Lying down

Does the Internet encourage duplicity?

Its a question I’ve been considering for a while and true to form it now leaves me confused. It seems that much of my online experience of late has involved deliberate attempts to lie to me and its difficult not to be disheartened by such experiences, especially when considering the needs of those who have to lie online that they will be safe in real life. Those who lie about their identity when blogging in a country where they could be imprisoned for what they write are still lying, but few would disagree about the necessity of them doing so, in fact most would even applaud them for their courage in taking the risks they are in blogging at all. Objectively, of course, they are still lying, but if they are not condemned for doing so, is it truly a lie? Is a lie only a lie when it hurts another? Is lying actually something that is subjective, rather than objective? When is a lie a lie?

The wikipedia editor who lied about his credentials and identity is a well known example to the “Internet-ati” of someone whose online lies were exposed, but did anyone consider whether the editing and contributions he had made were inaccurate at all? If they weren’t, are his lies somehow diminished, or is the principle of lying sufficient that even what he wrote that was factually correct is now devalued? Can objective facts be destroyed by the source of those facts being proven dishonest? Do facts then become subjective, or have they always been?

A forum I read recently exploded into a flame war when the claimed credentials of one of the posters was called into question. In the eyes of many, it only took her honesty to be questioned for almost all that she had said to then be attacked, attacks that became increasingly personal. Lying online still seems to be considered sufficient grounds for inflicting social pariah status on another, so why then do so many fall prey to its temptations? Is it perhaps because of a desire to be someone different to what they are in real life, to gain a sense of fulfillment in their lives that the offline world does not give them, or is it merely always malicious?

The online world Second Life is rife with dishonesty, much of which I have seen to be malicious, but also much that I have seen to be escapism. Paradoxically, many in Second Life who are tired of the duplicity and the lies around them, particularly concerning people having alts (other avatars, owned by the same person), often create their own alts to escape it, to “get away” from it all. In order to escape being lied to they embark upon their own lie, so is this objectively lying, or subjectively? Black and white, or shades of grey?

Anonymity and identity, both vital parts of the Internet and yet they seem to be in direct conflict. Is there a resolution? Is there even a need for a resolution, or does online dissembling and duplicity only reflect our nature and be indicative of it? If we do it online, do we do it also offline and the Internet only makes it easier?

Its definitely too confusing for me to find an answer, but I’ve been reminded of a saying while I’ve been writing this and it seems a good way to conclude yet another unfinished thought. It does not need proof to destroy trust, only suspicion.


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