Saturday, September 30, 2006

lonely no more - an essay on lonelygirl15

Hi all,
The title above links to a short essay on the lonelygirl15 phenomenon we discussed in class last week. A very interesting case of digital deception (or not).
--Jeff

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A5: Facebook lets you lie like a rug

The anatomy of a facebook profile is not very complicated but can be quite detailed. Only some of these components generally become targets for deceptive activity, although, it is possible to lie about anything on facebook: even the (startup) email address or your name/nickname.
You can lie about the number of friends you have in real life by friend-ing people you either don’t know or aren’t really friends with. Your picture can be easily falsified, and very often is in many ways: for example, the person I analyzed used an image that was edited in Photoshop to create odd effects. You could also use a picture of someone/something else to lie (you can even crop photos, though ths brings up other issues). Most groups can be faked because they are open, making them easy to join for lying about your interests and activities. Even closed groups can be faked into letting you join by using other types of fraud mentioned above.
In terms of the profile responses, everything is based on your input, so it’s possible to practice deception and lie in every one. The one exception is relationships status, which has to be verified by the other person. Yet, this still can faked to some extent: you can be in a relationship with another profile that you/anyone can easily fake, or you can pretend to be in a relationship with someone. In fact, the latter is practiced regularly.
At Cornell, the directory can act as a verification for anyone. Phone numbers, addresses, school (and perhaps major), name and other things (like websites) can be easily verified through the directory. This makes them less likely fields to be used for deception, and indeed, I have found that people rarely lie about these things, choosing either to include them truthfully or not include them at all. Mini-feed has made it possible to track your friends, so perhaps the practice of deception in certain profile information will lessen.
So, the person I analyzed was somewhat disappointing in that he/she almost never lied about anything despite having almost one hundred different instances of profile information. The person rated fives for just about everything from “looking for” to favorite books. I was able to independently identify nearly al of it through others and my own powers of observation. One place he/she did lie, to an extent, was in the status. It said he/she was doing one thing, which clearly wasn’t true anymore, but it was dated from when he/she did participate in that activity. Does this make it a lie still? Perhaps, although the other cues available would suggest that no.
The only thing he/she rated less than a five was one of his/her favorite books, which was rated a four. WHY? He/she just felt that the book wasn’t quite up to par with his/her original thoughts of it, especially compared to other books on the list.
So in theory, facebook is certainly deceptive. In practice? I guess it all just depends.

Facing Facebook

Assignment 5: option 2

As a complete outsider to the world of Facebook, this assignment gave me a chance to explore a phenomenon I have had very little interaction with. From what I saw, a facebook profile basically consists of six elements: basic information, personal information, the picture, the wall, friends, and albums. I chose to dissect my friend “Sara’s” profile, and determined the accuracy of the information provided in each of these categories compared to the “real Sara” that I know quite well. Using Vrij’s notions of deception, I wanted to see how deceptive my friend had been in her profile. Vrij defines deception as “a successful or unsuccessful deliberate attempt, without forewarning, to create in another a belief which the communicator considers to be untrue” (p. 6). Using this definition, Sara walked a fine line between deception and selective self-presentation, which as discussed by Catalina, are intimately intertwined.

I would give Sara a five in every category, meaning they were completely accurate, with the exception of her picture. The reason these categories deserve a five is because she provided little information, making her virtually indistinguisable from thousands of other girls on facebook. However, by doing so Sara created an image of someone who does not buy into the sillyness of facebook and is somewhat too cool to care how others perceive her. I know Sara very well, and this image is entirely incongruous with her actual self. Sara is constantly on facebook and does care a great deal about what other people think of her. So while Sara and I can both verify that the information she provided is accurate, her profile paints quite a deceptive picture of who she actually is. I would classify this phenomenon as deception, especially when considering Vrij’s model, because Sara is intentionally fostering a belief in those who look at her profile that she knows is not true. The question here is whether or not Sara knows that she really cares what others think and that she does spend a lot of time on facebook, which I think deep down she is aware of.

As mentioned before, Sara’s profile picture was the only element of her profile that I rated as less than completely accurate. I gave this category a three because although her face in the picutre gives an accurate indication of her looks, her body in the picutre is rather, shall I say, enhanced. Sara, a size A cup, looks like a C in her photograph! When I interviewed Sara on this matter, she replied “I know, they look huge. I love it.” Any person who viewed Sara’s profile would assume she was rather well endowed. This finidng is rather consistent with those in Catalina’s study. She correctly hypothesized that men value attributes in a women that hint to their capacity for reproduction. As a result, women tend to present themselves in a manner that shows their “womenly” physical attractiveness (i.e. small waist, broad hips, thin body, large breast.) All in all, this assignment gave me a great excuse to hop on the facebook wagon, if only for a moment.

Taking page-jacking to the next level....

Assignment 5 Option 2


This may well be the first time I’ve ever gone online to purposely find fraud. Usually it finds me, whether in the form of a “double play” e-mail from some firm I’ve never heard of, a “mimicking” message from a bank I don’t belong to, or a “dazzling” pop-up advertisement for some product I most certainly don’t want. However, I went online searching for a specific type of fraud which was not mentioned in any of our literature but which I believe is more dangerous (if more difficult) than anything mentioned in Grazioli & Jarvenpaa or Dhamija et al. Instead of simple page-jacking, hackers were going to the next level and doing DNS hijacking. For those of you who don’t know, DNS stands for the Domain Name System – the series of backend Internet servers which resolve the human readable domain names (such as cornell.edu or google.com) into machine readable IP addresses (such as 192.168.1.1). In a DNS hijack (alternatively called DNS cache poisoning or DNS pharming), the hacker breaks into a DNS server and changes the records for a domain name to point from a legitimate server to his own more malicious server. The hacker will typically have his own server set up with pages that perfectly mimic the site he is trying to phish/pharm information from. The unsuspecting user will then type in the website he or she would like to visit correctly, or click on the correct link from a search engine and will be brought to the fake site where they will be prompted to enter personal information. The scary part is that this type of pharming is almost undetectable to users. Almost all of the methods Dhamija et al. explain and suggest won’t work – the fake server could have its own SSL certificate, could link to real authorities who will verify that the domain name is correct, etc. The only real way of detecting such an attack would be to physically look up the IP address of the target domain via an internet DNS lookup and compare it with the IP address provided by a local DNS lookup. This is a lot of work, and something that users who can be tricking into thinking a “vv” is a “w” probably won’t go through the effort to do.

Thankfully, this kind of attack hasn’t happened much. Perhaps because DNS is such a redundant system with some security measures in place and that hacking one server would only effect a limited number of users at a time (depending on the server and which end of the system the hacker went after) it is a fairly time consuming act. However, there is one notable exception to this. In 2000 a 17 year old hacker going by the name of “Coolio” changed the DNS records of RSA Security Inc. Although he simply defaced the RSA site, this act was especially embarrassing for RSA which is a company specializing in Internet security (for more information on the attack, go here). This type of attack could become more prevalent as potential victims become more aware and simpler methods prove to be less effective as Grazioli & Jarvenpaa predict.

Setting up a false website via DNS hijacking with a malicious intent to collect personal data is unquestionably a deceptive act. It fits in nicely with the Theory of Deception presented in Grazioli & Jarvenpaa as well as with both Vrij and Nyberg’s definitions. The pharming website is certainly a deliberate attempt to create a false belief in the viewer about the veracity of the page without any forewarning (unless for whatever reason the end user does DNS lookups for every website he/she visits, but that would be very time consuming and a little extreme). It also fits nicely into Nyberg’s showing/hiding model of deception – especially the mimicking subcomponent. Conclusively, online fraud is a major form of deception.

So how can one watch out for and identify a DNS hijacking attack? The reality is that a user really can’t unless the deceiver doesn’t put much effort into the “fake” website. Would I recommend that you watch out for it? Yes, certainly. Can I say that I wouldn’t fall victim to such an attack? Not at all. Even being aware of it doesn’t make the detection any easier. I can only hope that the DNS systems are continuously upgraded to prevent such malicious online fraud and deception.

Digital Deception

Assignment 5: Fudging on Facebook

The Expectancy Discordance Theory suggests that men place a greater emphasis on physical attractiveness and youthfulness while women put the onus on financial resources and social status. If the Facebook were to be used as primarily as a dating mechanism, we might expect then that summer internship categories and perhaps even majors would be slightly distorted for males. Any female young enough to have a Facebook profile need not worry about youthfulness, but if dating were a primary objective then we might anticipate that the picture would be distorted.
Ultimately, Catalina’s study found that women lie most in their picture.

In my Facebook analysis with a friend, I found this also to be the case. What she perceived to be a “good picture,” was a picture of her in an outfit substantially more revealing that she might normally wear. This is not an unusual finding for females on Facebook – a quick glance over the profiles of my friends and friends of friends reveals that scant clothing is a trend in Facebook pictures, and it is very doubtful that this is truly representative of every girl pictured.

The Facebook picture is an obvious method of self-presentation. What better way to accomplish impression management than by freezing a moment in time that would lead a viewer to arrive at a particular conclusion about an individual? Furthermore, the alternative makes for a very, very negative impression. Having a picture is the norm, so not having one makes a person look mysterious and as if they are intentionally hiding something.

Additionally, the reduced cues also facilitates impression management. Viewers can only draw on what they are overtly given.

According to the Feature-Based Model (Hancock et al 2004), the more synchronous and distributed, but less recordable a medium, the more frequently lying should occur. Inaccurate interests, favorite movies, or summer internship information can be identified once two people get to know each other.

It’s harder to pinpoint that a picture is a lie. A picture is documented proof that something happened; the property of recordability attributed to the picture itself undermines the recordability of the picture in the Facebook profile. Essentially, even if a picture does not truly represent its subject, its very presence lends credibility to its message.

Interestingly, although Facebook is in no way synchronous communication, it still very readily lends itself to deception. The Facebook anatomy I analyzed was deceptive in a lot of different places. For example, the number of friends was greatly exaggerated. It listed over 300 current friends but many of them were characters from my subjects’ past. The groups listed as part of the Facebook profile I analyzed were mainly jokes and inside jokes at that, so they were also slightly deceptive to the outside viewer.

Smoke and Mirrors

Assignment 5: Option 1

Facebook can be broken into several categories, each with varying potential to facilitate deception. The most prominent categories are basic info, contact info, personal info, profile picture, friends, photo albums, and the wall. Ultimately, the user has complete control over each category of the profile. However, in reality, users exercise the most direct control over basic info, contact info, personal info and profile picture—users must choose to, and create all the elements of each. In contrast, different users can add pictures, request to be friends, or post on the walls. While users can choose whether or not to tag pictures, accept friends, or display wall posts, they are not usually created by the user.

Vrij’s definition of deception follows that a deceiver must ‘intentionally foster in another person a belief or understanding which the deceiver considers false.’ I believe that the categories which best suit the intentional fostering of a false message are those which the Facebook user exerts direct control over. They have the ability to produce information that may lead to false perception and also to conceal information that may lead to a similar false perception. The other categories (friends, photo albums, and the wall) also offer some opportunity to produce information, but often users only use these categories to conceal information.

The notion that categories under more direct control from users produce a better chance to deceive is aptly demonstrated by my friend “Bartholomew.” The interesting aspect about the information my friend uses to deceive is that it is not, on its own, a lie. However, through his choices of what information to include under personal information, he could foster a false belief about his personality by people who don’t know him. For example, his activities list “Merge Poetry”; interests list billiards and hot rodding; favorite books list “Hip Hop Hares and Other Moments of Epic Silliness.” These might all be true statements, except for “billiards and hot rodding,” but together they suggest a particular type of vague, artistic, eccentricity which is not appropriate to his personality. With that said, I don’t believe this type of deception is limited to “Bartholomew.”

Facebook profiles provide excellent opportunities for people to share only the traits about themselves they wish to. This might be considered careful personality management, but I think it is clear in some cases, like “Bartholomew’s,” that the aggregate information is deceptive about what people are actually like.

Finally, deception on Facebook profiles is not limited to the aformentioned categories. There is ample opportunity to deceive with both their profile picture and photo albums. Namely, users have the chance to select any picture they choose for their profile. Many profiles, especially females, employ flattering photos. Furthermore, you will often find men with pictures that suggest a certain sense of wild rebellion. All users have the chance to tag only those pictures they want associated with their profile. For example, if someone doesn’t want the plethora of pictures featuring them with a beer in hand to suggest they party too much, they simply may remove the pictures from their profile.

Facebook doesn’t generally promote outright lying, but it provides a stage where users can choose the makeup, the costume, the lighting and the camera angle.

"This is gonna be my next facebook pic"

Assignment 5
We’ve all heard it and many of us are reluctant to admit using the new clichéd term. Yet today, thousands of college students use facebook as a networking device that provides a source of information about those in one’s network and an alternative to traditional methods of interpersonal communication. While knowing you are one of three-thousand freshmen entering Cornell once was a scary concept, today incoming freshman are able to reduce this fear by researching those in the same boat over facebook.
While there many aspects to facebook, I am going to focus particularly on the facebook profile. The profile consists of a picture, personal information, contact information, personal information, educational information, and course information. There are also additional features that indicate more interactive information about your social network including, “the mini feed,” friend details, friends in one’s network, friends in other networks, tagged photos and groups. The picture however seems to be the most important feature of the profile, allowing users to judge the individual based on his or her appearance. One can gain an understanding of the individual’s personality based on the type of picture (ie. A picture of individual and friends, glamour shot, drunk shot, etc…)
Unfortunately, facebook is an extremely deceptive tool by nature. According to the selective self presentation model, “Due to the asynchronous nature of CMC, and the fact that CMC emphasizes verbal and linguistic cues over less controllable nonverbal communication cues, online self-presentation is more malleable and subject to self-censorship than face-to-face self-presentation,” (Walther, 1996). This suggests that individuals will present themselves in the most attractive way because CMC features allow certain cues to be hidden. While this concept was used in Catalina’s study to explain information presented on online profiles, this concept is also applicable to facebook in several ways. First, people tend to chose very good pictures of themselves as their picture. While this most likely is actual picture (as opposed to a photo shopped image), often times pictures are not representative of the actual appearance of the individual. Second, individuals are free to select any personal information about themselves they feel is important to present, ranging from their sexual preferences (including not only who they are interested but what they are interested in, i.e. a relationship, dating, friendship or random play) to their favorite interests, movies and books.
Another theory used in Catalina’s study that may be applicable to facebook is Warranting. This theory focuses on the connection between the online and offline self and it also increases the opportunity to be detected for deceiving over the internet. This concept is applicable to both online dating and facebook in that users develop presentation strategies that “warrant” identity claims. In terms of facebook, users may use “the wall” or pictures to validate whether another users is as “popular” as he says he is. Therefore, individuals will attempt to be more accurate in their profiles because detection online is easier with these features.
As was the case with my friend, I asked her a little bit of information about her profile. I chose this particular friend because she has presented a lot personal information about herself. She had the most information in the favorite music section. She is very into music, and I know this information is accurate because she lived in my house last year. One of the most important aspects of her profiles however was her apparent popularity. She has 614 friends and 271 wall posts. These aspects made me want to look further into her popularity over facebook.
When I asked her how accurate her profile picture was, she said “well, it’s pretty accurate. It’s candid, but I am showing only my profile.” She rated her picture in terms of accuracy to be a 4. (5 being completely accurate). From what I know about my friend, I would rate the picture to be about a 3. Although it is a candid, it is a particularly good picture of her. It was taken over the summer, on her birthday. She is very tan, and it is a low angle shot, making her legs look a little bit longer than they actually are. My friend did a good job of presenting her self in the most attractive light. In conjunction with Catalina’s study, this would support her findings that women tend to lie more about their physical attractiveness than men because men value physical attractiveness most in women.
When I asked my friend to rate the aspects of her profile, she very confidently rated her interests in books, music and movies to be 5 (completely accurate). She rated her relationship status however to be a level 1 in accuracy because it says, she is married to her friend from another school. While some may argue this is a lie, it is implied that she is kidding. Vrij would not contend that this is a lie because the deceiver (my friend) wants the deception to be uncovered.
When I asked my friend about all 614 friends at Cornell, she said that she may not be close with all of them, but she would still call about 80 percent of them her friends. While my friend is a very social girl, I would not agree that she has that many friends (at least that I know of).
We all deceive in our online profiles, whether we know it or not. I think my friend did a pretty good job of accurately depicting herself over facebook despite the fact that she provided such a plethora of personal information. While I know that many of us are using facebook to “get to know” to those around us, it is so important that we realize how deceptive online profiles can really be.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We all think we are invulnerable to online fraud.

Option 2 Digital Fraud

On September 26, 2006 the web’s dedicated anti-phishing service, millersmiles.co.uk located at http://www.millersmiles.co.uk/report/3481 reported an instance of online fraud which they referred to as a “Nationwide Internet Banking Alert.” Now online for the past 48 hours, this phishing scam has its roots in a crafted email which asks unsuspecting victims to confirm, update, or verify their account information at Nationwide Bank by visiting a provided link. Unfortunately this link brings victims to a spoof website where the details they provide are captured by phishers.
The question is “What elements made these emails credible and motivated individuals to give their information?” In this case, Nationwide Bank has never before sent their users emails requesting personal details in this way. Why would they start? Could it be possible that these unsuspecting individuals were just victims of the “truth bias,” and just had no reason to believe that they were themselves victims of online fraud? Most unsuspecting victims are probably saying to themselves, “A bank wouldn’t lie to me.” In risk communication, this idea of having invulnerability could also be defined as having an optimistic bias for a negative event like phishing, in which individuals see themselves as less likely to experience negative events than the average person. This perceived invulnerability as well as the truth bias combine to make the unsuspecting victim an easy and profitable target.
If we are to consider this incident in respect to reading Dhamija, Tygar, and Hearst’s article, “Why Phishing Works,” we should not be surprised that this phishing scam has indeed fooled many individuals in the past 48 hours. The senders of this Nationwide Bank email succeeded first and foremost because they took advantage of the what Dhamija et al call a “lack of computer system knowledge.” For instance, before finding this instance of froid and reading this week’s readings I had no idea that there were ways of manipulating operating systems to acquire information. If I wasn’t primed as I am now, to be aware of online fraud, I probably would be just another ignorant victim.
It is also important to consider the visual deception in online fraud. In most cases if images and logos on a site are copied perfectly, or the URL is exactly the same except for having a “typejacking” attack, the only cues available to reveal fraud are minimal and hard to detect. However, in the case I have described, the URL of the spoof website looks nothing like the real Nationwide URL. Therefore, phishers only succeeded in their attempts because they took advantage of the fact that users are focused on their “primary task” (in this case to provide information that the bank lacks) and fail to even think that they are being fooled into giving personal information. You would think victims would have been more skeptical to the new look of the Nationwide Bank page however they completely disregarded the discrepancy between the old/familiar and very new/unfamiliar bank page.
Dhamija, Tygar, and Hearst also recognize that anti-phishers, if they want to truly eliminate the success of phishers need to make drastic changes in deception detection on online websites. There is no specific correlation between sex, age, education level, computer use, or familiarity and their accuracy in predicting fraudulent websites. All subjects, no matter which category they belonged to, were equally subjected to fraud. In their study, they were able to “fool more than 90% of participants” who were primed to suspect fraud. Thus, most individuals, who do not have the pleasure of being primed in the real world, will ignore warning signs of fraud completely. We don’t believe we deserve to be lied to.
I believe online fraud fits under Vrij’s framework of deception because it is a “deliberate attempt to create a false belief in an individual, successful or not, without forewarning.” In this case, in particular, the sender of the email is trying to persuade individuals to think he is sending the mail from Nationwide Bank. Even if these phishers don’t successfully get the individual to follow the link and provide information, the individual has not been forewarned about the danger of the spoof site and has therefore been deceived.

More Than Usual Facebook Stalking

It is no surprise that Facebook, a creation of Mark Zuckerberg during his free time at Harvard, has exceeded expectations of a simple social networking tool. The website boasts 4.5 million users and between 200 and 250 million hits per day. Zuckerberg et al. might not have left much room for creativity like a MySpace profile, but it manages to incorporate a fair opportunity to deceive.
Additionally, Facebook has been changing over the last few years. What started out as a fun searching activity to connect friends at various schools became a mechanism for facebook friends to mutually stalk each other incessantly. Photo albums entered the scene, then high school students, and now we've got the news feed.
Facebook's bare bones:
1. Picture! The most important visible feature on the page, best doctored up with sufficient photoshopping.
2. Basic Info: Everything including birthday, hometown, relationship status and looking for are all chances to deceive. Are you a guy who doesn't want to appear attached? Leave out your relationship status. Are you a girl who wants to incite curiosity and intrigue? Say "it's complicated." Are you a sketchy person who wants to stalk unnoticed? Leave out your birthday.
3. Contact info: phone, address, screenname, etc. For safety and my mother's health I leave most of this out. I suppose you could easily provide phony info too.
4. Let's get personal: political views drop down, but religion, activities, music, movies, TV shows, quotes, books, and about me are all space allotted for creative exposure. Say what you want, lie if you want, leave it blank--whatever. Honestly, if I include Weezer as a favorite band, all that tells someone is whether or not we have similar taste in music. I think it's all harmless.
5. Education is mostly drop-down
6. Work is a feature being used by Facebook pros who recently graduated and need time-wasters in their cubicles. I don't know may people who use it, or subsequently lie in that space.
7. Courses are drop-down, though I suppose a real character might feign some crazy classes
8. Election info includes candidates you support and issues you care about. Leave it blank if you're undecided or unaware, but liars don't really fit here.
9. Cornell "friends?" Um, I have 363. What are friends? Is friending someone more like a) asking someone out or b) asking permission to publicize having met once? Is it socially acceptable to decline a friend request? These are new questions to ponder thanks to Facebook, and deceit is a factor. I'd be lying if I said I knew more than what exists on a facebook profile for a majority of my 363 at Cornell. I'd also admit to considering myself much more facebook popular than I am in reality.
10. Status is similar to an AIM away message, ready to be manufactured
11. Photo albums don't have to be visible in your profile and can be limited to friend viewing, but more than the album the tags are important. Tagee can easily untag a disapproved photo, and thus only show approved (hot) tags. Girls will untag photos because they look pasty or pale, if they've repeated an outfit, or if they are underage and holding an alcoholic beverage. Guys might keep tagged photos that show them with lots of ladies. Deception is all over these albums.
12. Groups--they are sort of curious because they may be proof of real membership to organization or show attendance at an upcoming event, but the majority of them are simply evidence than some Facebook users have entirely too much time and waste it being silly and ridiculous trying to be creative and witty.
13. Friend Details--how you know someone. There are more ludicrous lies in this feature than I'm sure Zuckerberg et al. ever intended or expected. The majority of the people who I'm closest to now have crazy details spawning from marriage to dating to parenthood to an awesome hook-up...All made up. I'm single, have no children, have never been married, and wouldn't publicize a real hook-up on Facebook if I were paid.

According to my friend (a true friend, and roommate who I know well beyond her public Facebook profile), certain aspects of her profile are inaccurate. With no priming or explanation of intention here's how she rated her profile:
5 for all the basic info and her own photo (which she cropped)
-->This picture is a good representation
2 for # of friends
-->her accuracy sums it up. She is friends with a much smaller group than the big number that Facebook indicates
2 for groups (she belongs to 18)
-->There are a few dubious groups, and some outdated that she no longer belongs to
5 for contact info
-->She included email, screenname, cell phone # and lives in Collegetown (vague, but truthful)
4 for activities, interests, music, movies, books, and quote
-->I think she was less accurate just from knowing her. Activities should be more like a 2, I expected music to be more elaborate so maybe 3, and I didn't expect her to include books at all, so a 1.
5 for about me and education info
5 for wall posts
-->Her wall posts are all from close friends, and she hasn't deleted any posts in awhile.

After picking apart my friend's profile I did some personal analysis. Creating an honest online profile isn't as easy as it looks!

Assignment 5.1: Facebook is growing and so is Deception

Facebook has always had its niche from other social networks by only allowing students to create accounts. It has also restricted users with the uniform look and limited profile. However, before we get into the details of the anatomy and where deception can be found, recall the users. We know from DePaulo that college students lie about 2 times per day. Does this mean they are more likely to lie on their facebook accounts? I don’t believe so. Since users know who is looking at their account, there is less motivation to lie and protect their identity. Within the past year, facebook users have been able to join larger networks and no longer know exactly who is viewing their profile. Users can protect their profiles, but what is security? I believe users are more likely to protect themselves and deceive on their profiles due to this expansion.

Although users can deceive on most, if not all categories except email address, I will focus on a few elements with the highest presumed deception. I believe that the highest deception is found in photos. With the ability to tag, identify someone in a picture, many users un-tag themselves from pictures they do not like or do not associated with. Another feature that may contain an interesting type of deception is the friends section. Although nobody defines what a friend is, I would bet that there are many “friends” on facebook that do not pass the typical definition of the word. However, this cannot be considered deception because users know there is no definition and therefore cannot be subject to deception. I also believe there is a lot of deception about a user’s ‘relationship status’ and what they are ‘looking for’. This conforms with O’Sullivan’s impression management model. Most users are unlikely to say they are looking for ‘whatever I can get,’ even if that is their intention.

I had my friend Yackaberg evaluate his profile. I chose him because his profile picture is very revealing. As I would assume, most of his values were 4s and 5s. This aligns with Catalina’s findings on self-reporting accuracy. However, I did find 3s in ‘friends’ and ‘status/looking for.’ The number of pictures was reported at a 4. This does not surprise me because the subject was a male. I would expect a higher level of photo deception in females’ profiles.

One feature that I did not take into account is the mini-feed. This is a new feature that tells you everything that the user has recently done. He rated it a 1 because he deletes every entry. This is deceptive because it can make a viewer believe as though he doesn’t change his account. The min-feed feature upset a lot of users and doesn’t surprise me that is it the subject to deception. I would hypothesize that newly added features and are rejected by the members will be subject to more deception than those which have proven acceptable.

Assignment 5: I was easy to deceive...when I was a kid.

I chose option 2.


I’d say that now I’m pretty decent at detecting fraudulent sites online (although the assigned articles made me doubt that ability slightly), but when I was an inexperienced kid it wasn’t as easy. A looong time ago, there was an online game that I frequently played (remember Neopets, anyone?). There were many things you could do in this game, and one of them was that you could buy and collect different items, and also you could choose to sell your individual items to other players in your own personalized store. I’m not sure the technical details of how this was accomplished, but some people would alter their stores so that it appeared that they were selling very rare items for a very low price, which would entice unsuspecting people to click on the ‘purchase item’ link. These links would actually bring the user to a page not hosted by the original site, but a site that was made to imitate the original site (and trust me, it looked identical). This page, however, prompted the user to re-enter their username and password, and then it redirected them to the original site. The usernames and passwords were then used by the deceivers to gain access to others’ accounts.

This was a clear example of what Grazioli calls mimicking. As Grazioli would say, this was simply an act of desire for “immediate gratification.” This was not a very evil or criminal plan, as the deceivers were simply gaining access to others accounts on an online game – there was no personal or financial information they could have accessed. So while this was not very harmful, deception did still occur, and many people were fooled by these misrepresentative pages.

I think the reason the deceivers were successful in their deception is that they were deceiving a population of young (pre-teen was the approximate age target by this game), computer-inexperienced crowd, who doesn’t even know that they should be looking out for phishing or deception scams. Also, they used images and text that appeared to be from the original site, which the users would recognize and consider trustworthy.

This situation is deception according to all of the main definitions we have studied – it used showing (in the form of mimic) and hiding (in the form of disguising) to control perceived assumptions, and it was knowingly transmitted to foster a false belief. There was no reason for any of the users to suspect that they were being directed to a page outside of the game – they were following Nyberg’s strategy of “letting it happen” by allowing a person to acquire that false belief.

Assignment 5: Hey, check out my webcam!

We’ve all gotten them: An instant message from a suspicious screen name saying something along the lines of “Hey, I haven’t spoken to you in so long!” You think to yourself, “Oh no. I have no clue who this is! I’ll just pretend I do.” Quickly you type, “Hey! Yeah, I know. How are you?” and there it is. Suddenly, that long lost friend has turned into a pornographic advertisement complete with a wannabe-seductive pick-up line and a link to an x-rated website.

The pornographer person (not sure what they would actually be called) is practicing what Grazioli et al would refer to as identity deception. Specifically, he/she is mimicking. That person mimicks the features of a friend’s instant message so that they can deceive you into believing that you are speaking to a friend when, in fact, you are not.

Grazioli also discusses techniques of deterrence, prevention, and detection. However, porn websites that instant message you have already encountered all sorts of preventative features. For example, aim might ask you if you want to accept the message from a screen name not on your buddy list before you see the advertisement. So they made new, more realistic screen names, and they message you with text that sounds friendly so you think it might just be a friend whose screen name you forgot.


This probably wouldn’t fall into the category of phishing, as described by Dhamija et al. While the messages are designed to fool unsuspecting people into going to websites, the websites themselves are what they promise to be. According to the reading, phishing is the practice of directing users to fraudulent websites.


However, I think that we can all agree that this is a prevalent example of identity deception in CMC. While perhaps not all of the members of this class feel opposition to such deception (and, please, in your comments, feel free to keep that to yourselves), I, personally, wouldn’t mind if these “long-lost friends” would, in fact, get lost.

Assignment 5: Deception and Facebook

(I apologize if this makes no sense. I'm writing it on not having slept in 40 hours.)

Though it looks complicated especially after all of the news-feeds, stalking techniques, and information overload, facebook profiles are actually quite simple. Facebook profiles, I think, all start with the subject's picture. I mean, who wants to be a question mark? So, generally most people decide to choose very positive, attractive, and fun pictures of themselves. This is not always the case, however, as there are of course those people who would prefer to have a drunken picture of themselves as the gateway to their profile on facebook. The picture is the immediate identifier that relates to self-presentation, followed by the person's name, which is the second most important feature of facebook. The next important part of facebook is location. This is a very important feature as it offers the person the opportunity to offer profile-viewers the opportunity to know where they are currently and where they've been in the past, in terms of where they graduated college. Oftentimes, I assume, many people probably lie about their locations upon graduating from college or spending time away from college in the summer. In essence, they just want to be somewhere "nice", "trendy", and "successful." I think the location feature of facebook is very important to an immediate self-appraisal of the person. The next few categories are much more personal. They offer the person their first real opportunity to expose themselves to the wider public, in terms of sex, which sex they're interested in, what type of relationship they're interested in, where they're actually from (hometown), when their birthday is, and, most importantly, whether they're in a relationship or not. I shall come back to this. The rest of the information on a facebook profile, including personal information, is equally as important to the act of deception on facebook. All of the features of personal information could easily exploit the opportunity for someone to be deceptive on their profile.

I know, personally, I have a very accurate facebook profile. Everything that I claim about myself is true and can't really be contested as far as I know. My experience with others' profiles has been different, though. Whenever I do read profiles of people I'm usually pretty intrigued and confused at the same time, especially when I know someone pretty well. Deception is a reality on facebook, just not with me. My friend also has a pretty clean and accurate facebook profile. She is a Cornell alum from 2006 and does now live in Washington, D.C. Her birthday is correct and she wittingly even changed her address as she has since moved closer to Washington, D.C. Even her personal information is accurate from knowing and talking to her. Therefore, her self-presentation was around 4.5. The one thing that sticks out as being innacurate and confusing is her relationship status. She's single, but it says "It's complicated with "female friend"? Seeing this makes me chuckle, not because my friend is lying in her profile, but because there is actually the option to say "It's complicated" with someone on facebook. Yes, it is important for everyone to know you're unsure of your potential next partner or just assuming it's a good thing to be "complicated." This is an inherent structure of facebook. The reason the friend, along with the other friend of mine, are in this relationship (though kiddingly) is because of selective self-presentation. Nothing else in her profile is embellished. But her relationship status is, which could possibly be my friend's own personal preference. Overall, though, my friend was pretty accurate on both my and her assessment scales.

My finding in facebook rests within the selective self-presentation theory of Walther (1996). This theory would argue that my friend's biggest weakness and nervousness-inducing actions involve her dating/relationship status. As well as I know her, I do know this is indeed an issue that takes a long time to positively affect. Overall, facebook profiles obviously change from case to case, but there is an overriding arching theme that those, including those that don't explicitly address omore salient examples on their profiles, people who lie on their facebook profiles do it because of selective self-presentation, which can meet any number of things.

Assignment 5: Anatomy of Facebook

A facebook profile has many different components, but only a few seem to be used deceptively in order to portray a certain image. I found ten different things that I think people could use to deceive others with their facebook profile. These ten parts include the picture, number of friends, mini-feed, information, wall, photo albums, groups, notes, and relationship status. The first part of a facebook profile that people can manipulate, is the picture. It might seem strange that a person would manipulate their picture on facebook since many people on facebook probably have seen the person in real life. Even so, most people will pick a picture that will portray him or her in the best light. There are also ways to crop a photo, so that a certain body part is left out of the picture, or even another person in the picture might be cropped out. The next part of the facebook profile that can be deceptive is the number of friends a person has. There are some people on thefacebook who request the friendship of any person they have ever come into contact with, whereas other people only request the friendship of close acquaintances or people they are actually friends with. When I see a person with 500 friends, I usually think that there is no way that this person is friends with all of those people. It is usually more reasonable when a person has between 100-250 friends. A person might request the friendship of people they barely know just to increase his or her friend count in order to appear popular. The next feature of a facebook profile that somewhat prevents deception, is the mini-feed. The mini-feed displays a person’s activity on facebook, so it shows when a person writes on someone else’s wall, joins a group, displays pictures, etc. There are now controls, however, that allow people to hide their actions, so that nothing shows up on their mini-feed. The part of the facebook profile that has the most ability to be deceptive is the information section. This includes interests, favorite movies, television shows, and music. I do not think that the facebook wall or photo albums are particularly deceptive. Groups are another part of the facebook profile that could be deceptive, since most groups are open for anyone to join. It could look like a person is a member of a lot of different groups, when in fact, they are not. Relationship status is another tricky component, because a lot of people play around with it for fun. There was an instance, however, when someone I knew had his status as “married” on facebook in order to lure people to his profile. Then once, a person scrolls down on the page, it said that he was not actually married but just put that there to lure people.

I chose one of my best friend's facebook profile when doing this assignment. I have known him since highschool, and he also goes to Cornell, so I have been able to see how his attitudes on certain subjects have changed. That is why I thought it would be interesting to see what he had to say, and then to do my own verification. When I printed out my friend’s facebook profile, and had him rate the different components, he said overall that each component was accurate. He did rate his picture on not being very accurate because he has his hands up in the picture, and appears taller and leaner than he is in real life. When I independently verified his profile, I mainly agreed with all of his ratings on the different portions. I would say activities, interests, and favorite music was somewhat exaggerated, but movies and books were accurate. His friends were also very accurate because he recently joined facebook, and is only really facebook friends with his real life friends.

The implications for the Hyperpersonal model say that selective self-presentation is key, and I think this is true with regard to thefacebook. People on facebook select certain elements of their personality to display, or certain pictures that make them look more attractive. I think Catalina was correct when she noted that the anticipation of future interaction would decrease deception online (Walther, 1994). Joinson and Dietz-Uhler discussed the in-group, out-group phenomenon, in which people will portray themselves in order to appear as part of a certain group. After browsing profile of a few of my friends, I can say that this appears true, as most of us have the same interests. Thefacebook does not have as many outlets to deceive as myspace.com, or some other dating websites, but it is still possible for the user to portray his or herself in a particular way, without warranting suspicion from most people.

The Facebook Phenomenon

Assignment 5, Option 1

Facebook has become one of the most prolific forms of online communication. Among college students, checking facebook profiles has become as common (or maybe more) as going to class. As a result, the information and manner in which facebook users choose to present themselves to the world via this medium is strategic and carefully planned.

At first glance, the anatomy of a facebook profile seems relatively simple. Users may display photos and several facts about themselves; however, after carefully analyzing the various parts of a facebook profile I was shocked at how many different categories and opportunities for self-presentation I discovered. I deconstructed a facebook profile into seventeen categories. The five main categories I noted for revealing information were basic, contact, personal, education, and work. Furthermore, each of these categories contained five or more bits of information that could be included as sub-categories. Beyond the five categories, there were twelve more areas of note, including the newest features: notes, election issues, and news feed.

I believe that the various elements of facebook do not necessarily lead to outright lies in profiles, but present opportunities for selective self-presentation. In her study, Catalina relied on Walther’s (1996) selective self-presentation model as evidence that this phenomenon would increase in online dating profiles. I believe the same is true of facebook; however, Catalina also noted that the anticipation of future interaction would decrease deception online (Walther, 1994). The results found in the online dating study apply to facebook, as well, because even though facebook presents an opportunity to deceive and find information about people you have never met, the most frequent viewers of your profile are likely to be your actual friends and people you are likely to meet in real-life. If you present outright lies in your profile, viewers who meet you face to face are apt to have a lowered opinion of you.

Before my analysis of a profile, I believed that people used facebook to selectively present themselves to their peers, and my analysis and interview of a fellow facebook user has enforced this belief. I analyzed the profile of a female friend that I have known my entire life. I felt this person would be my best study subject, as I would instantly know whether information she presented in her profile was accurate. After she rated the accuracy and social acceptability of her profile, I compared her ratings with my own. I found that her accuracy rating of 4.5 was higher than my own, 4.0. The social acceptability ratings differed as well. She rated social acceptability at 4.75, and I rated it 4.3. The only outright lie that I found in her profile was that she lists herself as being married to another girl. Even though this is a lie, she also states that she is interested in men. Viewers of the profile will not be actually believe that she is married to a female, as countless college women profess to be in relationships with other women, and this trend is considered socially acceptable. I found selective self-presentation to abound in this profile. She posted a very attractive picture of herself and listed interests that make her appear fun, outgoing, and popular. Even though she possesses all of these characteristics, she enjoys many other activities, such as reading, relaxing, and going to museums that she did not include in her interests. This is also in line with Catalina’s findings that women are likely to reveal information about themselves that paints them as youthful and physically attractive. Even though facebook does not serve the same purpose as an online dating site, members of each sex can still see each other and want to appear attractive.

Many of the motivations accompanying the revelation of certain information via facebook are also related to the in-group,out-group phenomenon discussed by Joinson and Dietz-Uhler. Facebook users are inclined to present information about themselves that other members of their in-groups also share and value. Viewers of facebook profiles all share some in-group, be it because they are college students, attend or attended the same college or high school, or share the same interests. As a result of this, there is a high motivation to appear attractive and similar to other members of your in-group.

Using and Utilizing Facebook

Since the conception of Facebook, the world of social networking has drastically changed. We no longer rely on address books, US mail, or even phone calls to keep up with distant friends. In fact, our childhood friends may not even receive a text message, e-mail, or e-card from us as an attempt to keep up and say hello. Instead, the communication medium of choice has gravitated towards Facebook for many of our social networking interactions. By conducting a simple search, we can add a friend, acquaintance, or even stranger to our “friends” list and have access to a list of information about their lives. As friends, we can write on their walls, send them messages, and comment on their pictures.

At first glance, the first thing we may notice about the anatomy of a Facebook profile is a picture at the top left side of the page. Individuals can selectively put up any picture they choose as long as it is not pornography or subject to copyright protection. Because we can choose this photograph, we are able to portray ourselves to the world in the manner that we feel best represents ourselves- or that we would like ourselves to be represented. When searches are conducted by scanning for our names from any computer, this picture is immediately seen and can be used as a tool to identify the correct individual.

Below the photograph are a number of hyperlinks to other photographs and notes posted by the individual. A computer user with access to a profile also has the opportunity to send the individual a message or add him/her as a friend. Further down on the left side, photographs are shown of mutual friends that the computer user has in common with the individual’s friend followed by six randomly selected photographs of the individual’s friends from his/her school. Below the images of friends are hyperlinks to lists of friends in other networks. At the bottom of the left bisection of the screen are links to photograph albums posted by the individual in the profile.

The right side of the bisected webpage focuses more on information and less on hyperlinks and photographs. On this side of the webpage, an individual can selectively post information such as university, year of graduation, address, phone number, and other forms of contact information. There is also the new and highly controversial “news feed” section which traces his/her recent activity on Facebook. This general information is followed by much more personal information such as relationship status, interests, favorite movies, favorite bands, favorite quotes, and an open “about me” section. In this section, the individual can post anything at all to briefly describe him/herself. This section usually ranges from approximately one character to one thousand characters in length.

Directly below the personal statements are links to the individual’s university and high schools so the person viewing the webpage can search for other individuals from those schools. Perhaps the most intriguing and most-viewed section of the Facebook webpage is the wall section, in which the individual’s friends can post anything on a miniature blog that is viewed in reverse chronological order. The individual can modify any aspect of his or her profile by changing information, detagging photographs, changing and adding photographs, and deleting wall posts.

For this assignment, I asked a childhood friend to rate her profile for accuracy, and I found some interesting results. I chose this particular friend because I know almost everything about her, and I did not have to consult any other sources to assess the accuracy of her profile. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact tactics she uses to selectively post favorable information about herself. After examining her self-reported scores, I knew that she was not fully aware of her attempts to deceive strangers and friends.

My friend gave herself very high scores for accuracy for almost all of her profile statements except for “interests” and “about me” which she gave a score of 4 for accuracy. In my opinion, not many Facebook users are motivated to misconstrue factual information, but many of them are inclined to exaggerate the information found in the sections open to interpretation. Overall, I found the information to be very accurate in her profile, except for her “interests” section. Although she claims to enjoy salsa dancing and watching alternative films, I know she has only done these activities once or twice each. However, I found the most interesting forms of deception in her photograph.

In studies of online dating, Catalina found that women are more likely to than men to lie about weight and to select their most attractive photographs. Women are also more likely to lie about weight than height, and men are more likely to lie about height than weight. Women portray themselves as lighten than they really are, and men tend to say they are taller by a few inches. Based on my assessment of my friend’s profile, my results support Catalina’s general findings about women.

Although my childhood friend rated her photograph on Facebook as completely accurate, my idea of a “completely accurate” photograph is one that could be taken at any point in time and would give a general image of how the person looks. My friend’s photograph was a photograph taken by a professional photographer for which she had hours of preparation. In fact, this photograph is one of her modeling headshots, and she is wearing intense makeup. Her hair was curled by a hairstylist, and her clothes were selected by a fashion expert and do not belong to my friend. The background is photoshopped to perfection to accent the color of her eyes. To top it off, this photograph was taken more than four years ago when she was a member of the high school track team. Although she still looks basically the same, I would say that there might be some deception involved about her current appearance in terms of weight. It would be difficult for her to maintain her high school weight when she is not running six to ten miles each day, and I estimate that this photograph is at least ten pounds off.

My findings support Walther’s notion of selective self-presentation. In particular, I believe my friend presented herself in such a way to make herself attractive to other men, even though she is in a relationship. The expectancy discordance model shows that men look for physical attractiveness and youthfulness when selecting a mate. Although I do not believe my friend was consciously promoting herself to find a future boyfriend, I believe she realizes that these features are attractive to men. As Catalina explained in class, studies in evolutionary psychology have shown that men look for youthfulness and attractiveness for a future mate as a way of spreading their genes in the world. On the other hand, women are hardwired to look for a man who can provide the resources to care for their offspring.

Although it may seem like a stretch to apply the expectancy discourse model to an online social networking website, I believe this model can be demonstrated in the ways that men and women portray themselves on Facebook. My friend’s took advantage of selective self-presentation to present herself in a way that she believes is most attractive to men. Although I have not seen results from any other class members, I hypothesize that men might focus more on their social status by displaying groups and jobs (such as investment banking) on their profiles to indicate an ability to provide resources to women. It will be interesting to see the results of the class.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Assignment 5: How often to people lie on facebook?

I chose option 1.

As most of you already know, Facebook is a virtual network in which individuals can “add each other as friends” to their respective accounts, enabling others to view their personal profile whilst simultaneously giving themselves the ability to view the profiles of others. Facebook profiles have a fairly basic anatomy: demographic type information, contact information, personal information, education and work information, etc. Not to mention, some or all of these categories can be omitted if desired. After having a friend rate her profile in terms of accuracy on each of the components of these categories, the self-report revealed that most of her information was truthful. Some examples of the components she claimed to be telling the truth about are age, gender, sexual preference, hometown, email address, AIM screenname, current address, interests/activities, education, and work. In fact, the only thing she rated as somewhat untrue was the number of friends she has. According to her account, she has 503 friends, but she admits that she hardly knows some of these people. After analyzing accuracy, I asked her to rate the social acceptability of deception on these components. This report revealed similar results to Catalina’s online dating study in that my friend believed deception is socially unacceptable, or rather she didn’t see the point of lying on her Facebook profile. Interestingly, the one thing she rated as socially acceptable to lie about was contact information (even though hers was correct). She justified this deception with security reasons. I happen to be good friends with this person, so I can attest that her information was frustratingly true to the point that it was difficult to assess in terms of identity deception. One might assume that Facebook profiles are a perfect opportunity to embrace selective self-presentation of your ideal self by posting exaggerations and even false information, but then how can my friend’s seamless honesty be explained? Well, upon second look, I did notice that her profile was recently changed and that a lot of things were missing from the last time I viewed it. After inquiring, she confessed that she removed a lot of information, including the ability to see most of her pictures because she was afraid potential employers may see things she didn’t want them to. So as it turns out, she was selectively presenting herself by “hiding” information. The modification of her profile can also be explained my the Anticipation of Future Interaction Theory; if employers do in fact view her profile, not only does she want it to make a good impression but she wants to avoid the perception of herself to be “shattered upon FtF meeting.”
These observations also tie into Catalina’s proposal of relationship goals. What relationship does the individual hope to invite with their Facebook profile? How truthful someone is in their profile might depend on whether they think they may actually ever meet their viewers. Facebook, for example, is widely used in the college setting where people have often met before they even become “friends” on the network, so they may be less likely to lie knowing that people can catch them. Another explanation for the accuracy supposedly displayed by Facebook is the fact that the categories may provide less incentive to lie in comparison to something like match.com. Relationship goals may be different. Facebook doesn’t ask for things like body type or income, which are frequently lied about on dating profiles. Additionally, Facebook affords the opportunity to leave sections out that you don’t want to include, so instead of lying, you can just omit it.
Overall, based on the one profile I analyzed, it would seem Facebook is accurate, at least on the outside. Facebook still allows for individuals to use selective self-presentation by use of omission. Clearly this analysis is limited in that I would need to view a number of profiles to gain any sort of credibility, but it’s certainly a start.

Something to ponder: Facebook allows for the limitation of who can view your profile (friends, friends of friends, anyone in your network, etc). Depending on which option is chosen, would this change the accuracy of the profile?

Selectively Self-Presenting

Assignment 5

Ah, yes. The wonders of Facebook. Where else do thousands of students (and non-students) feel comfortable revealing
everything about themselves to nearly anyone in the world? Where else can you find out that your COMM 445 professor plays croquet team, listens to Outkast, and enjoys monkeys?

For the assignment, I sat down with a friend of mine and carefully analyzed her Facebook profile. I divided the profile up into its various anatomical components (photo, interests, friends, networks, political views, mini-feed, etc., etc.). She rated each element on its accuracy and its social acceptability, providing interesting insight into her feelings on Facebook.


In the end, out of the twenty-six identified components of a Facebook profile, she averaged at 3.81 out of 5 for accuracy and 4.19 out of 5 for social acceptability of these elements. Her profile seems to be pretty accurate and acceptable, though it's interesting to note that it is less accurate than it is acceptable.


There were only two items ranked 1 out of 5 for accuracy: relationship status and hometown. This is because her profile lists her as being married to a female friend, despite the fact that she "interested in men" and currently single. However, she noted that this was a 4 out of 5 in acceptability because "b
eing married to same sex who you're not really in a relationship with is all the rage on facebook." The other very inaccurate component was her hometown of New York, NY. Although her family currently resides in NYC, she grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She preferred to list her current "home" because it was more common.

Other interesting observations on accuracy included her feelings on the "political views" section. Because it only offers a drop-down menu, she felt that it did not represent her views accurately, as they combined some liberal and some conservative ideas. Since her profile says "liberal," she rated it as only a 3 out of 5 for accuracy. With the various "favorites" sections, she considered them to be somewhat inaccurate since such things change regularly and she doesn't update them. She considered the "mini-feed" section inaccurate because she was purposely removing items from it because of its implications for stalking.

A number of elements of her profile have been influenced by how she thought others perceived them. For instance, she admitted that her "interests" and "favorites" may be less accurate, but are more acceptable to others because "
you always want to play yourself up on facebook." Also, she considered the many photographs of her to be an inaccurate representation of her since the vast majority include her and a certain other individual who is no longer a large part of her life. However, she said she had not "detagged" those photos for fear of hurting the other person.

It's clear that a lot of though goes into each component of a Facebook factor, and accuracy is not always the most important element being considered. Even so, I think we can agree that most Facebook profiles are more accurate than not. It's generally only a few small exaggerations or tweaks here and there so that a person appears more interesting or "normal."

This is consistent with the conclusions of Catalina's study. Deception is less common in online profiles than people think, but there are many small deceptions. Catalina also concluded that one of the primary factors influencing online profile construction was selective and strategic self-presentation. I think we can all agree that our Facebook profiles have some level of strategy built into them.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Assignment 5: Posting Days Before Everyone Else

Facebook began as a site just for creating and maintaining networks of friends and colleagues and to help organize groups in college. However, it has become much more than that. It is now a site that can host pictures, constantly updated you on the actions of your friends (f’ing mini-feed), post up notes about people or things, state your relationship to others (including hook-ups), and now includes high schools and workplaces (starting October 1) in the potential network. It’s not much different from a dating site with online profile which people are constantly judged by. Facebook structure allows for lots of impression management due to the minimal cues; needless to say it’s ripe for deception.

The site structure has become pretty overwhelming lately, but for the point of this article I’ll just go over the anatomy of the personal profile page. It is very symmetrical and each category has its own drop-menu section. First and probably most importantly, is the picture in the top left corner. A lot about someone can be deducted from the picture: personality, attractiveness, groups the person is a member of, among other things. Then the basic information: sex, interested in (AKA sexual preference), relationship status, birthday, hometown, and political and religious views. Below that is the ever-so-controversial mini-feed which people can customize to list all their Facebook actions or to not show any. Below that is contact information including email, cell phone (if you put it on), AIM screen name, residence, and website. Under that is the most personal information, such as interests, activities, favorite music, favorite TV shows, favorite movies, favorite books, favorite quotes, and an ‘About Me’ section. Rather low on the page (obviously because it’s SO important) is the education info and courses. Further down and now on the side-bar is a list of groups that the person is a member of and their “Wall” where people can post messages for them or about them; think of the ‘wall’ like having a cast on your arm, that’s the context of what people write.. That or a post card (for kids that don’t go to your school).

So is deception prevalent? If so, why? I invited one of my friend’s to basically expose his own profile and show me everything that was a lie and explain why.

Well, his profile was pretty concise (for a strategic reason) and he had no serious lies. The lies in his profile consisted of his religion (he’s Jewish and he said ‘Whedonology’ as a joke that I didn’t understand) and he is in a group about waffles (that he doesn’t actually love). That was literally it, his profile was very dry compared to most other people on Facebook. His reason? He wants to be a contrarian; he picks movies and music that few other people have because, as he states, “I could say I like the movie ‘Wedding Crashers’ but no one would care and everyone else has it.” I concluded that he made his selections (such as the rather unheard of movies) to differentiate himself from other people, possibly to get more attention. He did admit that his lack of information and lack of popular choices played into the image he was trying to portray; he’s not a cookie-cutter kid and lives by “his own rules.” With his lack of information, besides his bizarre statement for religious affiliation, he also has nothing posted that would not be considered socially acceptable.

I talked with him for a while about his opinion on lying in online profiles. He felt that lying and misleading is assumed in online profiles, just the way that people exaggerate stories in real life. I agree with him, I think that most people lie/mislead in their profiles strategically in order to portray their “ought self” as opposed to their “actual self”, what they’d like people to see them as by using impression management due to the lack of cues. People can also use conventional cues to further their impression management by setting up a picture so that people will deduce traits that they intend them to, presumably fitting their “ought self.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Good
While I am inclined to say that for these many reasons, this study is flawed, I think it many ways it has been helpful; it would be way too easy to say this has no bearing on my life as a liar, especially as a way to distance myself from any unpleasant results. Going back and looking at all the little (and in one case, not-so-little) things I had said made me realize just how important it was to not always be able to tell the truth. We’d all be in deep trouble if we didn’t … or maybe we’d all be better off? I consider myself to be an honest person — and I don’t think this study changes that — but I found that I do a lot of subtle lying. I’ll address this more later, but seeing all the little lies I told certainly made me want to be more honest.

I learned a great deal from studying my own lies. For example, I found that my lies are very spontaneous! I basically never lied unless thought would get away with it or I didn’t care if I got caught. I never lied to a group, and I was very wary of being caught, which made me avoid recordable lies unless I knew they were essentially undetectable. I thought using comfort level measures was really smart, and it seemed to be an incredibly obvious factor in the reason I lied: to be more comfortable. I found I made fewer lies to family, but also many more subtle lies (mostly simplifications) to them. In general though, I had more subtle lies than anything else, which doesn’t surprise me considering I don’t really like to lie and this is probably some kind of cognitive dissonance effect (where I say to myself, “well, you didn’t really lie.”) I had more outright lies to people who I knew less well, and this was probably related to impression management.

The Bad
There were many problems, methodological and otherwise, with this study, which (as I discussed) is one of the reasons why I found this study’s results easy to ignore. The idea of carrying around something and writing down all my lies is one that was much easier to do in imagination than in reality. I either couldn’t remember to do it, or just found the idea totally impractical. There were many other problems as well. There’s no record-ability of many types of lies, so how can you be sure to remember them all? How accurate can you really be if you’re doing something from memory? How impartial can you be if you’re writing down lies you told, especially in the heat of the moment? And there’s certainly bias in looking at things after the fact … And sample size? My weekend was not a good sample of my general interaction scheme because of the things I did and people (or lack-thereof) I interacted with, which certainly biased my results.

I had many problems arise while filling out my surveys. For one, the relationship to target is inadequate because it doesn’t account for people you know who aren’t your acquaintances, or other strange variations. The questions ask you for your perception of many things when an outsider could find a fact much quicker: how long have you known your partner, how serious was the lie, etc… which is good for some questions but not all. How long know partner is misleading in terms of correlations (if any are used, that is), for example, I’ve known my Jeep’s mechanic for six months, but I’ve met him twice. Intimate doesn’t necessarily mean meaningful/superficial conversation, although I think this measure was okay.

Another problem was the idea of speaking to vs. heard or saw. What if someone was eavesdropping on my conversation in FTF, or reading my away message (an outright lie at one point). How many targets is this? How many partners?
Furthermore, how well I know an individual is one thing, but trying to apply that measure to a group is completely different. The measure fails in the group case I believe.

There are others, but I’ll spare us from rehashing our prior class discussions.


The Ugly (a.k.a. theory application)
I realized pretty quickly that neither Hancock et al. nor Media Richness theory applied to my results, although if anything, the latter was more appropriate for my results. The frequency of my lies was heavily skewed towards FTF and email, slightly moreso FTF though. I lied to any number of people (friends, family, strangers, etc…) whom I cared or did not care about managing my impression for. This is probably because of the small sample size of the data, but also because I think I feel comfortable lying (when I do decide to), since I try to make them airtight and as small as possible, so the medium I use isn’t necessarily an issue. Although, I will say I chose my media for a reason, and that I let my cell phone ring a bunch of times purely for that reason.

What’s more, I don’t really use the phone that often. I only call a few people on the phone, and the rest I talk to in FTF or in some form of CMC. Basically, this makes me biased against the Hancock model. Sorry Jeff.

50% of the time I lie all the time

Well, this diary study has certainly proved to be interesting. It offered me a glimpse into my communication habits that I’ve never really had before. At the same time, it’s shown me just how many times I actually do lie (in exactly half of all my social interactions), and which media I lie the most in (FtF). However, I have to qualify these results by saying that this past weekend does not necessarily reflect my usual media habits. On both Friday and Saturday I had lengthy meetings and activities that boosted up my FtF frequency while limiting the time that I could spend communicating by other media. At the same time, my internet was out for a good part of Sunday morning. This is usually a time where I will delay the start of my homework by answering e-mails from the previous week or catching up with friends over IM. Instead, I just went back to bed (which in my opinion was also a very good choice). In all, I think both my IM use and electronic deception was lower than it would be on a standard weekend.

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the types of lies I told. Since the majority of the lies occurred in FtF interactions they tended to be either subtle lies or just exaggerations of stories or actions. However, I was surprised by how the lies made me feel. The small ones, I rarely felt worse after telling the lie than I did before or while telling it. Of course this changed depending on the size of the lie and who I was lying to. Still, it surprised me.

Overall, I think there are some major issues with the method itself. Specifically, it is really not suited to social FtF situations where one may interact with many people over a period of a few hours. My Friday night, for instance, consisted of a party where I interacted with 20-30 people for around five hours. It isn’t practical in that situation to carry the diaries around, so I had to do the best I could remembering who I talked to for any length of time, what stories I told, and how I responded to others. After five hours of many conversations, I’m sure I missed many lies and non-lie social interactions.

On a similar note, what about lengthy interactions which include multiple lies? On Saturday night I sat down with one of my best friends and we talked for 5 ½ hours straight (I know it sounds like a lot, but we actually did just sit on a couch and talk). In the conversation various small lies were told along with many truths. Yet according the diary study method this only counts as one social interaction. Which lie do I record? Since there were many more truths than lies in the conversation, shouldn’t it also somehow count towards a non-lie social interaction? This was the largest methodological problem I encountered in the study.

Probably because my media use was so irregular this weekend, I found that the Hancock et al. feature based model didn’t quite fit my pattern of lying. While I did lie the most (in terms of lies per social interaction) on the phone, it was followed by e-mail, then FtF and finally IM. Because of my media use, I think it is also important to note the frequency of lies in each of the media. While I told only had three interactions on the phone which involved lying, I had seven instances in FtF. In terms of lying frequency then, I pretty much followed the Media Richness Theory – FtF, phone, e-mail and then IM. Again, IM is last because I hardly used it as a communication medium this weekend.

Overall this study did open my eyes to the frequency in which deception entered my social interactions. I still wonder if certain situations like the ones I participated in this weekend aren’t more conducive to lying than other situations. After all, party stories and a long, lively conversation are almost always going to have some exaggeration and lies in them. I think it would be interesting on my part to run the study again on a more “normal” weekend (as if there is such a thing in college) of media usage.

An Issue of Memory

Assignment 4:

I found this assignment to be far more difficult than it should have been. Sure, recording social interactions and lies should be simple. No problem. WRONG.

With an extremely hectic Friday rushing between countless meetings, I had completely forgetten to think about lies for a good part of my day. Every once in awhile, I'd remember, strain to recall if I had lied in my past few interactions, and then forget about it as soon as I entered the next interaction.

By the end of the weekend, I was unsure if I had lied at all, but I knew that was ridiculous. Everybody lies. Although I should have filled out my social interaction sheets dutifully whenever I had a chance, I had not. And unfortunately, it was the last thing I wanted to worry about each night at 3 AM when I finally had the chance to sit down and think about it. Alas, here I am at 2:35 AM analyzing the lies.

To discover all of my deceptions, I began a careful analysis of all my interactions for the three days, going through conversations over and over in my head and reading through all sent emails from the time period. Fortunately, I was able to turn up a few little lies here and there.

Overall, my lies were pretty meaningless. A small exaggeration here, a somewhat deceptive excuse for a tardy email response, a reassurance that something would be done immediately when I knew I wouldn't be able to get to it until later. None of my lies were of much consequence. Most of my interactions and lies were FtF, though a couple IM lies snuck in and one email lie. Supporting the previous studies, almost all of my lies were self-centered, told to lessen blame or convince a friend to stop talking to me because I had "work" to do. Yeah, riiiight.

Although the simple attempt at observing lies does tell us a little about lying habits, I think there are numerous flaws with considering it a definitive sampling of any individual's lying. Monitoring and actually identifying the subtle deceptions in daily conversation is nearly impossible. I found it very difficult to even remember, and then when I did, I spent the whole conversation trying to figure out if I was lying at all. Having to wait to fill out forms until I was able to also was a hindrance. I'm certain I didn't catch all of my social interactions for the weekend, and there are bound to be little lies that slipped my memory as each hour passed between interaction and completing the form.

I think the only way to get an accurate count of lies and interactions is to actually monitor a person twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps a microphone for FtF interactions and a keystroke logger on a computer would be ideal. After the day is over, the experimenter and subject could painstakingly go through each interaction and work to identify subtle untruths. This seems like the only way to make sure nothing is forgotten or missed in the experiment. I think such an experiment would be very interesting. It might be even more worthwhile to have the recorded person report lies as we did, and then compare the difference between actual and reported. The conclusions would be intriguing.

I lie

Assignment 4

Apparently, I don’t mess around. At least, that’s what my diary results would suggest. According to my diary, I am really not one for the casual lie. While my lies were spontaneous, they had a higher level of severity than I would have expected (mostly in an attempt to protect another’s feelings; not malicious pre-conceived plots to mask my identity). Now, this finding may represent the methodological flaw we’ve addressed in class at length: it is not easy to remember your lies at the end of the day. Perhaps it is not that I only lie when it’s important but rather that I only remember it in those cases.

Furthermore, this study did not require us to write down specific lies. While there is space allotted for it on the Lie-D forms, the directions only recommend filling it in if the lie doesn’t readily match up to the categories provided. Frankly, in this situation I would not have been comfortable filling in my specific lies as they would most likely have identified me as the test subject, revealing not just my specific lies but my feelings on them. Nevertheless, without the specific lie documented next to my coding for it, I lost my ability to revisit my coding for things like severity etc after I’d gained the perspective of monitoring my lies for an entire weekend.

Prior to having been involved in the study, I would have said that what I remembered more than the severe lie itself would be the uneasiness that accompanied it. Interestingly, I did not feel heightened discomfort when lying, a finding inconsistent with DePaulo’s in her analysis of discomfort. In reviewing my coding, I think the reason I didn’t feel uneasy is because the lies I told were frequently other-oriented.

Another methodological issue was avoiding the documentation of lies in front of the person you lied to. Forrest, Feldman and Happ use a retroactive ID technique that would be more effective for identifying lies.

My personal diary experience was also inconsistent with the Feature-based model described by Hancock et al. According to the feature-based model, the more synchronous and distributed, but less recordable the medium, the more deception will occur. Hancock et al did not find that the feature- based model held in their diary study and neither did I in mine. Hancock et al found the highest frequency of lies occurred over the telephone. Perhaps it is merely that I do not talk on the phone terribly often, but I did not lie once over the phone during my diary study. In my limited sampling, face-to-face was the medium under which I lied most often.

Consistent with DePaulo’s findings, I, as a woman, told several other-oriented lies – more than I expected. Because the experiment was conducted over a weekend I didn’t get to test out DePaulo’s findings on intimacy.

My average lie count was right on-par with both DePaulo and Hancock’s findings, just above 2 per day.

Come on guy, you've got more lies in you!

Assignment 4

When the lying sheets were distributed I looked at them and hoped there would be enough. Not only had everything I’d learned about deception lead me to believe that I would be lying more than breathing, but I expected little white lies to be more frequent than little black flies on four-day-old road kill. However, when I sat down to record the lies the frequency of lies fell far short of my expectations.

The reasons for my perceived lack of lies could be many. To begin, I completed the sheets quickly at the end of the day, often in a pinch to try and get to something else. As a result I may have just neglected some lies that should have been recorded. Furthermore, and per our discussion in class, I feel that I was certainly primed to anticipate and recognize quickly when I was lying. This in itself may have reduced the number of lies because even if I expected to be a Pinocchian liar, it didn’t mean I wanted to be.

What I found most interesting was the consistency of lies I propagated. Most were mild exaggerations about achievements or experiences. They were totally harmless and overall I think they made me feel better and didn’t make anything any worse for my target. In looking back I realized that not only were the lies consistent they were more or less the same one. This only confirmed something for me I long held to be true—once you propagate a lie it is far easier to continue doing so than it was the first time. I’m sure most people feel the same way and have long believed this as well. However, I wonder how this would affect numbers and results if the effect were screened out of diary studies. How much lower would the frequency of lies be should only new lies count in the tally? Personally I would have a much shorter list.

Finally, despite the fact I lied less frequently than I thought I should, I immediately drew some comparisons between my results and those of previous studies. First off, although I thought I didn’t lie often enough I still reported lying just over one time per day—right on par with DePaulo and Senor Hancock. Second, although my lies were split evenly between FtF and the phone, my reactions to my own lies seem to draw some meaning when examined through the Feature Based Model. When telling essentially the same lie I felt much more comfortable on the phone. That could speak to many things, but if I felt most comfortable on the phone it could logically follow that I would tell the most lies on the phone a la the Feature Based Model.

Assignment 4: I’m not a liar…and I’m so ashamed.

I was so excited to record all of my lies this weekend and marvel at my spectacular deceptive skills. I expected to discover that I successfully deceive people all the time without even thinking about it. I ran to talk to one of my friends and prepared to dazzle myself with my deceptive competence. No lies. ‘Ok,’ I thought determinedly. ‘Don’t worry. There’s plenty more interactions where that came from. Surely you are a fabulous liar.’ If there were any real lies told, it was that. The more interactions I had, the more I discovered that I don’t really lie all that much. When I do lie, it’s basically either to end a conversation more politely than, “Alright, we’ve run out of things to say to each other and I’m bored,” or it’s to hide something unflattering about myself from someone I’m not close enough with to feel comfortable with their knowing it. In the case of the latter, I don’t even tell outright lies but, rather, sugar-coat the truth in a more positive light. And, I have to say, after having learned so much about how deception can be a great communication tool, I’m questioning whether or not I am a skillful communicator or (dun dun dun) not!

There must be something wrong here! Surely, having years of communication experience under my figurative belt, I am not a bad communicator. So, I went to the next logical thought process: what was wrong with the diary study?

Apparently, I have a lot of truthful interactions that last under 10 minutes. The results of my diary study will probably show that I lie a lot more frequently than I actually do. Since I was only asked to record my deceptive interactions and my truthful interactions of over 10 minutes, there are a lot of missing interactions. After having been conscious of my lies for an entire weekend (seems like a lot longer when you have to write down all of your interactions, doesn’t it?), I can honestly say, since apparently I’m such an honest person, that I do it more infrequently than the diary study documents.

Another problem I had was defining what exactly an interaction was. For example, I have a roommate. My roommate is my best friend and we not only talk a lot but we pretty much read each other’s minds. We don’t need to talk continuously to know what the other is thinking. In a given hour, she and I will exchange a few remarks or jokes while entering and exiting the room. The comments will be spaced out by about 5-10 minutes and don’t really last more than a few seconds. Collectively, however, they comprise what could be considered an hour-long truthful but not meaningful interaction. However, we weren’t really talking about anything in particular. I had nothing really to lie about. Does this interaction really count?

Another thing is that I might have subconsciously avoided people with whom I know conversations tend to last long enough to need recording. (Note: by “subconsciously,” I mean that I consciously gave into my laziness) If I saw that person X was calling me on my caller-id, and I know that person X can really go, I might say “I think I’ll talk to them some other time” if I know I am going to have to fill out a form about it. I have a feeling, that I’m probably not the only one who felt this way.

As for the diary study, I think it needs a lot of work. In theory, it’s an excellent way to get a sense of how people interact. However, I think a more effective diary study might be a consensual but surprise voice recording. For example, if we have people consent to being recorded for a full week during the year but don’t tell them which week the recorder will be taping for, or even that we are looking at deception at all, their behavior might not be affected by the diary study. I’m sure that some clever comments will tell me everything that is wrong with this idea. However, I think that this study doesn’t fully work, but that there is definitely some merit to its idea. As for me, I’m definitely going to start lying way more. (See? I’ve already started!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

I lied ...and it feels so good

Assignment 4
Based on class discussions and readings, we all have come to realize that deception is an everyday occurrence and is prevalent in all of our social interactions. Participating in the diary study has provided me with further insight to this notion. While I never thought of myself as a liar, this past weekend I discovered that I do lie. However, I lied a lot less than I normally do, due to the circumstances of the diary study.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the diary study is the way I constructed my lies and how this affected my deception. Although I normally wouldn’t think twice about telling my parents I was too busy studying while I really was procrastinating on facebook, I found that I often prevented myself from telling these lies because I was required to record them. Although the amount of lies I told came very close to DePaulo and Hancock et al.’s findings of two lies per day, I was constantly preventing myself from lying because I was made more aware of my actions. In addition, when I did lie, I thought about it a lot more. Perhaps this is because I was forced to acknowledge my lie and question whether lying was truly worth it? To be honest, I can’t really remember a recent lie that I have told that I felt bad about. Partly because they are so trivial that they have no implications on my target. Therefore, the results of my diary study did not truly reflect an accurate depiction of my deception.
However, throughout my “deceptive endeavors” I noticed that I lied less to those I was close with. For example, a close friend of mine asked me about the outfit she was wearing. Because I know her very well, and because I knew how she would react, I felt there was no need to lie to her. In such instances, I think that trust plays an extremely important role in deception. I knew that if I did not tell her the truth I would be risking her trust, therefore I told her I did not think she should wear that outfit.
I also found that distribution, recordability and synchronicity played a very important role in my deception. The feature based model (Hancock et al) would predict that lying occurs most frequently over the phone because the media is conducive to synchronous, recordless and distributed interactions. My findings suggest that the feature based model is valid in examining how communication technology affects deception. Most frequently, I lied over the phone about my where-abouts or my present and future actions. The second most frequent modality of communication I used to deceive was face-to-face. Face-to-face is neither a recordable nor a distributed medium, however it is synchronous. This occurred most frequently when I felt forced to hide my emotions. These factors made it easier to deceive because I could quickly change the subject, due to the medium’s synchronicity. I did not participate in any chat room conversations, and over the weekend only conducted very short, and specific conversations over email and instant messenger like corresponding with group members for a group project.
Although I found the feature based model to be extremely applicable, the media richness theory also played an important role in my deception. According to this theory, users will chose a rich media (one with multiple cues, immediate feedback, natural language and message personalization) for the most equivocal tasks. MRT predicts individuals tend to lie in FTF media because it is the richest available media for an equivocal task like successful deception. Although lying is uncomfortable, and the SDT would predict one would use email to deceive, the MRT proved to be much more valid because I was more confident that more available cues would facilitate successful deception. In addition, I was provided with immediate feedback which enabled me to determine whether my lie was well taken. I also corresponded over a lean medium, email, for unequivocal tasks, like updating group members on meeting dates and times.
One of the problems with the methodology that Hancock et al and Depaulo should consider is that it is very difficult to record your lies when you are constantly in the presence of the individual you lied too. In one case, I happened to lie to someone I spent a lot of time with. Therefore, I had to find the right time to record my lie without this individual catching me. I also carried out very few conversations over 10 minutes. Perhaps Depaulo and Hancock should considering shortening the required length of a social interaction.
My personal diary study provided me with insight as too my own deception, but the question still remains; am I a liar? I would like to believe not because deception has such a negative connotation. Perhaps we, as pioneers in digital deception studies should address this pessimistic implication.