This book uses a powerful digital truth serum to extract some insights about human nature and the reasons why we lie. The authors use publicly available tools (i.e. frequency of google searches) and cross reference it with zip codes and other demographic information to unmask true human nature and challenge our own perception of marriage, friendships, sexual preferences, political views, racism and more. This is an extremely insightful read not only for personal purposes but also to know your customers better. What people post online does not necessarily reveal what they want or would be willing to pay for, only the image they want to project.
“People lie about how many drinks they had on the way home. They lie about how often they go to the gym, how much those new shoes cost, whether they read a book… They say they will be in touch when they won’t… They lie to friends, bosses, their kids and their partners… but more often than not, they lie to themselves.”
Below is a list of some of the most startling discoveries:
- Homosexuality in the US: Surveys show 2-3%- Google searches reveal preferences closer to 10%.
- Child abuse and economic recession: the rate of child abuse related searches goes up by at least 3% during a recession (including keywords such as: “my mom beats me,” “my dad hit me,” “how to stop child abuse,” “what is child neglect,” and the list goes on and on).
- Abortion and legislation: the keyword “self induced abortion” is 40% higher in 8 of the 10 states that are considered to be hostile to the practice compared to pro-choice states. Suggesting that legislation does not stop abortion but makes it unsafe.
- Married life, social media vs reality: searches reveal that most people are angry at their spouses for not meeting an array of needs: sexual, emotional, and even regret having children. The term “sexless marriage” is the most frequently used term related to marriage.
- Racism and voting: After Obama’s election into office there was a surge on racial slur searches. If we cross reference frequency of use and zip codes in the US, we find that they coincide perfectly with the zip codes where Trump won the 2016 election. In other words, we could have predicted who would win by simply using keyword searches in Google.
The list of discoveries goes on and on. They provide a glimpse of what is really going on in our cities and towns, and who the people we love really aspire to be.
Although learning that we may not know anything about the people who we think we know may be quite distressful news; it is important to remember that people lie because of them, not because of us. As we are wired for social interaction, emotional and social rejection can hurt more than a punch to the face. Thus, lying is a defense mechanism developed to avoid unbearable pain. The more an individual lies, the more sensitive he/she is to rejection (i.e. the more they want to be accepted). This is extremely important to remember when discovering that a loved one has lied to us. I know that it can be very hard not to take it personally, but if we inject a bit of curiosity, compassion and acceptance in our every day lives, we may find that as we become more comfortable with what is real, the need to lie will eventually disappear, giving way to more meaningful connections.