Of the many moral topics that we encounter in our daily lives, deception is one of the closest and well-known dilemmas that we experience. Defined as knowingly misleading others through false information or appearance, the act of lying falls under this umbrella term. As many people would agree, lying — or any form of deception — is immoral, and heavily discouraged. Most of us have felt the after-effects of lying, with the destruction of trust becoming the consequence. Depending on the bond between the person lying and the victim, the feeling felt after being lied to varies, but most people feel a rush of anger or sadness.

Why do we feel this way, though? The answer lies in the establishment of a trust, which we can think of as an unwritten contract. Take, for example, our best friends: they act as our support when we encounter problems in life and also act as gateways to making more friends, among many other things. By becoming best friends, we establish an agreement or pact with them, spoken or unspoken, to help each other as needed. As part of this agreement, there are also rules, or guidelines, that govern the relationship, which may also be ambiguous or explicitly stated. The act of lying, or deception in general, usually violates these rules, which in turn causes us to feel offended when we are deceived.

For a more professional explanation of the immorality of deception, according to the philosophical theory of Kantianism, the deception prevents others from acting autonomously, or making informed, independent decisions. It treats everyone as something only to be used, "a means to an end," instead of treating others as also an end in themselves. Basically, deception treats other human beings as only tools, and does not give them any due respect.

Even before reading the previous paragraph, though, most of you already knew about the stigma and public denouncement of lying to others. However, there's a problem and a contradiction in society. Most of us lie in some shape or form anyway. Each and everyone one of us knows that every other person also lies, whether we admit it publicly or not. There are a multitude of people, companies and groups that deceive or lie to others. From the failing business companies that lie about their earnings in order to raise their stocks to groups that smear facts to help promote an otherwise noble cause, there is no end to the amount of deception in society today. Even if I do believe that not everyone deceives, we are living and breathing in a fake world. We lie to ourselves and develop a "public" personality in order to make friends and achieve success.

Because our world is interconnected in an infinite number of ways, the small lies that one person makes can result in severe consequences for another person. In a sense, every time we lie, we are treating everyone else as a tool to be used and abused. Society may publicly condemn deception, but the fact that we know everyone lies regardless gives me a painful dose of irony. We know everyone lies, but why do we say it's bad to lie, when in fact we do too?

This interesting contradiction in society is a curious topic. Why can't we just tell the truth and live with the consequences? We are perhaps too worried by what others think of us. Many of us are influenced by society's status quo ideals to some degree, and these include becoming successful while also maintaining a sense of moral integrity. To compensate for the moral vacuum created by lying, we tell others about the evilness of deception. I do agree that sometimes lying is justified, especially in life and death situations. However, if it's not in such a category, the reasons for it are weak at best. I'd like to socialize with people who have real personalities and ideals, instead of fake, plastic ones. After all, if I do make friends with fake people, it's not just me that will face the consequences — it'll be everyone else I know as well.

— Jan Urbano is a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.