“My Emails Send So Slowly From Cannes!” – Social Media and the Art of Humblebragging

The New York Times last week ran an so-real-it-hurts article on “Humblebragging“, examining how self-aggrandizing […]

Will McDavid / 12.5.12

The New York Times last week ran an so-real-it-hurts article on “Humblebragging“, examining how self-aggrandizing ‘modesty’ has worked its way into social media. With hilarious examples like the misfortunes of using the Internet in Cannes or complaining about how much men ‘hit on me when I’m in sweatpants’, the piece is almost a textbook on how to humblebrag yourself, ht TB:

SOMETIMES when I crave a powerful dose of humility — the kind of humility that can come only from fully apprehending the lot of those less fortunate than me — I turn my attention to the plight of the former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. He experiences an exquisite kind of pain. As he lamented on Twitter earlier this year:“They just announced my flight at LaGuardia is number 15 for takeoff. I miss Air Force One!!”

There’s nothing new about false modesty, nor its designation as a form of bad manners. But the prevalence of social media has given us many more canvases on which to paint our faux humility — making us, in turn, increasingly sophisticated braggers.

Whatever its causes or context, humblebragging is a testament to the amount of ardor and subterfuge people bring to the craft of self-promotion. The varieties of humblebragging represent a breadth of motive and technique. Most humblebrags are attempts to convey one of three messages: “I have too much work”; “I am an idiot/impostor”; or “I have firsthand knowledge of the gritty gilt to be found inside the gilded cage.”

This last paragraph is particularly insightful – being ‘crazy busy’, being a deep/self-aware enough person to call oneself out as an imposter, or publicly lamenting a bad situation to emphasize how fortunate you really are are all common techniques. Like a lot of trends in human life, social media doesn’t create humblebragging. At its best, however, it brings out these simultaneously sad and funny trends of human nature into the public light, where they can be compiled and lampooned by an article like this one.

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