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Why fibbing on Facebook really only deceives ourselves

As new research reveals that lying on social media is changing our memories of events, Katie Wright asks when does a little harmless embellishment start to become detrimental to our mental health?

We all know the culprits. Or at least suspect we do. The people whose Facebook pages are a non-stop stream of "epic" nights out, heavenly sunset snapshots and champagne brunches, a flow so envy-inducing and unrelenting that it can't possibly all be true.

Breathe a sigh of relief, then, because a new study reveals that it's probably not.

A survey of 1,000 social media users by diary site Pencourage found 68% admitted they lie on their social profiles, with 10% saying they embellish so heavily they "don't even recognise themselves" online.

Not only that, close to half believe their Facebook fibs might have, or already have, had an effect on their memories of the events they document, with nearly one in 10 "sure" that it's already had an impact.

"Studies show our thinking is anchored by a number of external resources, including how we choose to share and discuss our experiences - a huge amount of which these days occur online," says clinical and counselling psychologist Dr Richard Sherry.

"Being competitive and wanting to put our best face forward is entirely understandable. However, the dark side of this social conformity is when we deeply lose ourselves, to the degree we no longer recognise the experience, our voice, or the memory." Indeed, the Pencourage poll also found that nearly a third of users "can't live up" to their online image.

So is the solution to quit social media? Well, not necessarily. Because reminiscing can be also hugely pleasurable, so by editing our memories as we go along, we have "the capacity to look through rose-tinted glasses, and even feel nostalgic for times that weren't that enjoyable," Dr Sherry says.

However, if we're going to counteract the liar-liar approach, then it's time for a bit of honesty all round.

"Ultimately, it's about preserving some sense of authenticity where we don't 'lose' who we are in a spiral of exaggerations," says Dr Sherry.

For those incorrigible champers-sunset-VIP fibbers, remember they're not doing themselves any favours psychologically, and take what they say with about a kilo of salt.

And if all else fails, there's always the 'unfollow' button.

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