Enter the humble brag – or *humble brag* <enter>, as it were.
Remember when we were taught not to be boastful? Well, today social media is training us not to be caught being boastful.
Back in 2010, comic writer Harris Wittels coined the term humble brag, which describes an attempt to crow about oneself whilst casually presenting it under a veil of false humility.
As a national columnist, who has the opportunity to attend fun events and receive cool perks, I am certainly a repeat offender on this front. (See what I did there?)
Seriously?! My hair is curly as f***, I’m wearing a giant sweatshirt, pants, uggs, sunglasses & no makeup & still get honked ml hollered at [sic]
Just gave 100 dollars to the homeless man I see every day here in Vancouver. Irrational kindness does feel really really good [sic]
Ugh. Can’t believe tomorrow’s my birthday.
(To be fair, that last one is more of a pre-Facebook reminder to send that person a generic birthday wish than it is an actual humble brag; however, it does share the same plane of ego.)
From newspaper articles, to hashtags, to books devoted to this self-effacing, self-aggrandizing art, it seems we are becoming more and more annoyed with the humble brag. But, like the oxymoron itself, the annoyance is oxymoronically tempered by a certain delight in it.
The better you look to others, the more others want to look better, the more you have to look better, and so on.
Objects in the Facebook profile may appear closer to the truth than they are.
In a time when keeping up with the Joneses has become keeping up with the @Joneses, keeping up with the humble brag has become prolific.
In a recent blog post, Joe Ginese rants about this epidemic and begs people to “knock it off.”
“It is a complex aspect of having a digital identity, isn’t it? You don’t want to get a reputation for bragging about what you’ve accomplished lately, but you also want to let people know something you are proud of,” writes Ginese.
“Chances are if you feel the need to put humble brag in front of something or at the end of the something, you are already doing something that is above and beyond what is expected.”
The post goes on to explain how to avoid falling into this trap of modest gloating, noting that one step is to drop the “humble” from your brag.
Still, is it really any less of a humble brag if we don’t identify it as such?
If I don’t say that I’m 5-feet-short, does that really make me any taller?
Humble brags have become so insidious that we don’t even need to use the #humblebrag disclaimer anymore – often because we probably just don’t realize we’re humble-bragging.
It’s hard to sift through a Twitter feed and not trip on names that have been dropped, but naturally your fall is cushioned by how the drop was couched.
And how many times has a friend posted a picture framed in self-deprecation, while cloaked in self-admiration?
Post: “This is a terrible picture of me.”
Translation: “I only posted this picture because I think it looks good. Now please 'Like' me and I'll 'Like' yours.”
Likes, friends, follows, comments, shares – they all add to our net worth and indubitably self-worth too.
So, it’s also not surprising that sites such as Klout and PeerIndex, which – dubiously – measure online influence and translate it to offline benefits, have capitalized on this. Even Forbes has asked if 2013 will be the year of loyalty programs, as brands surreptitiously train consumers to boast products on the brand’s behalf in exchange for tangible rewards.
How many humble brags does it cost to get something? Well that just depends what you’re looking to get.
When you reward someone for doing something you are reinforcing that behaviour (or e-haviour).
And in this world of social media and instant gratification, there is great reward to be found in the humble brag … if I do say so myself.