We brag, humbly or otherwise, because the feeling of being valued and important generated from our boasting is a comfort many of us cannot live without. In fact, a recent paper written by two Harvard neuroscientists equated the feeling we get from bragging to the same kind of pleasure we get from food and even sex. The recognition we receive when others like or comment positively on our online posts has also contributed to the creation of the humblebrag, because the praise received in the virtual world has led to an abandonment of bragging in the real world, where recognition is harder to come by. Bragging can, however, be a tricky business in the virtual world because we are not afforded the benefit of an eye-roll or face-to-face interaction to indicate a behavioural change, like in the real world.
There is definitely a time and place for humblebragging, or even full-on bragging, such as at family gatherings or behind closed doors at home, but social media is not it. If you are able to recognise the essence of some of your posts from the list below, perhaps it’s time to reassess your behaviour on social media.
The sympathy vote hunter
This brag tries to be subtle and innocent, but is completely transparent to readers on their newsfeed. A post of this nature attempts to generate curiosity about an alleged stressful event in the hopes that others will enquire about the event, and the poster will be granted the perfect excuse to explain the amazing future plan that is making them so anxious. Keywords to look out for in a post of this nature include “stressed”, “pressure” and an array of different sad emoticons. An example would be: “Ughh, so stressed!”
This is the most explicit and straightforward type of brag, which is often deliberately understated or underplayed. The keyword to look for in instances like this is “casual”, for example: “Just took a selfie with the entire Springbok team. Casual.” The emphasis on the word “casual” is a smokescreen used in vain to disguise a perfectly normal brag, which is a clear humblebrag on social media.
The complaint method of humblebragging uses the innuendo created by the complainer that certain brag-worthy things occur regularly to them. The keyword to look for in these instances is “again”, which implies the regularity of the poster’s supposed misfortune. A prime example would be: “Mauritian border control stopped and searched me again. Have got to stop wearing hoodies on flights.”
The poser combines elements from the complainer and sympathy voter, but utilises pictures to get their brag across on the grounds of appearance. A typical post would be: “What a night! Barely slept a wink thanks to all the noise outside,” [insert flawless, well-lit selfie in bed here].
A question on social media can be an easy way to brag about something under the guise of wholesomeness and unfamiliarity. The question posed will usually seek very specific advice from a small percentage of a friend list, but will subject the entire list to solicitation in order to share a brag. These questions usually look as follows: “Hey, lawyer friends. I have received offers from three international universities, which should I pick?”
This practice on social media also discredits your online credibility, which leads to your followers being disinterested and feeling resentful.
Manufacturing modesty on social media is also dishonest, which is why many people feel as if they are having an allergic reaction when they scroll down a newsfeed.
Photo: Charlotte Bastiaanse