Beware the liars on Twitter

Twitter is full of liars; honestly. In fact, so is the big wide world. It may come as a shock to you, but people often don’t tell the truth. Twitter is no different – except for one thing. In the “real world” you are able to spot liars using subtle body language examination. Often you don’t realise you are doing it – and neither do the liars. But people who fib or bend the truth usually “give the game away” in slight facial expressions. In general we are pretty good at spotting these micro changes in muscle tone – and women are considerably better than men at noticing such changes.

Online, however, we have little ability to spot the lies and fabrications. With articles, emails, blog postings and entries on Facebook, there is usually a good deal of context, associated material and writing “tone” which helps us make an assessment as to whether or not we can trust what we are being told. With Twitter, those additional features don’t exist; we have a few words, with no context and no real knowledge of the writer. So, lying on Twitter becomes extraordinarily easy – simply because spotting the lies is so difficult.

Or is it? Here are some simple things you can do to assess whether or not the Tweets you read are honest.

  1. Firstly, check out the Twitterer’s frequency of tweeting. If they appear to Tweet almost 24 hours a day (and some of the so-called “top” Twitterers do this) then it’s not them doing it. Either they employ ghost writers in different time zones, or they are automating a whole series of Tweets. In either case they are not really taking part in the conversation on Twitter – even though they appear to be. They are taking you for a ride – and there are some “big names” doing this right now….! True, they may not be technically lying, but they are not being completely truthful either.
  2. Secondly, check for emotional words. If there’s emotional content in the Tweet, it is much more likely to be honest. People rarely use emotional words when lying; they try (mistakenly) to be “matter of fact” (another give-away of a liar).
  3. Thirdly, look for “personality”. If the Tweets for a particular Twitterer include personal facts and information, it’s much less likely to be a liar. Real people reveal real facts about themselves; liars try to avoid being personal.

In real-life social networks, the core group is very adept at eliminating the cheats, liars, fabricators and those who don’t stick to the “rules”. In Twitter, that’s much more difficult due to lack of any “leader” and due to lack of context. The result is that the liars and cheats can survive; it’s up to you to ensure you don’t follow them.

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