Have you ever known someone whose Facebook page presented them in a way that you know isn’t really them?

Of course you have. You know this person personally. You know they aren’t sharing every detail of their screwed up lives and tastes. They stick to the ones that further the carefully composed selfie snapshot of themselves that they want to present to the world. You probably do that yourself.

According to researchers at Aalto University, they’ve discovered that a paradox drives some of this deception. They found that social media users they studied on Last.fm and Facebook were actually turning to deception in an effort to make their social media presences look more honest.

Aalto University’s Suvi Uski said there’s a heavy focus on making a profile feel “natural.”

“We also encountered a widespread disdain by users for what is known as profile tuning, or intentionally sharing content designed to depict the user in a false way. Sharing personal content online on social network sites has become a common activity for increasing numbers of people around the world.

“But what our study reveals is a common belief that sharing content in a way that is considered to be excessive, attention seeking or somehow portrays that individual in a fake manner is judged extremely negatively,” Uski said.

So there’s a huge stigma that drives people to keep it real. But as you might have noticed, there are uncountable other social stigmas as well that drive people to want to present themselves in a way that’s acceptable to their social groups and consistent with their established image.

So what’s a social media user to do when caught in the Zuckerbergian dilemma? Lie. Lie your ass off.

“We found that it was not uncommon for some (Last.fm) users to purposely choose to listen to, or indeed not listen to, particular music according to the image that that individual wants to portray to others,” said Airi Lampinen, the study’s co-author.

“In addition, users of Facebook have a high degree of control on what is shared with others, but we found they often chose not to share anything for fear of conveying the wrong message to fellow users. Consequently our desire to be regarded as authentic in social media can also prove to be difficult to achieve. A desire to conform actually inhibits a truthful unencumbered sharing of content. Importantly, this leads the researchers to conclude that displaying an authentic image on SNSs is actually more controlled than first thought,” Lampinen said.

[Source: Aalto University]

Image Selfie At Saltburn Pier by Archangel 12 via Wikimedia Commons