How to Tell if Someone is Lying Online or in a Text Message

We have all been there. Someone saying something online that sounds incredible and everyone (including ourselves) want to believe it is true. However, how can we be sure that someone is telling the truth online, especially about their own experiences (e.g., an anecdote)?

Technically the proper etiquette for online conversations is to believe whatever someone says, until you have a reasonable doubt about their honesty. Unfortunately, experience has taught me it is always best to take everything someone says into question, and verify everything you are told.

You do not know how many times I have failed to verify something, then later discover the information I believed was wrong all along. That is both embarrassing and aggravating, since I may have spent years believing misinformation that “everyone said was true”, instead of doing my own research on the matter. As the saying goes: “A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around the World Before the Truth Puts On its Shoes”.

Before I continue, let me say this: There is no 100% reliable way of knowing if someone online is telling the truth or a lie when they give a “personal testimony” about a particular topic, but we can come close by using some critical thinking.

With that, here a few things to watch out for when someone gives an anecdote online.

  • Lack of personal pronouns
    • When someone is lying, they tend to distance themselves from their story (unconsciously). They achieve this by omitting personal pronouns (e.g., “I”, “me”, “myself”) from their story. While this is not 100% proof someone is lying, it is still a good sign.
    • Think about it. Why would someone who is supposedly giving their own “personal story” omit themselves from the story? That does not make sense, hence why it makes the story look made up.
  • Stories that sound generic / bland / too convenient
    • Usually when someone is making something up, they give basic information …not detailed information. This is because the human brain is “busy” thinking up a story to tell, not about what words should be used to convey the story realistically. This makes the story come across as fake – which it is – and people who pay attention will be suspicious.
    • Ask the poster for more details. If they take too long to respond, or fail to give a response, that is a sign the story is made up (or at least exaggerated).
    • I notice this frequently when listening to supposedly real-life scary stories on YouTube. There are a few stories that I believe are real, but several stories sound made-up under the guise of being genuine. Some YouTube channels have even started to claim the stories are “based on real-life events”, which means not all the facts are legit to begin with.
  • Does the poster make extraordinary claims in their story?
    • There is a saying: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
    • Anytime someone makes extraordinary claims, they need to provide extraordinary evidence (detailed evidence) to back up the story. Anyone can make anything up online (e.g., “I won big in the stock market, and now I own a million-dollar mansion.”), but without detailed evidence, I would be careful blindly believing such a story.
    • You must be careful of various media given as evidence for someone’s anecdote. This is not to say that no media can be trusted, but today you must be careful what you choose to believe.
      • Audio files can easily be manipulated with little to no evidence of any tampering.
        • Usually the audio’s waveform is analyzed to detect tampering.
        • The problem is a lot of audio is compressed (e.g. mp3 files). This can cause the waveform to change, making it virtually impossible to know for certain that someone purposely modified an audio file, since anything that appears “abnormal” in the waveform could just be due to the audio compression, not someone tampering with it.
      • Photos can easily be changed to “fit the narrative” via Photoshop. I have personally used Photoshop for over 10 years and know this powerful software can be used to make things appear different than what really happened.
      • Video is harder to fake, but possible thanks to deep faking technology. However, a video does not need to be “deep faked” to be false (or at least misrepresented).
        • For example, someone could show video clips from an old World War II documentary, and claim the footage was taken from a joint operation of American and British spies, recording a German base experimenting with space-alien technology.
        • What does the video really show when researched? Just some German outpost on the lookout for Allied aircraft.
        • See what I mean? People can give you real video footage, with real people in it, but the footage itself is misrepresented to show something other than what was really going on. For most viewers, they may be completely unaware they are being lied to.
  • Multiple inconsistencies
    • Whenever someone gives a story, and there are one or more inconsistencies in the story, this is a good sign the story is not accurate. If something really happened to someone, they would not keep changing the details of the story.
    • It is best to ask the person about the inconsistencies and see what they say. If they get angry, argue, or avoid the question, then you have your answer.
  • The “I did that too” bandwagon effect
    • This is when someone makes an extraordinary claim, and everyone else suddenly makes the same (or similar) claim too. It is like an “epidemic” of extraordinary claims!
      • I saw this happen once on a health forum. Someone made a huge claim, and then several other people started making similar claims (all on the same forum thread).
      • After about a page or two of people making claims, someone finally posted saying he thought everyone was lying and that what they were doing – if true – would have hurt themselves. Like clockwork, virtually everyone stopped making claims after his post.
      • He called their bluff, especially since I do not recall anyone challenging his accusation. I too believe people were looking to boost their egos, and were willing to lie to strangers online to get that ego boost.

Something to keep in mind. People are not talking face to face when using web forums, instant messaging, posting a comment, etc. That fact tends to make people feel more comfortable exaggerating information – or just plain making up information – about themselves or others in their anecdotes. No one is around to verify their information, much less “punish” them for lying.

This happens a whole lot more on the Internet than people realize, especially if the anecdote someone gives strokes their own ego.


Posted in Computers, General, Internet and Servers, Society

Let’s Encrypt – Free SSL/TLS Certificates for Your Website

If you have a personal or small business website that you wish to secure via an SSL/TLS certificate, you can use Let’s Encrypt to do it for free.

It used to be when you needed web encryption for your website, you had to go to a certificate authority and pay for one. What is worse, the certificate would have to be renewed every so often. It depended upon how many years you paid for in advance.

If you opted not to renew your certificate, your web visitors would see a scary message telling them “Your connection to the website is not secure!”.

Technically the “your connection is not secure” message is incorrect. An expired certificate can still secure your connection to a server, assuming you have not enabled HSTS for your domain. It’s only that the web browser – and other software – will no longer “trust” the certificate because it has expired.

Some services give their users a user-friendly option to setup a Let’s Encrypt certificate for their website. However, for people like me with custom setups, we must use other less user-friendly solutions.

If you are interested, here is the “Getting Started” link:  https://letsencrypt.org/getting-started/


Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Security, Software

What Exactly Does “better” Mean, and Why You Should Always Give Context

I have noticed many times on the Internet, people will ask if A is better than B. However, they do not give any context of what they consider “better” to be.

Whenever someone asks me if A is better than B, I always ask them, “What exactly do you mean?”. This is so I can help them make an informed decision. Otherwise I am just guessing, and that will not be helpful to anyone.


Here is an example of someone asking if something is better without context.

A guy named Jeremy goes to a cellphone store and asks Greg the salesman, “Which phone is better to use?”.

Jeremy has not explained to Greg what his requirements are. He could be asking “Which phone is cheaper?”, “Which phone is the fastest?”, “Which phone has the most battery life?”, etc. You get the idea. His saying “better” does not give any context to Greg.

Now Greg proceeds to correctly ask Jeremy, “What are your specific requirements?”. Jeremy then responds saying he is looking for a phone that has a large screen and is not too slow. Now Greg has context – instead of just “better” – and he now can properly show Jeremy the phones that will meet his needs.

Now Jeremy leaves the store happy, since he was able to purchase the phone he wanted.


Something to keep in mind. When someone mentions “better”, that is just their opinion. It does not mean anything until you get their context, and even then, you still would have to agree with their reasons why A is better than B.

You can also have someone who does not care either way. In this case, “better” does not factor in for him.

In addition, you may have someone give their opinion that A is better than B. However, if there is ample, reliable evidence to prove that A is instead equal to B (e.g., scientific research done by two independent universities that came to the same conclusion using valid, reliable methods to test), then there is cause to not believe what the person said. It all comes down to using common sense.

Summary: It’s good practice to always add context when asking if A is “better” than B, otherwise you will have people misunderstand what you are asking and may (unintentionally) give you an answer that is not helpful.


Posted in Computers, General, Internet and Servers, Operating Systems, Security, Shopping, Society, Software

Common Mistakes People Make when Researching Online

In this post, I will talk about common mistakes people make when using the Internet for research. The “research” could be anything from what phone to buy to fact-checking information you heard on the news.

I know this post is kinda long, but its hard to write short posts while giving detailed information.

Please note everything I say are my own opinions or things I have observed.


Only using social media as a source of information.

Social media (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, Disqus) are very popular places to get information from others. You will find the users on social media have wildly varying opinions. Unfortunately, most of these answers (or videos in the case of YouTube) are given with little to no facts to back them up (a few do though).

In addition, social media tends to attract trolls who try to sow discord. Usually they gather like-minded minions who all-at-once gang up on someone they decide not to like that day. This wastes a researcher’s time, since he must filter out irrelevant posts.

Summary: Occasionally you will find a good user on social media with quality information that is not just an opinion, but from my experience most social media answers are quickly written and are of poor quality.


“Everyone says the same thing, so it must be true!”

This one is a very common mistake. I even fell into this “everyone else says it” trap when I was younger. This is a fallacy called “appeal to the popular”.

“Appealing to the popular” is when you decide something is true or false because everyone else thinks that way too. That is not doing real research. That is just being lazy and letting others do your thinking for you.

A lot of times the majority is not correct. How do you know that a few people didn’t give misinformation online a while back, and everyone else jumped on the “band wagon”, automatically believing what they were told and repeating the same to others?

This applies to people who look at the number of “up-votes” or “down-votes” to determine if an online comment is accurate. Comment voting systems seem like a good idea on paper, but in practice they cause people to believe (or disbelieve) information based upon other people’s opinions. A comment with a ton of up-votes does not make it correct, nor does a comment with tons of down-votes make it incorrect.

Summary: Facts are not made by consensus. Just because everyone agrees, does not mean it’s true. You must always use common sense and verify information you receive.


Blindly trusting information obtained on Wikipedia without verifying.

I’ve observed many people quoting Wikipedia like it’s the Bible and can give no wrong answers. I must disagree.

I have read things (e.g., health & politics) on Wikipedia that were at the very least biased and at worst propaganda. This is due to literally anyone being able to edit most articles on Wikipedia.

I had one Wikipedia article that made a bold claim, but when I clicked the link going to the supposed source of this information, the link didn’t even exist. Someone just made up stuff and gave a phony link to make it look good to people who didn’t bother to verify.

Even if the article’s author is telling the truth, a self-appointed “fact-checker” on Wikipedia may erase their edit due to a severe bias.

Summary: I find Wikipedia useful when it comes to topics such as PC/Console/Server technology or basic information about someone popular (e.g., their age & net worth). Anything else (e.g., politics, science, history, the Bible, etc.) tends to attract people with a major bias to intentionally give disinformation to others.


“Professionals (e.g., doctors, politicians, scientists) can be trusted to give accurate information on the Internet.”

Unfortunately, people who should “know the facts” don’t always know the facts. Sometimes they guess while claiming they “know for sure”, they may assume the information is correct (without verifying), or they make up information to support their agenda.

This means if you automatically believe information without verifying “because my doctor said so” or “my nice newscaster in a suit & tie said so”, you may find that the information was not as accurate as you thought and this may lead to trouble for you.

Summary: Always verify information you receive, even if it comes from a “trusted” source. That source may be giving accurate data, but you should still do your due diligence and verify.


Using “anecdotal evidence” as proof.

This is a logical fallacy known as “appeal to anecdote”. What exactly is “anecdotal evidence”? It is someone’s personal testimony of a particular event. It contains no scientific data, just someone’s word on a matter.

The Internet is full of people who give anecdotal testimonies as “proof” of their claims. Unless you were there with the person at the time of the event, or they present detailed evidence, there is no way to determine if they are accurately recalling the facts. This is assuming the person is telling the truth to begin with.

Here is an example. Let us say you go to a website to view information about the common cold. While on there, you decide to read the comment section.

A guy named Phil has posted a comment saying that he is “very healthy” and “has never caught a cold before”. Now personally I would say Phil is lying. Sure, there is a (very) small chance of his statement being true, but I would not bet on it.

After reading, you take Phil’s comment and start going around telling others that “there are people who can never get the common cold”. You would be committing the “appeal to anecdote” fallacy. You are saying something is true, because someone else claimed that is what happened to them.

Phil’s comment was not “proof” of anything. He presented no evidence of his claim. He could have had a cold (multiple times) and thought it was just “allergies”. If that is the case, he is relaying incorrect information based upon a bad assumption…and now you are relaying his bad information, based upon his bad assumption too. What a situation to be in!

That is why I always insist people verify information they receive online (when possible) and use common sense.


Posted in General, Internet and Servers