The Dangers of Lying in the Internet Age

It seems to be a human weakness to want to dress up our life experience, to say we were higher up on the totem pole than we really were. A case in point: I used to work with a guy who said he was once a backup musician with a well-known New York punk band. This was back in the early days of the Internet, when a lot of fresh information was being posted for the first time.

My boss didn’t particularly like our former punk rocker, whom I’ll call David. So he Googled David and learned that he hadn’t played with this particular band, but that he had been a roadie for them. Evidently, there was a reunion site where the band members thanked David for being such a great roadie.

Now, it’s not as if David lied and said he was a graduate of Columbia when he really went to SUNY-New Paltz (a fine school, by the way, but not a posh Ivy League name like Columbia). As far as I know, he hadn’t improved upon his academic or professional credentials to get his foot in the door. But our boss certainly viewed David in a different light after learned that he only been a roadie, not a backup musician. David had misrepresented himself in order to impress other people. Once he was discovered, everything he said was suspect.

I’m usually not guilty of embellishing my past. It’s colorful enough already. However, I can think of at least one time that I’ve been guilty of this kind of inflation. I was in a fight with an editor about the right way to spell a word. This was before the days of Microsoft Word’s SpellCheck, but after the advent of dictionaries. However, for some reason one wasn’t immediately available or the word in question wasn’t in our abridged version. Without Merriam-Webster to back me up, I insisted that I must be right because, “After all, in sixth grade, I won the Geary County, Kansas, spelling bee.”

Well, in fact, I was No. 3 in the Geary County bee that year, having misspelled “conscience” in a slip of the lip. I knew how to spell the word, but the letters didn’t come out in the right order. Isn’t that ironic?

I’ve also committed sins of omission, most recently when I neglected to tell my husband that I was attending the United Astrology Conference in Denver, a trip tacked onto a family visit to Albuquerque. Meanwhile, I was busily advertising the fact that I was going to be at UAC on my blog. (See my post, “Houston, We Have a Problem.”)

So I’m not trying to let myself off the hook. But lately I’ve heard of a few instances where people have bragged about their participation in big-name events and others have discovered from the Net that Joe didn’t really finish fourth in the 1978 New York City Marathon.

Would you love your wife any less if you learned that she was not a cheerleader in high school, as she told you, but was merely on the drill team?

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6 comments on “The Dangers of Lying in the Internet Age

  1. Cynthia — I hope you sent a copy of this to Nancy over at Nancy’s Blog (she’s on my blogroll, if you don’t know her), since it APPEARS to dispute the new birthtime of 7:11 p.m. that was being circulated for Obama at the United Astrology Conference in Denver, though it’s close, at 7:24 p.m. Thanks for sending this in. Now, if we can just get the Daily Kos to shake a McCain birth certificate loose. — Monica

  2. Other way around — I’d freak the hell out if I found out she’d been a cheerleader in high school. That would seriously mess with my head.

    Can’t think of a serious embellishment, personally, but as time goes on it does get harder and harder to remember titles and so on. When we were doing our DO profiles a few years ago, I had to go back to my archives to actually remember what titles I had held. But I’ll have to admit that I was never actually the soundman for the Flashcubes. I did HEAR them, isn’t that the same thing?

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