Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Consumerism, Marketing, Digital Media, Digital Technology, Big Data.
Everybody Lies: What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens Dawidowitz sets out to reveal the hidden selves that we reveal freely to the Gods of Search Engines, but rarely to other people in our real lives.
Perhaps in rare cases, our secret selves will be revealed to Jungian depth psychologists, hypnotists, or get mumbled under the influence of drugs or alcohol, however they are most definitely not to our spouses, bosses or friends.
And so this is a book about our sexual peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies, our latent racism, bigotries and the fears that wake us up at 2 am, writ large on the Google’s search engine.
This does not involve any invasion of privacy, rather Davidowitz explores big data sets and extrapolates from them how we like everything imaginable and also what we find repulsive in the world.
The key takeaway for me was that as an internet-going species, we are: Angels on the street and demons between the sheets. However, not just ordinary demons, but demons that enjoy an inordinate amount of underage sex, girl-on-girl action, incestuous porn between mother and son or father and daughter, beastiality and rape fantasies. Yes – the internet is in fact a pretty smutty, grotty place, although I suppose that isn’t surprising really.
The fascinating part of this book was that theories that have long dominated thinking are able to be put through a lens of big data and then put to bed once and for all. For example Freud’s theory of dream interpretation, particularly the idea that seeing phallic symbols in dreams (for a man) indicates that he may be in the closet.
Overall what makes us dream of foods? The main predictor is how often we consume them. The substance that is most dreamed about is water. The top 20 foods we consume include: chicken, bread, sandwiches and rice – all noteably un-Freudian. Bananas are the second most common fruit to appear in dreams. But they are also the second most commonly consumed fruit. Likewise, cucumbers are the 7th most common vegetable to appear in dreams. They are also the 7th most consumed vegetable. Hotdogs, another phallic symbol, are much rarer to find in dreams, but they are also consumed a lot more seldom in our waking lives.Everybody Lies
Davidowitz’s style of writing I found interesting at first but he went on and on about baseball scores and his brother and I found this personal context was a bit unnecessary to the storytelling and self-indulgent. The focus on baseball scores deviated for a few pages into sport’s jargon, which was just about as intelligible to me as reading Mandarin Chinese.
The baseball metaphor was used to illustrate a point about how people think, however this was a very specific and American example that not many people outside of the US would even understand. I had to skip this part.
This made me lose interest in the book and I picked it up again periodically for several months, then I pushed myself to the conclusion, which I found to be a bit of a muddled, rambling and self-indulgent effort.
Overall I wasn’t really impressed with this book or how it was written. It didn’t really deliver on its promise to reveal how the internet shows us who we really are. I would not recommend it.
Have you read this book? Did you like or dislike it and why? Let me know your thoughts on it below.