“We all lie, at all times and to everyone … except Google”

“We all lie, at all times and to everyone … except Google”


“Everyone lies, people lie about how many drinks they drank before they went home, they lie about how often they go to the gym, the price of their new shoes, the reading of that book, they say they’re sick when they’re healthy. They say they will call when they will not, they say that the problem is not the other when it is, they say they love you when they are not, they say they are happy when they are depressed, they say they like women when they really like men”.

“People lie to their friends, they lie to their bosses, they lie to children, they lie to their parents, they lie to their doctors, they lie to husbands, they lie to wives, they lie to themselves, and without a shadow of doubt they lie. in the surveys. ”

This is how one of the chapters of “Everybody Lies” starts, the fascinating and disturbing book that Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote after four years of research.

This data analyst, columnist of the New York Times and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches a course on how to understand human behavior through “big data”, has discovered that there is only someone who does not lie never, someone before whom we undressed and we show ourselves really as we are: Google.

We tell Google what we do not tell anyone else, we reveal our deepest fears, our most intimate dreams. How? Through the 8 trillion gigabytes of data that, in a normal day, leave in total the searches carried out on the Internet.

Stephens-Davidowitz has analyzed many of these data.

“I am convinced that searches on Google are the largest collection of data on the human mind that has ever been,” he says.


When did you start to get interested in the searches that people do in Google?

When Barack Obama was president of the United States. Many of his speeches insisted on the need for the United States to stop being a racist society and make the leap towards a post-racial society.

However, I was surprised by the number of racist searches in that context in Google: searches about black jokes, searches with the word ‘nigger’ (racial insult that in Spanish would be equivalent to saying black in a derogatory way). And all that while Obama preached otherwise. That left me in shock, so I began to investigate more and more.

And he discovered that, basically, we all lie all the time …

Yes, we lie a lot. We lie when we do surveys, even if they are anonymous surveys. We lie because we want to look better than we are. And we often lie to ourselves.


Woman filling out a survey
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Image caption Although the surveys are private, we lie, concludes Stephens-Davidowitz.

You, for example, have crossed the sex surveys with condoms with condom sales data, and have discovered that men and women lie about the number of sex with condoms they have …

Yes, both women and men lie and say they have more sex than they actually have.

We live in a very sexualized society, and someone who does not have many sexual relations can feel bad. So people say they have more sex with condoms than the number of condoms sold in total.

And he also says that he has much more unprotected sex than he really has, because if he had one, they would be born more babies a year than they are born.

He has also discovered that being gay is still a taboo and that many hide it.

Yes. Many gays have come out of the closet, but there are places where being gay is still difficult, so some of those men choose to lie about their sexual orientation.

For example, in Mississippi, one of the least tolerant states towards gays, there are fewer men who declare themselves gay than in other states, but nevertheless the number of searches for gay pornography is practically the same as in the more tolerant states. homosexuality.

In fact, the question that women googled most about their husbands is not “Is my husband cheating on me?” but “Is my husband gay?” And those questions are especially concentrated in places like Mississippi, where being gay is especially difficult.


A woman reconsiders while her husband is asleep in bed
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Image caption “Is my husband gay?” Is one of the most women’s searches for their husbands, says the author.

His research also shows that many men are obsessed with the size of their sexual organ since that is one of the recurring searches they do on Google …

Yes, I guess that big data was not necessary for that.

But what the big data makes clear is that men make many more queries about their sexual organ than any other organ, more than they do about lungs, livers, feet, ears, nose, throat and brain all together.

Men make more inquiries about how to lengthen their penis than about how to tune a guitar , how to make an omelette or how to change a tire. The numerous consultations about the penis and how to lengthen the penis denote the insecurity of many men.

And, although it is absurd, one of the main queries that men make to Google about their sexual organ is “How big is my penis?”. It’s a ridiculous question, to see how Google will respond to that, it would be enough to get a rule and measure it.


Man in underwear looking with a magnifying glass


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Image caption On the other hand, the greatest search among men is about the size of their sexual organ.

On the other hand, you have also found that most women do not care about the size of the penis. If anything, they complain when it is very big …

Yes. For every woman who is interested in doing a Google search on the size of her partner’s penis, men make 170 searches about their sexual organ.

And yes, many women complain through Google about the size of their partners’ penis, they say it is very big and it hurts them. So some men, heh, should look at Google like dwarf the penis.

Sex is still one of the most secret fields. Have you found very surprising things in your research of that area with big data ?

Yes. I’ve noticed that people like very surprising things. When I grew up sexuality was concentrated in Playboy magazine and women were conventionally thin, blonde, with large breasts.

But researching online searches you realize that the desire takes many other directions.

One of the things that has most shocked me is the significant number of people looking for “incest” in traditional websites. It’s something I never would have imagined.

Incest, he says?

Yes, incest. On Pornhub , a porn website, incestuous themed videos are among the first hundred searches. They look for “mom and son” and they “dad and daughter”. At Google, the phrase “I want to have sex with my …” is completed three times out of four with the word “mom.”

In your book I also read that when you write on Google “Is it normal to want to kill …?” the first option that gives you to complete the phrase is “my family” …

People sometimes have strange thoughts, really ugly thoughts that they never admitted in public to have. I believe that violent thoughts against one’s family are more common than we usually think and what people would admit.

Google not only reveals our hidden desires, but also our prejudices. The macho prejudices that, for example, many fathers and mothers still harbor against their daughters in front of their sons …

Most parents today want to believe that they treat their children as well as their daughters. But if you take a look at Google, you realize that it is not.

Parents consult Google on their children related to intelligence, questions like “Is my son a genius? Does my son have talent?

However, the majority of Google queries about their daughters are related to their appearance: “Is my daughter overweight?” “Is my daughter ugly?”

Through Google ‘s parents express much interest in the intellectual potential of their sons and more interest in the appearance of their daughters.

You have also studied prejudices against Muslims. What have you found?

Evan Soltas and I, then in Princeton, did a study when Islamophobia began to grow out of control in the United States after the 2015 San Bernardino massacre, in which 14 people were killed when Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik entered with their weapons at a Christmas meeting of employees of a company.

People look at Google really horrible things about Muslims: “Kill Muslims”, “I hate Muslims”, “Muslims must die” …

Barack Obama gave a speech to the nation in which he said that it was the duty of all Americans to reject discrimination based on race or religion. It was a really nice speech.

But during that speech the Islamophobic searches on Google did not go down , they even went up.

But at the end of his speech Obama said something different, he said that Americans should remember that among American-Muslims there were great athletes, people who had given their lives for the United States … Immediately after saying that, Google registered a search massive “Muslim athletes” and “Muslim soldiers”.

It seems that one of the ways to combat prejudice is to provoke people’s curiosity, because that motivates them to seek information about the religious or ethnic group they hate. Of course, it seems a much better formula than telling them what they have already heard a thousand times.


Barack Obama with Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir, basketball player at the University of Memphis, during a speech in which he highlighted the contributions to American society of Muslims. September 1, 2009
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Image caption Obama’s speech in which he highlighted the contributions to American society of Muslims had an effect on the type of searches that were done on Google.

In fact, in a second speech against Islamophobia that Obama pronounced, it seems that he followed his advice, right?

Yes. I wrote a column in the New York Times about it and well, it’s crazy, a lot of powerful people read the New York Times and maybe someone from Obama’s office did it. Because, in his next speech, Obama multiplied strategies to arouse curiosity about American Muslims.

He said that the Muslims were our friends and our neighbors, they were farmers, they were merchants, scientists, policemen, firemen, teachers, doctors, athletes, soldiers … Some of them had designed the skyscrapers of Chicago, that Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Koran .

And after that speech, Internet searches full of hatred against Muslims fell .

In what other ways can the analysis of big data be used ?

The analysis of the big data informs us of problems that otherwise it is very likely that we did not realize.

I put for example the case of self-induced abortions. I was amazed to see the huge frequency with which Americans search the internet for how to practice an abortion , how to abort at home, how to use a hanger to achieve an abortion.

And those searches are constant and very frequent in those places where it is very difficult to legally abort. So the analysis of big data can inform us of problems that exist in our society but that remain hidden because there are many stigmas around them.


Woman searching the internet
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Image caption The type of internet searches surprised Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, but those data can reveal a lot about the problems of a society, he says.

Has the research you carried out changed your view of human beings?

Well, I think I now have a darker view of human nature than I did before.

And out of curiosity, what are you looking for in Google?

Well, the luck I have is that if someone ever gets to analyze what I’m looking for in Google, I can always say that the most embarrassing and embarrassing searches were for research purposes.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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