In the context of social media platforms, comment on the phrase 'oversharing does not equate to honesty'.

~ excerpted from Girvan Tay’s essay (Raffles Junior College, Year 6 2015)

In this technology-enabled day and age, our news feeds are constantly bursting with new posts, opinions, images and the like; yet for the most part, there exists a facade to establish a veneer of happiness and acceptability, sometimes masking a more sinister depression beneath the visages of smiles and cheerful posts. While oversharing, to some extent, does eventually result in greater honesty, it is a more prevalent phenomenon that oversharing does not equate to honesty, due to its masking of the truth on the part of readers and the possible applications available to establish a false image.

The argument exists that oversharing can open the doors to greater honesty. Social media, by its definition, is user-generated, user-regulated media which is policed by an extensive—potentially global–audience. As such, owing to the fact that there are numerous individuals reading and evaluating one’s posts, dishonesty is (theoretically) called out more quickly. This, in turn, can pave the road for greater honesty. Oversharing–or the act of sharing a sizeable chunk of personal information online–is thus compelled by such forces to become a more truthful act, as the more one posts, the more one’s deception can be quickly detected. This can be seen in the example of the debacle involving Amy Cheong, the NTUC executive who was punished severely for one racist remark on her social networking page. Communal policing is thus, to a large extent, effective in quickly seizing the underlying thoughts and opinions that people share online and punishing them for it, should requital be necessary. Moreover, a private US security contractor recently announced that it is developing software to detect variations across an individual’s posts to determine a person’s true intentions and affiliations. This is something which technological moguls such as Facebook or Google can use to customize interfaces for users. Evidently, the more posts one has online, the more one is likely to slip up and reveal his true nature, or similarly, express their true underlying affiliations and thoughts–which can be red-flagged and called out. As such, the individual is compelled to become more truthful, and only post what he truly thinks or feels, in order to avoid unwanted attention or consequences–or avoid posting at all–hence, making for a more truthful nature of posts online.

Yet, this argument fails to acknowledge the darker, more insidious nature of social media –that it defines who you are in the eyes of others. A study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that nearly 60% of teenagers get their first impression of others from the posts on their Facebook page, and increasingly, employees and college admission boards too preview the social media profiles and posts of candidates. Faced with such scrutiny, the motivation to lie, to construct an embellished image of oneself is much higher than what optimists might think, to the extent that people are willing to spend time and effort churning out a slew of carefully manipulated posts in order to boost the image others have of them. This is seen in a recent US-based study which highlights that out of the plethora of happy posts online, there are nearly twice as many sad incidents in these individual’s lives. A Singaporean study by the Nanyang Technological University also revealed that most teenagers rigorously filter and edit their posts online to convey the best possible image of themselves, with ‘sad’ or genuine posts constituting a mere 13% of our news feeds. Evidently, the act of oversharing does not necessarily equate to increased honesty. The instances cited highlight the prevalence of individuals doctoring their posts to show the more favourable versions of themselves. Oversharing one’s opinions and thoughts therefore does not equate to honesty.

In conclusion, while dishonesty on social media may occasionally be weeded out, for the most part, the fact that social media is now the go-to platform to learn more about individuals and news, and that people often feel pressured to abide by the optimistic trends that keep such media ‘social’, make the act of oversharing not only inconsistent with honesty, but can also motivate people to be dishonest online.

Tutor's Comments:

Cogently written with clearly expressed arguments.

Good use of varied but concrete evidence to support writer’s assertions.