about how you met. Just don’t lie to each other.
Hayley Thompson is a London based Freelance Writer and Journalist, over-sharer, coffee enthusiast and radio four listener, who’s accidentally learnt a lot about dating… Read her blog over at My Place Or Yours?
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