In Facebook world Everybody Lies
In Facebook world, the average adult seems to be happily married, vacationing in the Caribbean, and perusing the Atlantic. In the real world, a lot of people are angry, on supermarket checkout lines, peeking at the National Enquirer, ignoring the phone calls from their spouse, whom they haven’t slept with in years.
Facebook is digital brag-to-my-friends-about-how-good-my-life-is serum.
In Facebook world, family life seems perfect. In the real world, family life is messy. It can occasionally be so messy that a small number of people even regret having children. In Facebook world, it seems every young adult is at a cool party Saturday night. In the real world, most are home alone, binge-watching shows on Netflix. In Facebook world, a girlfriend posts twenty-six happy pictures from her getaway with her boyfriend. In the real world, immediately after posting this, she Googles “my boyfriend won’t have sex with me.” And, perhaps at the same time, the boyfriend watches “Great Body, Great Sex, Great Blowjob”. Do parents secretly favour boys over girls?
How regularly do we lie about our sex lives?
Can you beat the stock market?
The everyday act of typing a word or phrase into a compact rectangular white box leaves a small trace of truth that, when multiplied by millions, eventually reveals profound realities…
In Everybody Lies former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz exposes the secrets embedded in our internet searches, revealing some surprising and ground-breaking insights into society.
Everybody lies…about how much sex they are having
‘The power in Google data is that people tell the giant search engine things they might not tell anyone else. Take, for example, sex. On average, married men under sixty-five tell surveys they have sex once a week. Only 1 percent say they have gone the past year without sex. Married women report having a little less sex but not much less. Google searches give a far less lively—and, I argue, far more accurate—picture of sex during marriage. On Google, the top complaint about a marriage is not having sex.
Searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage.” Even unmarried couples complain somewhat frequently about not having sex. Google searches for “sexless relationship” are second only to searches for “abusive relationship.” There are sixteen times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk. There are five and a half times more complaints about an unmarried partner not wanting sex than an unmarried partner refusing to text back. (This data, I should emphasize, is all presented anonymously. Google, of course, does not report data about any particular individual’s searches.)’
Everybody lies…when they say they don’t have a favourite child
‘I was able to use Google searches to find evidence of implicit prejudice against another segment of the population: young girls. And who, might you ask, would be harbouring bias against girls? Their parents.
It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited by the thought that their kids might be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?”
What then are parents’ overriding concerns regarding their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance. Consider questions about a child’s weight. Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?” Parents are about twice as likely to ask how to get their daughters to lose weight than they are to ask how to get their sons to do the same. Parents are also one and a half times more likely to ask whether their daughter is beautiful than whether their son is handsome. And they are nearly three times more likely to ask whether their daughter is ugly than whether their son is ugly. (How Google is expected to know whether a child is beautiful or ugly is hard to say.)
Liberal readers may imagine that these biases are more common in conservative parts of the country, but I didn’t find any evidence of that. In fact, I did not find a significant relationship between any of these biases and the political or cultural makeup of a state. Nor is there evidence that these biases have decreased since 2004, the year for which Google search data is first available. It would seem this bias against girls is more widespread and deeply ingrained than we’d care to believe.’
Everybody lies…on social media
There are twice as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than that a girlfriend won’t have sex. By far, the number one search complaint about a boyfriend is “My boyfriend won’t have sex with me.” (Google searches are not broken down by gender, but, since the previous analysis said that 95 percent of men are straight, we can guess that not too many “boyfriend” searches are coming from men.) How should we interpret this? Does this really imply that boyfriends withhold sex more than girlfriends? Not necessarily. As mentioned earlier, Google searches can be biased in favour of stuff people are uptight talking about. Men may feel more comfortable telling their friends about their girlfriend’s lack of sexual interest than women are telling their friends about their boyfriend’s. Still, even if the Google data does not imply that boyfriends are really twice as likely to avoid sex as girlfriends, it does suggest that boyfriends avoiding sex is more common than people let on.
Everybody lies…about their attitudes towards race
Many people are, for good reason, inclined to keep their prejudices to themselves. I suppose you could call it progress that many people today feel they will be judged if they admit they judge other people based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. But many Americans still do.
Google searches can present a picture of America that is strikingly different from that post-racial utopia sketched out by surveys. When typing one racist term into Google Trends (given how toxic the word is) I fully expected it to be a low-volume search. Boy, was I wrong. In the United States, the word or its plural was included in roughly the same number of searches as the word “migraine(s),” “economist,” and “Lakers.” A large number of Americans were, in the privacy of their own homes, making shockingly racist inquiries. The more I researched, the more disturbing the information got.
The Google searches also told us that much of what we thought about the location of racism was wrong. Surveys and conventional wisdom placed modern racism predominantly in the South and mostly among Republicans. But the places with the highest racist search rates included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois, along with West Virginia, southern Louisiana, and Mississippi. The true divide, Google search data suggested, was not South versus North; it was East versus West. You don’t get this sort of thing much west of the Mississippi. And racism was not limited to Republicans. In fact, racist searches were no higher in places with a high percentage of Republicans than in places with a high percentage of Democrats. Google searches, in other words, helped draw a new map of racism in the United States— and this map looked very different from what you may have guessed. Republicans in the South may be more likely to admit to racism. But plenty of Democrats in the North have similar attitudes.
Some years later, this study would prove quite significant in explaining the political success of Trump.
Everybody lies…about what they do during the day when they are looking for jobs
‘Can we tell, simply by what people are Googling, how many people are unemployed, and can we do so well before the government collates its survey results?
One day, I put the United States unemployment rate from 2004 through 2011 into Google Correlate. Of the trillions of Google searches during that time, what do you think turned out to be most tightly connected to unemployment? You might imagine “unemployment office”—or something similar. That was high but not at the very top. “New jobs”? Also high but also not at the very top.
The highest during the period I searched—and these terms do shift—was “Slutload.” That’s right, the most frequent search was for a pornographic site. This may seem strange at first blush, but unemployed people presumably have a lot of time on their hands. Many are stuck at home, alone and bored. Another of the highly correlated searches—this one in the PG realm—is “Spider Solitaire.” Again, not surprising for a group of people who presumably have a lot of time on their hands.
Now, I am not arguing, based on this one analysis, that tracking “Slutload” or “Spider Solitaire” is the best way to predict the unemployment rate. The specific diversions that unemployed people use can change over time (at one point, “Rawtube,” a different porn site, was among the strongest correlations) and none of these particular terms by itself attracts anything approaching a plurality of the unemployed. But I have generally found that a mix of diversion-related searches can track the unemployment rate—and would be a part of the best model predicting it.’
By: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz