Managing the Tendency to Exaggerate in Digital Communication

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“I’ve had the worst day in my life!” is a common teenage post on social media – hinting at the ease and frequency of exaggeration occurring online.

The tendency to exaggerate in digital communication, especially social media, is common among teenagers. Most adolescents prefer painting an embellished version of themselves during online interactions for different reasons, a behavior with several negative impacts and consequences.

Engaging in exaggerated communication can be emotionally taxing for the teen. It may increase feelings of stress, anxiety, or guilt, especially if they feel pressured to maintain a false persona online. When parents manage their teen’s tendency to exaggerate in digital communication, it reduces the stress and anxiety of maintaining an unrealistic online persona. By promoting a more genuine representation of themselves, teens can experience improved mental well-being and self-esteem.

In this article, Key Healthcare will expound on teens’ digital communication exaggeration and explore a few management strategies for parents concerned about their children’s online activities. Join us, and let’s have this conversation!

Understanding the Impact of Exaggeration on Digital Communication

Impact of Exaggeration on Digital Communication

Exaggeration in digital communication can be defined as the presentation of statements, experiences, achievements, or accomplishments to be better than they are. It may also involve distorting facts to make them look or appear worse than they are or embellishing details in a manner exceeding actual reality. 

Such acts can lead to loss of credibility, diminished trust, misinformation, relationship damage, damaged personal reputation, and reduced communication effectiveness. Even though teenagers may exaggerate to fit in, remind them that it can lead to miscommunication, conflict, backlash, and misunderstandings in digital communication.

Why Does Teen Exaggerate in Digital Communication?

Teenagers may exaggerate on digital and online platforms because of the following motivations:

  • Attention-seeking
  • To mask certain insecurities
  • To protect their egos
  • To improve and maintain perceived social status
  • Pressure to keep up with online friends or social circles
  • Competition or comparison with others.
  • To obtain recognition or validation for a self-esteem boost
  • Desire for acceptance

The Psychology of Exaggeration

Most adolescents exaggerate events, experiences, or personal lives for validation, acceptance, social comparison, and recognition, not knowing that it can lead to severe consequences.

The Relationship Between Exaggeration and Insecurity in Digital Communication

Teens with insecurities tend to exaggerate their achievements, qualities, or experiences to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, seek approval, acceptance, and validation from others, and conform to social expectations and norms. It can also serve as an attention-seeking mechanism to ensure they are not dismissed or overlooked by their peers.

The Impacts of Exaggeration on Credibility and Trust in Digital Communication

Others may question the truthfulness and accuracy of online statements or posts upon identifying an exaggeration pattern, leading to a decline in credibility. Exaggeration can also destroy trust in digital communication, making it hard for the guilty party to convince others to rely on their perspectives or information.

Consequences of Habitual Exaggeration in Digital Communication

Teenagers who habitually exaggerate their achievements and personal lives on digital platforms may find it hard to develop a real and positive self-image due to overreliance on external validation. They are also likely to be perceived as dishonest and untrustworthy, which can destroy their reputation.

How to Manage the Tendency to Exaggerate in Digital Communication

Identifying Triggers and Motivations for Exaggeration

Teenagers can identify exaggeration triggers and motivations (such need for validation, attention-seeking, social belonging, and escapism) through self-awareness, mindfulness, and reflection. As a parent, you can encourage this through open and non-judgmental communication. You can help your teen explore why they are exaggerating and how else they can get that need met.

Practicing Honesty and Accuracy in Communication

Being honest and accurate in digital communication is one of the most effective ways of countering exaggerations. Encourage your teen to observe transparency and authenticity in their social media undertakings and fact-check information before posting anything online. They should also proofread messages to ensure accuracy. You can show them how false information is posted online and how it can cause damage, help them to take a deep breath, and reflect on what they are posting before they press send.

Using Empathy and Perspective-Taking to Communicate Effectively

Teenagers who practice empathy and perspective-taking in digital communication (through listening actively, validating others, and staying respectful) rarely need to exaggerate their achievements, progress, or personal lives. These two strategies also reduce misunderstandings, improve tolerance, enhance communication, and strengthen relationships. As a parent, you can teach your teenager about empathy and perspective-taking. You can have discussions, go on outings to places that share stories from different perspectives, such as museums, and role model these behaviors yourself for them to learn from.

Seeking Feedback and Accountability from Others

Encouraging teenagers to seek feedback on their communication styles and posts from friends, family members, and mentors can enhance their self-awareness and improve accountability. This can help them avoid exaggerating their status, achievements, experiences, or online situations. Offer to read through their posts before they post them to help fact-check them. This can help a teenager internalize the thought of what someone else would say if they read it.

Challenges and Pitfalls in Managing the Tendency to Exaggerate in Digital Communication

Here are a few reasons teenagers may find it hard to manage their tendency to exaggerate in digital communications:

  • Resistance to change and self-reflection: Factors that may cause resistance to change and self-reflection include denial, fear, defensiveness, and cognitive biases.
  • Peer pressure and social norms in digital communication: Groupthink, social influence, and the constant need for conformity can thwart teenagers’ efforts to manage digital communication exaggeration tendencies. 
  • Burnout and overwhelm with digital communication: Common causes of burnout and overwhelm in digital communication include stress, lack of boundary-setting, exhaustion, and poor self-care.

Additional Strategies for Managing the Tendency to Exaggerate

Practicing self-awareness and recognizing exaggeration in digital communication

Self-awareness can be defined as the knowledge or perception of one’s feelings, character, desires, and motives. You can encourage your teenage son or daughter to practice self-awareness and recognize digital communication exaggeration by obtaining feedback from loved ones on their communication styles, reflecting on their communication habits and tendencies, pausing and reviewing their posts, understanding the potential consequences of overstatement in digital communication, and developing empathy.

Reframing messages to reduce exaggeration in digital communication

Reframing messages can help reduce exaggeration. Parents should encourage teenagers to frame their messages precisely and accurately, provide perspective and context, use modifiers and quantifiers (to avoid overgeneralization), and provide evidence for their arguments or claims.

Practicing authenticity and honesty in digital communication

When using social media or online platforms, teenagers should be encouraged to be true to themselves, avoid attention-seeking, seek connection over validation, and reflect on their values (such as integrity, honesty, and authenticity) before posting or communicating. 

Practicing active listening and validating others in digital communication

Active listening and validation can be achieved by offering others undivided attention, allowing them to explain their perspectives, recognizing their contributions, acknowledging their emotions and experiences (without trying to downplay them), responding empathetically, and avoiding dismissive responses. 

Tools and Resources for Managing the Tendency to Exaggerate in Digital Communication

An exaggeration here and there is expected and even considered part of an individual’s everyday language. When these exaggerations become frequent, habitual, and extreme, an individual needs to develop self-awareness and consciously manage the tendency.

Teenagers can use various strategies, and even digital tools can help them present themselves and the information they share accurately and authentically.

Tools for Improving Communication Skills

Grammar Checkers

Grammar checkers are used to identify and correct writing errors. They can improve a teen’s writing skills and confidence. Common examples include Grammarly and Hemingway. Using a grammar checker can help teens identify when they are exaggerating, as the tools highlight information that sounds inaccurate. However, this is not a guarantee of accuracy in their writing.


If they are sharing information, they need to make sure that it is correct. This may mean checking the facts before they post. When teens check the facts of a story or article, they look to see if the source is reliable and trustworthy. Remember that there are different sides to a story, so they should take all sides into account before they post something.


When teens are posting, they need to ask themselves ‘why.’ If they can understand why they want to share this post, it may help them identify what reaction they hope to get. This can help them develop self-awareness and decide whether their post is helpful to them or not. 

Video Tutorials

Watching video tutorials on communication techniques and social media posting can give teens ideas on how to edit their posts to ensure authenticity. Video tutorials are normally made by skilled communicators, whose techniques teens can emulate to improve their communication skills. They can also pick excellent nonverbal cues.

Online Communities and Support Groups for Digital Communication

The simplest definition of an online community is a group of people with a shared purpose or interest who use the Internet to communicate with one another. Common online communities include subreddits such as Reddit r/CommunicationSkills, social media groups, writing communities and forums, and LinkedIn groups focused on communication skills.

Support groups bring together individuals seeking encouragement, mutual support, challenges, or chances to share their experiences. Common digital support groups include the National Communication Association, Online Geniuses, and professional networking groups on platforms like Linkedin.

Being a part of a support group can help you become more self-aware and identify if there are underlying reasons for using exaggeration.

Books and Courses on Digital Communication and Ethics

Online courses, workshops, books, certifications, and seminars can also help you improve your communication skills. Here are a few courses teenagers can take advantage of:

Reducing Exaggeration in Digital Communications

Identifying Common Signs of Exaggeration in Digital Communications

Most teenagers who exaggerate excessively on social media or online platforms use superlatives and absolutes in their posts or chats. Absolutes are descriptors such as never, none, and always while superlatives are any of the ‘iest’ or ‘est’ words (such as best and greatest). You should also watch out for generalizations and non-evidence-based statements. Other common signs of embellishment in digital communication include:

  • Regular contradictions
  • Inconsistent information
  • Boasting about unrealistic experiences or achievements
  • Use of overly dramatic language
  • An inflated social media life/persona

Critical Thinking Strategies for Assessing Information Online

Teenagers should assess information before posting for authenticity purposes. Here are a few strategies that can help:

Source Evaluation

Source evaluation checks for the validity, accuracy, timeliness, bias, authority, usefulness, and point of view of information sources to verify their credibility.

Bias Detection

Identifying potential biases capable of influencing information fairness, objectivity, and accuracy can help teenagers uncover hidden agendas and advance their critical thinking. It also encourages consideration of different perspectives.

Critical Reading

Critical reading encourages evaluating the reliability and credibility of online sources, fact-checking, bias detection, and evidence assessment, which helps identify and avoid online exaggeration.

Strategies for Communicating Controversial or Sensitive Topics Without Exaggerating

  • Speaking from research-based knowledge or experience.
  • Ensuring information credibility.
  • Being fully aware of both/ all sides of the issue or topic at hand.
  • Briefly acknowledging other people’s views before addressing yours.
  • Keeping personal biases or emotions at bay.
  • Using respectful language. Show empathy and try to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  • Acknowledging knowledge limitations and uncertainties.
  • Creating an environment that fosters open dialogue.
  • Compromising/ seeking common ground (shared values or areas of agreement) to build a discussion foundation.
  • Allowing others to express their opinions and listening actively.
  • Taking time to reflect and learn after the conversation.
  • Keeping calm when the other party gets confrontational.
  • Avoiding personal attacks.

Tips for Balancing Self-Promotion with Honesty in Digital Communication

Teenagers can further their growth, prosperity, or advancement on social media and online platforms while being honest in the following ways:

  • Being authentic in the way they present themselves online.
  • Highlighting their strengths and achievements honestly and humbly.
  • Acknowledging and appreciating other people’s contributions.
  • Being truthful and accurate when sharing information about their experiences or achievements.
  • Sharing meaningful content capable of adding value to others instead of wholly focusing on self-promoting themselves.
  • Offering context when talking about achievements to paint a complete picture.
  • Seeking feedback from mentors, family members, and close friends.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Cyberbullying or Harassment

Teenagers who make exaggerated online statements intending to harm, demean, or intimidate others may be guilty of cyberbullying, an offense that can attract a fine, jail time, or both, depending on the jurisdiction.


Teenagers can be charged if found guilty of making false, exaggerated online information capable of damaging someone’s or an entity’s reputation.

Privacy invasion

Making exaggerated statements that invade the privacy of others, such as false personal rumors, can lead to privacy law violations, which is an offense.

False Advertisement

Teenagers are not exempted from consumer protection laws; therefore, those who make exaggerated statements regarding their online promotions (for products and services) may suffer legal implications.

Managing Digital Communication in the Workplace

Effective Communication Strategies for Remote Teams

A few communication strategies teenagers can use whenever they find themselves in remote teams include:

  • Show empathy for other team members and help them navigate complex virtual applications.
  • Talking to team members like they would in an office setting, e.g., saying good morning and finding time to chat before work.
  • Participating in non-work conversations to help lighten up things.
  • Using internal messaging tools to communicate quickly and efficiently with other employees without straining their inboxes.
  • Regularly organize (if it’s okay with the organization and other employees) and participate in video meetings.

Best Practices for Managing Digital Communication Etiquette

A few best practices to help teenagers manage their digital communication etiquette better include:

  • Using the correct spelling and punctuation at all times.
  • Double-check messages before sending, especially if they are written in a hurry.
  • Communicating an idea in a single message.
  • Being polite and precise. When messaging others, it’s important to use greetings and request words such as ‘please.’
  • Avoiding too many exclamation marks and capital letters.
  • Listing/numbering ideas.
  • Getting straight to the point for official communications.

Managing Stress and Anxiety Related to Digital Communication

Here are a few ways teenagers can manage the stress and anxiety related to digital communication:

Going on a Digital Detox

The simplest definition of a digital detox is a period of intentionally reducing the time spent online. It can take a day, a week, or longer. Teenagers who find it hard to go on a digital detox should consider turning off their notifications or sleeping with the phone placed in another room.

Auditing and Curating Social Media Feeds

Teenagers should consider hiding or unfollowing social media content or handles that make them feel bad about themselves and instead follow wholesome content. Minimizing the negative and maximizing the positive can help reduce depression and anxiety levels. 

Setting Clear Smartphone Usage Boundaries

Encourage your teenage son or daughter to be mindful and present regarding their smartphone usage, which may mean no phone during dinner, airplane or silent mode when meeting friends, and no texting during certain durations.


Raising teenagers can be a challenging but rewarding experience. You have to understand that adolescence is a crucial developmental stage marked by experimentation and mistakes; therefore, teenagers need regular guidance, especially in today’s digital world. Instead of thinking of the appropriate punishment, encourage authenticity, foster open communication, champion self-awareness, and promote digital literacy if you notice overstatements in your child’s digital communication. Remember, teenagers need support, not ridicule. Contact us if you need additional support to help your teenager break out of their online exaggeration habit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Those prone to exaggerating their lives, achievements, and events online generally use hyperbolic language, make contradictory statements, overstate facts and statistics, leave out specific details, and make unverifiable or unrealistic claims.

Teenagers can build authenticity and trust in their digital communication by being honest and transparent, actively listening and empathizing with others, respecting other people’s perspectives, observing digital etiquette, and taking responsibility for their words and actions.

Common strategies that people can use to adapt their digital communication styles for different audiences include observing etiquette, practicing empathy and active listening, using proper language, acknowledging other people’s perspectives, and being adaptable.

The following opinions and beliefs about digital communication may not be accurate:

  • Digital communication is less appealing than physical (in-person) communication.
  • Digital communication guarantees an immediate response.
  • Digital communication is less formal than in-person communication.
  • Digital communication lacks a personal touch.
  • Digital communication is 100% reliable.

Those engaging in digital communication should have the following ethical considerations in mind: respecting other people’s privacy, upholding honesty and authenticity, avoiding cyberbullying and harassment, and using respectful language.

Teenagers can improve empathy in digital communication by acknowledging and validating other people’s emotions, practicing active listening, using empathetic language, and reflecting and learning from digital communication experiences.

Teenagers can set digital communication boundaries by turning off notifications, prioritizing self-care (taking regular online breaks to focus on emotional and mental well-being), being firm and assertive, using features such as ‘Do Not Disturb’ and messages auto-reply, and practicing self-discipline.