I’ve been told a time or two that I’m reckoned to be a straight-shooter or an honest fellow, which is interesting because I lie constantly. I assume the main reason for this is because the things I like about no one cares about anyway. I have many annoying personality quirks – one of the most persistent and deep-rooted is that I don’t want anyone knowing my business. I don’t know exactly why that is but I assume it’s because I fear judgement and/or mockery. One way this manifests itself is that whenever people ask about me or what I’m doing if I can’t deflect them I usually lie. I did this all the time at my old job because people were always all up in my business wanting to know about me.
Lying is a very juvenile and intellectually cowardly thing to do. But unfortunately I’ve found that when you tell people that you don’t want to talk about something they often get very insistent that you tell them. If Kenny at work asks what you’re doing this weekend and you say “I don’t like to discuss my personal life” first he’ll laugh and then be like “So really, what are you doing?” but if you persist in putting him off eventually Kenny becomes enraged and starts to try to choke you. So it’s just much easier to lie and say you’re going to do some yardwork and then go for a bike ride. You have to make sure Kenny doesn’t ride bikes though to avoid any follow up. It’s a tricky business. Back in the old days one of my go-to lies was that I had Bible study – because that turns people off FAST.
I don’t have nearly as much of this in my current job, partially because chit-chat overall is less common but also because no one cares about me, which is nice. The bad thing is that I worked with a couple of my old pals and one of them let it slip that we used to play D&D back in the day so now sometimes people call be Dungeon Master and bring up Dungeons and Dragons. I hate it more than skim milk. I told one of these people once (lyingly) that I didn’t like being called Dungeon Master because it has a different meaning in the kink community (I think) and it made me uncomfortable but that didn’t stop anyone. You really have to act that one out if you want it to stick and get all upset and time anyone says the thing you’re pretending to be offended by. The fact that I don’t like it isn’t enough, in fact that probably makes it happen more.
I think another reason that people believe I’m honest even though I’m an inveterate liar is because I don’t mind giving honest feedback, which is rare, and because I don’t mind talking about my own shortcomings which is even more rare. So I think people are like “Wow, this guy admitted that he’s not the greatest person in the world, he must be very honest.”
And of course of you want to get all grad studenty about it, what does it really meant to lie? When someone says “How’s it going” and you say “fine” even though you’re seething with rage to me technically that’s a lie, but you could make the argument that it isn’t because they aren’t really asking you how it’s going – it’s just a salutation. A little trickier though is lying at work. When your boss asks “How are you liking you job” you can’t say “I hate it, I wish I never had to come here again” even though it’s true. But, you could make a similar argument that what your boss is really asking is “How are you liking your job, giving the fact that we all know we’re rather be doing other things and no one wants to be here?” I don’t want to get into a whole thing about how the truth is subjective but there’s lying and then there’s lying you know?
But let’s get to the question are hand – how much are we lying? A very small amount of internet research (which should be the real name of this blog) reveals one “study” that says people lie 1.65 times a day. But this is an area that I doubt anyone can accurately measure, first of all who’s not going to lie about how much they lie? Secondly I think some of the time (maybe a lot) people lie without really thinking about it – they just do it and forget it. Or in their mind they don’t think they’re lying. Such as Sally asks Hercules if the TCP report is done and Herc says “Yep” even though he hasn’t started it yet – but in Herc’s mind that’s not a lie because he’s going to do it. I remember an ugly jackass lazy pervert pile of garbage I used to work with told me sometimes “Once I say I’m going to do something it’s done already.” I hope that guy fell off a ladder onto a fence.
The real problem with lying measurement though is probably that self-deception is happening like crazy. We all know people who are clearly delusional and living in their own fantasy world but I think the majority of us aren’t nearly as self-aware as we think we are. I’m too lazy to check the details but I’ve read a couple times about how our brains have evolved towards self-deception because once you have intelligence instead of instinct it’s a helpful tool to keep you going. You can only succeed if you try, but it’s hard to try if you know that you’re likely to fail. So your brain helps out by distorting the truth in your own memory/mind/whatever – to diminish your failures and highlight your “victories” even if they didn’t really happen.
There’s a Ted Talk that agrees that most people lie 1-2 times a day, but claims that we’re lied to 100-200 times a day. That doesn’t make sense to me. I definitely don’t talk to 100 people a day. Or a week. Maybe some months. One thing that amuses/perplexes me is when someone is 100% caught in a lie and they stick with it anyway. Another interesting phenomena is that people WILDLY overestimate their ability to gauge if someone is lying – which is fun because they’re lying to themselves about how good they are at detecting lies. That’s a delicious paradox.
In conclusion how much are people lying? I have no idea. But I think it’s a lot.