Is your Facebook wall more of a façade? Data shows that people are brutally honest with Google, but that Facebook is a pack of shameless lies.
To know who someone really is, don't look at their Facebook wall—look at their Google Search data. This is off-limits information to most people (definitely for the best), but data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has analyzed what's behind that curtain. His findings echo what you may intuitively feel: skepticism over how incredible everyone's life looks on Facebook, compared to your own. He cautions people not to compare yourself to that rosy standard for a pretty simple reason: it's a bundle of lies and exaggerations. Facebook presents who we want to be, but Google Search knows who we really are. Davidowitz calls it a "revolutionary truth serum", one that reveals that on Facebook husbands are described as "amazing" and "so cute", but in the confessional booth of Google Search, they are "gay" "jerks". Ouch. What it boils down to is that bragging is lying, but searching for knowledge is truthful. That, and that Facebook and Google might be the best social experiments ever designed. Stephens-Davidowitz is the author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
People in the East and West really do think differently, especially when it comes to self-identity. Depending where you live, it's either associative or distinctive thinking that shapes your sense of self.
You can learn a lot about yourself by looking through the lens of a different worldview. Gish Jen presents that awareness here by comparing notions of self-identity in the Eastern world and in the West. Having grown up with a foot in each culture, she’s in the ideal position to show the differences in how the self operates in America and Asia—without prescribing the idea that one system is better than the other. In her analysis, Westerners have a "pit-self", like an avocado, where our center is this unique individual self that must be expressed in every choice we make. We are always trying to differentiate ourselves from others, it’s central to every choice we make. Easterners are undoubtedly all individuals, but they ascribe to a "flexi-self" which is more interdependent, and focused on their place within a community or family. It’s more about duty, than rights. The differences are fascinating and, if you’re a westerner, it might drag into the spotlight the interesting ways in which you assert your individuality. Gish Jen's most recent book is The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap.