I‘m sure you need no introduction to humble bragging, seeing how it’s something we really do on a daily basis, from how you so courteously talk about the pretty girl who asked for your number the other day, to how you carelessly winked at the cookhouse auntie and got way more chicken than you asked for.
Yeah, that. Humble bragging at its finest, if I may say so. Especially the chicken part.
But what exactly defines humble bragging? And why do we do it? Is it really more modest than outright bragging, as we were led to believe?
If you find yourself wondering those questions whenever you find your friend Edwin not so subtly humble bragging on his Facebook profile… this list is for you.
We’ve also done a video about humble bragging lest you didn’t know what it is. Watch it and you’ll go, “Oh shit, I’ve done it before.”
Now, back to the topic: here are eight facts about online humble bragging.
Note: do take it with a grain of salt. And sugar for that matter.
1. Humble-bragging, & why we do it
If you’ve ever bragged before, whether it’s about your new car, new wife or new research material, you would know that it feels good. Really good.
And indeed, according to a paper published in 2012 by two Harvard neuroscientists, talking about ourselves actually gives us the same kind of pleasure we derive from sex or food. And that, lest you’re unaware, supposedly feels really good (?)
But here’s the thing: nobody likes a braggart, regardless of whether you scored a hat trick in your local Sunday League Football club, scored a 100 in your Maths test or even took a selfie with the president of the United States.
It’s just ingrained in human personalities: we aren’t inclined to like people who are like walking advertisements of themselves. We see enough of that on TV, thanks.
As a result, the art of humble bragging was formed (no thanks to the survival instincts of braggarts). By downplaying your great feat under the ‘pretense’ of humility or self-deprecating humour, you’re essentially bragging but also not quite bragging, if you catch my drift. And yes, that uncertainty is what would be termed as ‘humble bragging’.
Incidentally, my colleagues for some strange reason found that explanation mysteriously philosophical, even though I had serious doubts about it…
2. Examples of not so humble bragging
So, what are some examples of humble bragging, apart from the one I slotted in like a ninja in the last point? Well, if you’ve yet to be exposed to the dark lies of the humble bragging world, here’re some online renditions to get you all worked up.
“Awww, look at all these gifts! My baby surprised me with Ladurée macarons and my favorite red roses for our second monthsary. #sweetestboyfriendever”
*Posts a perfectly aesthetic picture of oneself with perfect lighting and perfect makeup and totally NOT fat cheeks* “My cheeks are so fat. #FML”
“My friend asked me to have dinner at this new fancy restaurant in Burgos Circle and I just couldn’t say no. Gosh, it totally put my 7-day detox plan to waste!”
“This Tokyo trip is starting to get boring. Been here so many times already and there’s nothing much left to see. Ugh, I knew I should’ve just spent the summer at The Hamptons!”
And last but not least, we have arguably the most tilting expression of all (especially to the working bees out there):
“I’m so swamped with work right now that I had to miss the Maroon 5 concert last night. Incredibly stressed with this big presentation I need to prepare for! #withgreatpowercomesgreatresponsibility”
Goddammit, stop tweeting if you’re so busy with work. That’s why you’re swamped with work in the first place you piece of ****.
Yeah, it gets pretty tilting, if you aren’t already.
By the way, do you notice that I won’t even need to tell you what they’re bragging about? ‘Coz the brags, just like their facts, can be smelled miles away. We just prefer not to disclose it.
3. It could actually be more irritating than outright bragging
But here’s something:
Humble-bragging, online in particular, might actually be more, even more, irritating than outright bragging. How?
Well, meet social cues.
So when you’re bragging in public, you would at least be afforded the luxury of social cues that people tend to give us, like a disengaged look, or an eye roll, to tell us ‘Oh, time to switch things up or my perfect image’s gonna get shattered’.
But see, online doesn’t quite work that way.
On the net, there’s no social interaction, no social cues to warn us that we’re over-stepping boundaries with our bragging. As such, we may, either consciously or subconsciously, try to neutralise our statements with a self-deprecating comment or disclaimer so that we won’t come off as egocentric, and also in the hopes that social networking friends wouldn’t detect the brag (guilty).
What’s more; being nervous creatures who worry about how we’ll be perceived by the public, the action of including something that’s a little less than positive can actually relax our nerves.
Little wonder why it’s such an uphill task to NOT include that depressing bit, when you would think it’s the opposite, huh?
4. More importantly, why do people hate it?
In this aspect, social media expert Karen North. Ph.D director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California, has a pretty keen observation to make:
“Humblebragging is disingenuous. It’s manufactured modesty as a guise for overt bragging.”
And surprise surprise, it’s this particular bit of dishonesty that tilts people. But why, you ask. Well, see, a humble-bragging post, like two repelling magnets, is made up of two opposing natures.
As a result, you, the reader, are basically being asked to go in two directions at once, reaction wise. And let’s face it; nobody likes feeling that way. Would you like being pulled by a rope from opposing sides? I doubt so.
5. How to be a good bragger
Now, humble-bragging could actually hurt your reputation inside an online community, seeing how too much of it would lead people to figure you out.
As someone lacking authenticity in social commentaries, that is.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you have to stop bragging to your guild mates or whatnot, seeing how that’s a virtually impossible task for most, and I would consider it a feat harder to do than destroying half the universe with a glove. Instead, like how you ace your presentation with hardly any preparations, you just have to kind of tweak your bragging routine such that it’s not just acceptable, but even welcome.
But how, you wonder. Well unbelievable as it sounds, sometimes you just gotta be honest about it.
Yeah, sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Honesty and bragging in the same sentence? Please. But incredibly, it’s precisely what it is. Or at least part of it.
So with the first part, honesty, being done and dusted, it’s time for the second one: giving thought to the language you’re using.
Say you utter something positive. Stick to it. Resist any urge to negate it in some way, because that’s exactly what ticks people off. Not your positive comment, but the negative remark at the end.
To exemplify, let me just give two examples, one just bragging and one with a tint of humility in it.
Boss giving me so much work ‘coz I’m just too damn good as clients keep asking for me 😀
Alright, that’s societal bragging as we know and recognise. Let’s move onto the other one, shall we?
9:00 p.m., still in the office. Just because many clients like my work, does boss have to give me so much work?
Did you feel something tugging you from both ends? Yeah, that’s humble-bragging alright.
Comparison: After going through both examples, you would probably have realised;
The first one sounds normal, sincere even. On the other hand, the second one just seems to sound… pretentious.
Which is an aspect people don’t exactly take kindly to. And also why you shouldn’t try it.
6. And some more pointers
Always boast wisely, in the sense that the bragging part constitutes just a minute percentage of whatever you’re posting, and not the whole chunk of it. This is so that when something great really does happen, you would have no need to underplay it. Isn’t that bragging at its finest?
Also, know who you’re talking to, and what they’ve been up to, because it might affect your whole bragging ritual. Let’s say a close friend of yours just lost his job. In that case, posting about your sleek new job might not be the best idea unless you want this reaction.
So apply more sensitivity in your posts. and it’s bound to work out for the better.
7. Take reference
If you’re still struggling in the divine arts of bragging, here’s a tip straight out of our primary school days:
Search through a series of friends’ posts you like, and dislike. Analyse both. Why do you like that post, but dislike this one? And vice-versa. Go through what makes you tick, and what makes you irate. Then apply same skills in your own post and voila;
You’ve crafted the perfect bragging material.
8. It’s Everywhere
Some people will never stop humble-bragging, just like how certain footballers will never cease to flaunt their diving skills on the pitch. And while some might tick us off, some might also make us laugh our asses off. So enjoy the process and spot the culprits while you’re at it.
Just remember this: 70% of people can recall a humble brag immediately. Do it once and people most likely will save your middle name as Humble, and last name as Brag.
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