Book Review – Everybody Lies

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, 2017

The premise of the book is that people lie on surveys, but their behavior online (when they think no one is watching) reveals their true beliefs and actions. By analyzing Google search data, the author uncovers insights into racist behavior, differences in the way sons and daughters are treated, and how many people finish the books they buy. Disparate data sources, including first-person observations of markets in poor countries, Twitter Tweets, and even Pornhub data round out the book.

As a sports fan, one of the most interesting topics the book touched on was the origin of lifetime fandom. Using Facebook “likes” of baseball teams, the author finds that boys are much more likely to become lifetime fans of their hometown team if the team was very successful when the boy was about 8 years old. (Side note: the Reds were really good, but not World Series champs, in ’94 and ’95, for me). For girls, the formative age is more like 22.

I listened to the book on tape, which was well-read. I found the section on abortions to be particularly disturbing, and I skipped it. The book does not “pull any punches” with respect to language use or topic choice.

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