Someone I've never met, yet continue to follow, keeps Tweeting about her White Whine anguish in a very bitter way. If Twitter is to be believed, she's really pissed about being single (sweetheart, sarcasm is the garnish on your heartbreak entree) and finds her parents somewhat tiresome. I think she might also have a pony, but that's another story.
One day, after a series of annoying interesting Tweets from this individual, I found myself wondering: "What the hey, does this lady stand around the street corner bemoaning her fate to strangers?"
Probably not and that led me to wonder: "Do people tell the truth more often on Social Media than they do in real life?" And that led me to start snooping on friends' Facebook walls and combing through various Twitter feeds. I also conducted some exhaustive research on the topic by making a trip to the Google machine and typing in "Social Media Truth Telling Research".
The Google machine led me to something called honestly.com -- a "candid community-created reviews of business professionals". (Like LinkedIn without all the resume padding I guess?)
The Google also brought me to an article on socialmediatoday.com titled "Connectivity, Transparency and Truth Telling".
"The mutual interconnectedness of all things is not just an idea anymore, it is becoming a reality.
This means that truth-telling is the easiest option. Since, if everything is connected and transparent, falsity will be uncovered. None of this means that we will necessarily transition towards more democratic forms of political organisation. More likely it will organise around current political infrastructure."
Interesting ....but sort of brainier than what I'm wondering about, which is... just how embarrassingly honest can people be? So I set up a trap, in the form of a Facebook poll that asked my friends which they'd rather be if given the choice: Smart or Pretty/Handsome.
It didn't go very well. First of all, only seven people answered and that's because I forced six of them to and also answered it myself. Five chose "Smart" and only two (one of them was me) picked "Pretty/Handsome". Because I know my friends, I know at least three of the "smart" votes are total lies! So much for honesty on FB.
Deciding not to "insert myself" into the experiment, I moved over to Twitter and simply "observed". This worked better.
@HfxMan recently devoted a considerable amount of characters to telling the world about his adjustment to single life. Here's a snippet: "After being married 4 practically my entire adult life, this being single thing is taking some getting used 2." He goes on, in a series of Tweets, to talk about the difficulties of brunching sans mate. (Dear @HfxMan, I wish you no disrespect, I enjoy your social media ramblings, you just happen to help support my thesis.)
Then there are the types that are overly honest about their lives just by their check-ins. Example? A friend both on social media and off spends way too much time and money at Banana Republic. I know this because he checks into the store on social media every freaking weekend. I wake up on the weekend, I take my dog outside, I check Twitter and -- oops! There he is! Shopping for button-up shirts or something. See? He's being honest about his consumer culture nature and his fondness for an upscale version of The Gap. (Again, no disrespect.)
Others are simply too honest about their desire to be seen as a Social Media Guru (the very phrase makes me ill. Memo to all: no such thing! There are Social Media Strategists and they can help you! But the good ones don't call themselves gurus and do jazz hands while talkin' Twitter). These are the types that post blog links, "helpful hints" and factoids all day long. I'm considering expunging them from my feed. Example: @BrettRelander "5 Easy Ways to Liven Up Your Facebook Stream". Ick, too obvious in your effort to be seen as a Guru @BrettRelander! (I feel another blog post about the most ridiculous Social Media advice ever coming on.)
Then, there are the woe-is-me women, like the stranger on my Twitter feed, who talk endlessly about 1. The cute things their kids say 2. How much they wish they had a boyfriend/husband 3. How mad they are at their boyfriend/husband 4. How they're suffering from a general sense of malaise and discontent (paraphrasing here). 5. How they just ate soooooooo muuuuuuuch and don't care cause because it's so good but are now feeling fat. I vote these the worst set of truth tellers. Please tell me that after 2011 years we have something to talk about other than boys, babies and "does this Tweet make me look fat?". Please.
So why, why are (some of us) unflinchingly honest on Twitter? Maybe it's because we're tired of mundane real-life small talk about the weather, the weekend and how excited you are for Monday to be over? Maybe we want people to hear us complain in the hopes they sympathize and throw a social media pity party to make us feel understood and comforted. Maybe we're just all tired of making things up.
Oh, before I forget, I must give a special shout-out to my favourite social media truth teller -- The unicorns. Seriously people, all social media and the Internet in general would be 100 per cent better with more unicorns. @Unicornomics regularly makes my day with truthful Tweets related to the nature of this magical beast. "You can lead a unicorn to water, but you can't make it drink. Unless you give it a twisty-straw. No unicorn can resist a twisty-straw."
Indeed, there is beauty in truth.
Follow Steph McGrath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/somethingwitty