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Robin Marantz Henig

Is Generation Y Also Generation Lie?

A new study says millennials tell lies (easily) to cover up social awkwardness

Is it OK to lie to get yourself out of an embarrassing or awkward situation? According to a recent study, 80% of Millennials say yes, compared to just 57% of Baby Boomers. As reporter David K. Li wrote last week in an article in the New York Post, "The poll, commissioned by the footwear line Crocs, cast a stark light on how the 18-to-32 Gen Y crowd views ‘truthiness,’ as opposed to aging, one-time rebels of the Baby Boom, now between 49 and 67."

The lies that Millennials reported were sometimes distinctly twenty-first century. Nearly half of them -- 46% -- said that in order to avoid a real-world confrontation, they've pretended to be talking on their cell phones, even though no one was on the line. "Just 29 percent of Boomers have stooped to that level of street Kabuki," wrote Li.

The poll was conducted by Wakefield Research , which Crocs commissioned to survey 1,000 people about what made them feel comfortable (no doubt playing off the idea of Crocs as a brand of shoes that are supremely comfy). The fake cell-phone chats, according to survey leader Nathan Richter, reflect a particular form of social conditioning he says is unique to young people today -- that they "have to look incredibly comfortable even if they're incredibly uncomfortable." Richter said this awkwardness makes them go through all sorts of deceptions and contortions that aren't really necessary.

But I think this might be missing the point. Don't ALL young people think they need to look cool and suave even when they're dying a little inside? Isn't social insecurity just a part of BEING young? If Boomers don't think they need to engage in the same degree of "street Kabuki" to look more relaxed than they feel, that's probably not a reflection of having been raised differently from the way they raised their own kids. It's probably more a reflection of the fact that by the time you reach your 50s and 60s, looking "incredibly comfortable" to strangers, or even to non-strangers, just isn't high on your list of priorities anymore.