With more than 69 percent of the American population using some form of social media on a regular basis, it’s no wonder that our online lives have become highly-curated versions of the truth. We proudly show off our milestones, our purchases, and outfits that make us look like a million bucks while conveniently obscuring the piles of laundry, late loan payments, and overbearing bosses.
“Years ago, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ was walking out your front door and looking at the new car in your neighbor’s yard thinking, ‘How did they afford that?’ Nowadays, we see every detail of people’s lives right in the palm of our hand as we scroll through social media on our cell phones. We not only see the new car they bought, but we see the upgrades they did inside their homes, their promotions at work, pictures of their child’s straight-A report cards and just how ‘perfect’ their lives are,” says life coach and licensed mental health counselor Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D. “As we view the amazing slideshow of Ms. Jones and all her perfection, some compare, grow in jealously, as well as confusion, anxiety and anger. However, we must be aware that what we see on social media is often a slideshow or ‘highlight reel’ of the best parts of people’s lives. Social media posts are often your general photo with a caption that is slightly embellished to some degree.”
However, It’s not just your seemingly-perfect neighbors putting a little spin on their day-to-day lives. In fact, we’re all guilty of some social media fibs—and we’ve rounded up the ones we just can’t help but telling on a regular basis.
Making relationships seem happier than they are.
Judging by their social media presence, your friends may seem to have that kind of once-in-a-lifetime, always-smitten-with-each-other type of relationship. However, those happy posts are largely lies of omission: they don’t show the near-breakup fights, the worries about how bills are going to get paid, or those tense conversations about why someone’s ex was sliding into their DMs.
So, if you’re feeling down about why your relationship seems so boring compared to those you see on social media, just remember, “When you observe social media posts, take them with a grain of salt. Remember, you are taking one caption from someone and comparing it to your entire life,” says Dr. Kulaga.
Pretending you practically live at the gym.
Unless your actual job requires you to spend the bulk of your day at the gym, odds are you’re not actually hitting it as hard as you lead people to believe. While you may go to the gym on a regular basis, a look behind the curtain reveals that many social media users make their workout habits seem a little more impressive, to garner likes and shares. In fact, this level of deception might even have an affect on the poster: according to a study conducted at York University, many people overestimate how hard they’re working out to begin with.
Working those flattering angles.
While it’s not quite the same as flatly stating something false, we’re all guilty of playing up our best angles to make ourselves look more attractive on social media. In fact, according to one review of social media behaviors as admitted to by Reddit users, 25 percent of subjects admitted to not just making themselves look different in their photos, but actually using fake pictures.
Embellishing your importance at work.
Gussying up your résumé is one thing, but there are countless people who take this trend well beyond the interview room. Everyone’s made it seem as though they’re practically the lifeblood of the workplace, when, in fact, the opposite is true: the poster is little more than another line on payroll.
Overinflating health concerns.
Being sick is never pleasant, but the average cold is rarely life-threatening. That said, we’ve all made it seem as though our prognosis is as dire as it feels when we’re in the throes of an illness. When most people are actually gravely ill, the last thing on their mind is taking a cute hospital gown selfie.
Acting like you’re BFFs.
Those party photos that make it seem as though your social circle is always expanding? Yeah, we all know those aren’t as accurate as they may seem. It may have been cool to get invited to the VIP section or meet that A-lister, but if you’re attempting to draw attention to your relationships online, chances are they’re not as strong as you’re making them out to be.
Pretending you’re not using a filter.
Though the hashtag may say otherwise, we’ve all fibbed once or twice about not using a filter on a picture that’s clearly undergone some digital doctoring. That silky-smooth skin, those shadows that highlight bone structure, and that ever-flattering oversaturated color definitely aren’t natural, no matter how much you might like them to be.
Claiming you’re going makeup free.
We see it in magazines and social media alike: someone who looks virtually perfect and claims to have woken up like this. Just because you’re wearing minimal makeup—a swipe of concealer here, some well-placed mascara there—doesn’t mean you can actually claim to be completely makeup-free.
Posting photos of fun nights drinking.
Those pictures of you dancing with an oversized margarita in your hand may make it look like every night of your life is a party. What most people are intentionally leaving out, however, is the embarrassing stumble into a cab, the one-person Gatorade-chugging contest you had when you got home, and the pounding headache you’re still dealing with a day later.
Showing off the healthy food you ate one time.
We’ve all been there: eat a kale salad one time and, suddenly, you’re adding “#green #organic #glutenfree” to all of your social media posts for a month. Of course, in real life, your average meal comes with an order of French fries so large it technically counts as a pool.
Claiming you’re quitting social media.
Russian interference? Time to quit social media. Data breach? Time to quit social media. Read a book about mindfulness? Time to quit social media. If everyone had a dollar for the number of times they or members of their inner circle have claimed they’re swearing off social media for good, we’d all be rich.
Showing only the positive side of parenthood.
“Aren’t my children just little angels?” parents regularly gush on social media, showing off pictures of their well-behaved-looking children in adorable, meticulously-cleaned matching outfits. What we’re not seeing: the messy bedrooms, the chocolate ice cream for breakfast, and the knock-down-drag-out fights that led to the decapitation of at least a dozen Barbie dolls.
Posting edited pictures.
Much like the frequent filter debacle, virtually everyone has posted a slightly-tweaked photo and pretended it’s exactly how they look IRL. And while many of those photo fibs slide, when your face appears so airbrushed you’re virtually featureless, it’s pretty clear that you’re not telling the whole truth.
Over-inflating charitable nature.
Those humblebrags about donating your old clothes to charity or cutting a big check to your favorite non-profit probably don’t paint the entire picture when it comes to your altruistic nature. Snapping a selfie every time you do something good for the world is a good way to make it seem like you’re spending every weekend building Habitat Houses, when, in reality, you’re mostly ordering takeout and binge-watching Netflix, just like everyone else.
Pretending to have a more robust social life than you really do.
Your social media accounts may make your life seem like you’re living a non-stop party, but chances are that’s more fiction than fact. According to a survey conducted by smartphone company HTC, three-quarters of the individuals polled admitted to making their lives seem more exciting on social media, so if you’re guilty of this, at least you’re in good company.
Posting photos that make life seem fancier than reality.
Those pictures of you getting out of a limo (your prom date’s), flashing some diamonds (your mom’s), or wearing a designer outfit (Rent the Runway’s)? Everybody embellishes their lifestyle to some degree on social media, but make no mistake: most members of your social circle know you’re not leading that champagne lifestyle on your beer budget.
Those Foucault quotes on your profile or those stories from The Economist you keep sharing? If you’re like a huge percentage of social media users, you’re not telling the whole truth about how much—if any—of Madness and Civilization or that article on the flatlined GDP of Spain you’ve actually made it through.
Pretending to be deeply invested in a trendy hobby.
What your social media profiles say: you’re wildly passionate about cross-stitching. What that pile of unfinished samplers stuffed into your closet says: you’re probably not going to start that Etsy store any time soon.
Exaggerating commitment to a social issue.
Do you love reminding people online just how much you care about social issues on social media? You’re not alone. (Just click on any #resistance or #maga hashtag on Twitter to instantly see millions of like-minded thoughts.) However, like the countless other embellishments posted on social media, people frequently inflate the amount they’re actually invested in social issues—sharing an article isn’t exactly the same as being on the front lines of a protest, after all.
Showing a rosy picture of family vacations.
On social media, family vacations look like relaxing breaks from the drudgery of everyday life in beautiful settings. In reality, they’re a mess of early mornings, fights between siblings, meals eaten while driving, and, of course, an ever-present chorus of “Are we there yet”s?
Pretending people have been asking for details about your life.
Any post on social media (and there are countless of these) that starts, “I know you’ve all been wondering…” is inevitably the beginning of a lie. In fact, for many people, it’s common practice to set up these carefully-constructed untruths with a little “vague-booking” beforehand, dropping some well-placed, “They know what they did”s and “Huge news today! Can’t talk about it just yet”s.
Making holiday celebrations seem like non-stop fun.
Holidays online: non-stop treats, adorable photo shoots, piles of presents, and tons of sweet time spent with your loved ones. What those rosy pictures are hiding: that bag of flour dropped on the kitchen floor, the screaming matches, the weeping on Santa’s lap, or the bottles of wine that get opened before noon.
Pretending to be close to the recently deceased.
Ugly a habit though it may be, there are far too many people out there who exaggerate their relationship with someone once they’ve died. So, that guy who sat next to you in ninth grade chemistry, who you haven’t spoken to in fifteen years, is genuinely the person who understood you best in the world? Whatever you say.
Exaggerating levels of political activity.
People on social media love pretending like they’re hyper-attuned to the pulse of politics and dedicate hours to canvassing and calling and rounding up votes. The reality is more likely little more than a ritual re-watching and sharing of Daily Show clips. Considering that the Bipartisan Policy Center suggests that just over 50 percent of registered voters actually make it to the polls, odds are that “I Voted” sticker marks the extent of your political activity.
Claiming to have only seen a message weeks later.
The most commonly-used phrase in adult life? “Sorry, I just saw this.” If you’re like most people, even knowing that other people can tell that you’ve already read their message on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve likely pretended that you’re just seeing it for the first time when you finally get around to responding.
Sharing a not-entirely-fact-checked news story.
While you may not be trying to deceive anyone when you share a story that turns out to be false, the effect is the same. Sharing a dubious story that claims members of Congress are all lizard people probably isn’t the whole truth, and somewhere in there, you know that, too.
Claiming a relationship “is complicated.”
Are relationships complicated? Sure. If you’re claiming your relationship is complicated on social media, you either know it’s about to end, it was fake to begin with, or you’re in need of something more instantly gratifying than a new relationship: some attention.
Inflating net worth.
Just because you’ve got a new car in your driveway and a $2,000 purse on your arm doesn’t mean you’re a millionaire. Considering that, according to Federal Reserve data, the average American household is more than $137,000 in debt, those high-roller lifestyles you see your friends engaging in probably aren’t the whole truth.
Pretending a job is more glamorous than it really is.
What you’re posting on social media: photo booth shots from your company’s holiday party, that one time a celebrity came into your office, or that huge bottle of Veuve Clicquot your boss got as a congratulatory gift when she got promoted. What you’re not showing: restocking the mini-fridge for clients, that air conditioning leak that’s leaving a water stain on your desk, and the co-worker who can’t pass by your desk at the beginning of the week without asking if you’ve got “a case of the Mondays.”
Acting like you don’t care.
While you may not let everything other people think get to you, those posts proclaiming that you couldn’t care less about other people’s opinions are woefully transparent. The entire purpose of social media is to post things for a reaction—if you truly didn’t care, you’d log off for good.