As we all know, a social network, Path is closing down for good. It used to be one of Facebook’s rivals which also a pioneer in online stickers. High social media penetration in Southeast Asia leads the used-to-be Path users across the region to revisit Path and scrolling all the way down their feeds to reminisce their old posts during the victory of Path for the last time.
Some of the users tried to screenshot what they consider as best moments recorded on their Path and re-sharing them on other social media such as Instagram and Facebook. If you dare, can you trace and count how many posts you have there, which reflect straight up brags? How many times did you post photos or captions with the intention to brag?
Nowadays, social media is undeniably used to show off our achievements or moments so people would see that we are doing fine enough. When talking about bragging, we can use a broader context, not only on social media but also in real life. But it is, social media enables us to do it more efficiently. Just a little touch and a click away, then the world knows what you are doing.
People dislike individuals who brag; it is not rocket science. However, we all tend to brag now and then. Thus, to gain a social ‘permission’ and to avoid being labelled as a braggart, we do it in a softer way, called humblebragging.
Humblebrag is an act of telling other that you are great but by downplaying the message under the guise of humility. You are probably familiar with online captions similar to:
“Oh, just found a red pimple on my cheeks for the first time in my life!”, the real message is to tell people that she or he has clear skin and far for problematic skin conditions, or “I don’t know that I’m famous as I got confused when people asked to take a picture with me after the show”, you know they honestly tried to imply that they are quite well known, or
“Trapped in traffic! Crap!”, but instead of taking a photo of the actual traffic, they chose to show off a picture of their steering wheel with the car company logo of Audi on it.
You know, they all hide the messages while you know the hidden agenda. They—or we—have a certain intention of presenting ourselves as humble and modest individuals yet at the same time want to be recognized for what we have achieved and had—including our physical attributes.
The very first scientific study of the humblebragging phenomenon was done in 2015 by Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino, and Michael Norton, all from Harvard Business School. The study found that people, when seeking respect, tend to brag; while we seek sympathy, we would complain instead of brag. Humblebragging the combination of this two, meaning that people do it to gain admiration and sympathy at the same time.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Sezer, one of the authors, people want others to acknowledge their positive qualities but also do not want to be recognized as being narcissist arrogant. Therefore, by combining both complaint and hidden brag, we hope that we can safely display our good self-presentation.
Why we humblebrag on social media? Logically, if we do it in real life, during face-to-face interactions with others, we may afraid to see their bitter reactions—rolling eyes, harsh responses, pretend they do not listen to you—while on social media where everyone is virtually watching us, we can avoid to see those not-so-good feedbacks from others as if we have a total freedom to boast whatever we want people to see from us.
Truth hurts. Deep down inside we can quickly know who humblebrags and who sincerely announces their achievements. Realizing this fact, a social media strategist Ekaterina Walter advised social media users to brag wisely on social media, where bragging-related posts should only take up to one minute percentage of the total posts.
So that, next time we want to share something great of ourselves, we do not need to underplay it. She is not saying that we should stop bragging for good, but the fact is, people, love sincerity. And by humblebragging, people will see us as being dishonest about our true intention. This pattern of thinking leads people into liking a regular braggart than those who love to humblebrag.
Next time you want to earnestly share your happiness and achievements on social media, do not forget to give thought to the language and terms you would choose, and be positive! You can say “I feel blessed and thankful for getting promoted in my office!”, instead of “I have been feeling unmotivated these past months but finally got promoted!”, who knows some friends who read that would sincerely congratulate you and ask you to celebrate your accomplishment with them?