The Battle of Self Projection versus Who We Really Are
Transcript: Google, I think, is a revolutionary data set. I call it digital truth serum because people are so honest to it and they confess things that they might not confess to anybody else to that little white box on a search engine. Facebook is different. Facebook is digital 'brag to my friends about how good my life is' serum, where people try to make themselves look good on Facebook. So if you compare two magazines, The Atlantic Monthly and the National Enquirer; The Atlantic Monthly is kind of an intellectual, highbrow magazine, with poetry and philosophy and political theory. And the National Enquirer is a lowbrow trashy magazine, with celebrity gossip and rumors and stuff like that. And on average the National Enquirer sells more copies than The Atlantic Monthly, but on Facebook The Atlantic Monthly is 45 times more popular than the National Enquirer because everybody wants their friends to think they’re reading The Atlantic Monthly. They don’t want their friends to think they’re reading the National Enquirer which makes them seem less impressive. And people exaggerate their financial situation. Circus Circus, a budget hotel in Las Vegas, holds about the same number of people as the Bellagio, a luxurious hotel in Vegas. But people are about three times more likely to check-in to the Bellagio than Circus Circus. So I think on Facebook you get bombarded with these images: Oh, all my friends are staying at the Bellagio. Well, you know, about the same number of them are saying at Circus Circus, they may just not be posting that on Facebook. And I think it’s interesting to compare these two sources, Facebook and Google: Facebook where you’re showing off to your friends, Google where you’re just getting the information you need. So one of the comparisons I talk about in the book is the ways people describe their husbands on the two sources. The top ways people complete the phrase 'My husband is...' on Facebook is: my husband is the best, my best friend, amazing, so cute and awesome. And on Google the top ways people describe their husband—also one of them is 'awesome' so that checks out—but the other ones are: a jerk, gay, so mean and annoying. So that’s kind of the difference between what people are saying when they’re trying to impress their friends and what people are saying when they’re trying to get information, and maybe being, I think, more honest. Alcoholics Anonymous has this phrase: don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. And I think the 21st-century big-data version of that would be: don’t compare your Google searches to other people’s Facebook posts.