Lies You Can Get Away with on Facebook (and Lies You Can't)

This article is from the archive of our partner .

As Facebook has become more hegemonic, about a quarter of its users have started crafting fake personae, fudging some personal details on the social network in order to, they say, protect their privacy and data, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.  

But, Facebookers can only get so far as they tweak personal details. Unless you're planning on pulling a Catfish, creating a totally made up person, with a totally made up email address, using totally made up photos -- that's what Angela Wesselman-Pierce did per the documentary about her family of made-up Facebook personae -- there are only so many lies Facebook will let you get away with. As you'll see below, one can almost be a totally different human on Facebook than in real life. But, one can never escape their true selves, with the few details Facebook does not allow its users to fudge.

Stuff You Can Get Away With Lying About on Facebook 

  • Photo. A good starting point for someone trying to create a fake self, as what we look like feels like a very personal detail. One can have a picture of a unicorn as their visual representation to the world, if they so choose. 
  • Birthday. For the under 21 or over 35 set, this comes in handy as Facebook doesn't make users enter a birth-year. But, if someone wants to find out who their real friends are, they might think it a funny joke to put a totally fake-date down and see what wall-writers and message senders wish them a happy birthday on the totally wrong day. 
  • Languages. Faking this is just a flat out lie, but maybe someone might do it to impress someone, maybe while applying for a job. Or, everything on the Internet has potential for irony. 
  • Interests. See above. 
  • About You. Making this up this makes for good jokes. 
  • Website. Again, good for jokes. 
  • Current City/Hometown. Considering all the location tracking happening these days, this is kind of fun to lie about. It really feels like you're getting away with something.
  • Work. This feels a little icky, like lying on one's résumé. 
  • Education. See above. (Though, someone somewhere might appreciate a Hogwarts joke.)
  • Religious Views. Again, irony plays well here.
  • Political Views. And here, too. 

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Stuff You Cannot Get Away With Lying About on Facebook

  • E-mail address. Yes, technically, à la Catfish, one could make up a fake email account just for Facebook. But, it makes joining a network, which allows for certain stalking privileges quite difficult. Also: it's a hassle.
  • Network. Joining one of these requires a certain e-mail address. For example, a 45-year-old man can't just up and join a high school network, as he might turn out a pedophile or creep. 
  • Name. Facebook has a "real name policy." It outlines the rules here. Though we've come across some bendings of these rules, technically, it's not allowed. Even Salman Rushdie had to get special privileges to use Salman, as his name on his passport reads Ahmed. Imagine how it works for people who aren't Salman Rushdie.  
  • Mobile phone number.* This comes with that asterisk because it only really applies to those using the mobile app. Facebook requires smartphone users to connect their number to the account. 
  • Relationships and Family. Since this takes the coordination of two Facebook accounts, it makes lying a bit tougher. It is possible for two friends to pretend they're engaged or siblings, LYLAS style. 

For the quantity of falsifiable things Facebook provides, the social network still requires the most important identifying information. And as we live our lives on the Internet, with just a name and an email address one can take to Google for a whole world of stalking.  

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.