Why Do We Feel Compelled to Live a Lie and Project a Fake Image of Ourselves?

The problem is not the algorithm. The problem lies with us — we are natural-born liars.

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD


Photo courtesy of author

“Organizations tend to check boxes and create false realities. Compliance has lost all meaning. And that was your big takeaway? I could have told you that.”

While on the plane home last week, a fellow passenger — a rather angry-looking man — asked me about my purpose in visiting Singapore.

So, I told him about the conference I attended, and it triggered a monologue on the problems in our world.

“Don’t we all act like the organizations you refer to?” he continued. “We pretend to be someone we’re not. Projecting a false reality that makes us appear to be more than who we truly are. I guess that about eighty percent of our lives are simulated or fake.”

“I’m not sure I’d go that far,” I mumbled.

“Ours is a world of true lies.”

I Am Whoever You Want Me to Be

He kept speaking, apparently without pausing for breath. Perhaps it was the rarified air or the captive audience (me), but he had a lot to say, and he certainly wasn’t interested in my views.

“We tend to keep up appearances to make sure we meet the expectations of others or to impress people. I’m currently head of HR at an S&P 500 firm and could write a book — several books, actually — about the CVs and social media profiles I have come across. Rarely a less true word is spoken.”

He shared various examples where people attempted to deceive him by stretching the truth of their abilities and achievements or simply outright lying.

For instance, some people posed as founders of a start-up when, in reality, they were just glorified interns.

Others claimed to be computer experts but only knew how to respond to emails.

There were also those who pretended to be “fluent” in a foreign language just because they could order a drink in that language.

“And I don’t blame them,” he continued. “We want people to bend and stretch the truth. We want the candidates to make…



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (law) exploring the collision of life, work, and technology, with a current project in the works - a sci-fi novel.