Admit it. You’ve done this, too. Likely multiple times. I know I have. Just off the top of my head I can vaguely remember posting on Facebook a couple years ago that the program for a conference I was presenting a paper at–in Krakow, Poland–was just dreadfully long, and I would be presenting at the middle or the end on the third day, and how was I going to sufficiently explore this amazing city, oh my heart. I’m so depressed I’m going to go stuff myself full of that delicious kiszka ziemniaczana. (Did you know that you can only find it here, in Poland? What’s the deal with that, right?)
Some examples from those who have perfected the art of the “humblebrag”:
Henry Alford, author of the NY Times article in which these self-deprecatory tweets of precision false modesty appear notes that there is at least one of three messages being conveyed by the humblebrag:
“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.”
It seems, of course, that there is some deep-seated insecurity embedded in announcements laced with false modesty, and all forms of social media seem engineered almost entirely for the purpose of being the most adequate vehicle for this anxious sanctimoniousness. It’s a dilemma, right? How do I say to people that that my proposal to the board was a complete success, little Susie debuts as the star in the school play, my book manuscript is almost complete, and my vacation in Fiji is right around the corner without sounding jaw-droppingly conceited? Simple. Like this:
“Nervous, but proposal to company board seemed to go pretty well, got Susie’s play tonight (I think she rather does sound like Maria von Trapp if you ask me!), and then the finishing touches on the last chapter before it’s time to pack for the islands. Phew! Not enough hours in the day! #hatepacking”
Alford says that when we encounter humblebragging we normally respond by no longer following or defriending the “culprit,” but I’m suspicious of how true that is. Humblebragging can only survive within a symbiotic relationship; if people weren’t liking or retweeting or positively commenting on those self-deprecating status updates, there wouldn’t be sufficient social capital to post them.
Still, they’re bothersome. Our social media experience is inundated with humblebragging, and I suspect that the semi-recent phenomenon of giving up Facebook for Lent every year is partly due to this inundation. I also suspect, though, that we see ourselves often enough as the guilty party here (if there’s really any guilt associated with this) that we want to be free, just for a while, of the icky burdens of our own soft egomania.
Ugh, I hate having to cut a post short, but Colbert will NOT stop calling me about co-authoring his next “book.” #getalifeColbert