Everybody Lies

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Everybody lies.

That’s not me talking, that’s science.

I read an article by data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz about data he tracked on google searches. Now, you can lie to your friends and you can lie to a survey-taker – and people do, all the time. But you can’t lie to google. By your searches, ye shall know them.

So, way back in 1950, researchers asked people in Denver whether they voted, whether they gave to charity, and whether they had a library card. The researchers already had this data, so they knew the truth already. But guess what happened when they asked Denver folks about this stuff? You guessed it. They lied. They were WAY more smart, generous and involved in their survey answers than they were in real life.

And guess what. They’re still lying. Everyone is.

They lie about sex. Ask any researcher and they will tell you that the number of times people have sex is WAY less frequent than they boast about in surveys.

But even more chilling, they lie about things like prejudice. Seth looked at data from Google searches and aggregated them into some interesting conclusions about people.

Google reveals that people search for things like, “Why are black people rude?” and “Why are Jews – or Muslims – or lots of other races – evil?”

The researcher also says that Google tells us a bit about our attitudes on gender. Like the searches about boys had to do with whether someone’s kid was smart or not. The searches about young girls? They had to do with her appearance, like “Is my daughter overweight.”

Kind of depressing.

liars

 

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Rituals

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So, how have you been doing on those New Year Resolutions?

Have you lost weight/exercised more/become a better person? Yeah, me neither. The difference is that I don’t do resolutions anymore. I just can’t seem to stick to them, even when I try. I know that you have to do something new for a certain amount of time and then it becomes a habit and, before you know it, you’re a new, improved version of yourself. I just can’t seem to get the old, unimproved version of myself on board.

I’m not alone. According to a psychologist in US News & World Report, 80% of resolutions fail by February.

So, I don’t do resolutions anymore.

Instead, I do rituals that mark the changing of the year. Resolutions don’t make me feel like I’m getting a fresh start, but rituals do.

For me, that means a frenzy of organizing. I’m a list person even in the worst of times, but the new year brings lists of lists. Back before electronic calendars, I used to transfer every birthday and anniversary from one year to the next, adding a year so I would know how old people were or how many years they’d been married. People thought I was incredibly thoughtful but I just had a good calendar system. Nowadays, with repeat functions on calendars and Facebook reminders, it’s almost impossible to forget a birthday. So that ritual went by the wayside, but I have others.

And my rituals?

I guess I’m as superstitious and ambitious as everyone else.

I cook the traditional meal – greens for money, black-eyed peas for luck —  but I also shred old files, do an inventory and clean-out of what’s in my pantry and freezer (huh…just how many ginger roots did I think I’d need?!), and I update my death book. You know, the book that has where my will is, where the passwords are, who to call when I die, and the self-deprecating obituary I wrote for myself.

The only thing I don’t touch is the blank date of death on the obituary. I’m superstitious and ambitious, not crazy!

 

 

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