Every Time Someone Tells Me They Like My Posts I Think of the Poor Homeless Children Who Can’t Read

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”: 

“Why do men hit on me more when I’m in sweat pants?”

“I obsess over the welfare of old people & animals on hot days like today. OBSESS #thereissomethingwrongwithme”

“Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport from the flashes of the cameras… Go me”

“My emails send so slowly over here in Cannes! So frustrated!”

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


  1. Examples of your own experiences with the humblebrag are especially encouraged.

  2. Alas! My FB friends find my updates too amusing and life-altering for me to engage in humblebragging.

  3. Funny, I just got done reading this comic.

  4. When I talked with Elder John Groberg (General Authority Emeritus) at my grandmother’s funeral last year, he advised me to avoid dropping the names of famous people in casual conversation, even if they’re married to your first cousin once-removed.

  5. Lorin, your comment is full of hopefully intentional win.

  6. 5. I’m far too humble to attempt something as brazen as that. The top people in my industry can vouch for that.

  7. Ron Madson says:

    Everyday I struggle to find the balance between hypocritical humility and honest arrogance.

  8. The only thing better than the humblebrag is the unintentionally ironic humblebrag, when the little factoid you drop in your allegedly self-deprecating comment is not awesome:

    “Today I like totally forgot what I ate at my #OliveGarden lunch with #JacobBaker when I was telling #ScottBosworth about it. #myfriendsrule”

  9. The ones that drive me the craziest (not my own, of course), are about parenting–but are really, “I’m an awesome parent and everyone should do it like me…”

  10. “I’m far too humble to attempt something as brazen as that.”

    Change that to “far too MODEST to attempt something so brazen.” My good friend Mike Rowe (“Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe”) was just telling me over the phone that I’m too modest for my own good.

  11. Ok MMiles, you’re an awesome parent, we get it.

  12. I could probably give a better example of humblebrag, but I’m so caught up in all the Lacan and Barthes they are making me read in my 400 level SuperGenius class.

  13. Oh, I HATED when I had to read Lacan and Barthes (and FOUCAULT and DERRIDA) back when I did my special directed reading course as a Harvard undergrad.

  14. Srsly. And integrating Hegel with Joyce and Pessoa for the final paper is the worst, I can promise you.

  15. Of course, I didn’t get accepted to Harvard, but it is good to be here at the the University of State where I can learn about the lives of ordinary people.

  16. Don’t forget the person who is hyper-attuned to seeing humblebrags everywhere: “nice someone parked in the circle and is blocking part of our driveway!!!! really people really?!?!”

    Ok, you have a driveway, WE GET IT.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    I wish all of these hot young women who have been following me around would just leave me alone already. Don’t they know that I’m old enough to be their father? #daddyissues

  18. I was going to leave a longer comment, but it’s hard to see my computer screen with the beautiful winter’s sun pouring through my window in Rexburg, Idaho.

  19. That’s like name-dropping William Hung in a failed attempt to humblebrag.

  20. I’m just glad none of these comments are multiple paragraphs. Reading these are a refreshing breeze. #nohotair

  21. I’ve read the post and the comments, and I can’t seem to figure out what humble-brag is exactly. Maybe it’s because I just have an innate ability to see the good in people.

  22. I’m grateful that God trusted me enough to raise generals in the War in Heaven. I understand how Mary felt when she kept those things and pondered them in her heart. The Lord was my co-pilot as I walked along the beach of life, carrying me when it got too hard to bear alone, bound by my diligent obedience to every commandment – especially when we opened our modest home to six sets of missionaries, simultaneously, and allowed them to live in our spare bedrooms . I don’t deserve to be blessed with twelve children who all served missions and married in the temple, but I am humbled, deeply, that I will be able to stand at the judgment bar and know that my family set an example that was responsible for thousands of people embracing the Gospel and gaining exaltation.

  23. jimbob, I will call the College President with whom I’m scheduled to meet this afternoon and clear up time on my calendar to explain the nuances of humble-bragging to you. She understands my busy schedule and won’t mind – or think it’s beneath me. She’s as down-to-earth as I am.

  24. You know who perfected this? Tamsin. We’re super good friends irl, I wish y’all could meet her because she like totally the funnest friend ever.

  25. When you brag about something nobody in their right mind would want I like to call it a bumblebrag.

  26. Awesome.

  27. Bumblebrag:

    “So many projects but I guess I can squeeze in that invite from *Daniel Peterson* to write a blog post forThe Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.”

  28. It was really nice of Elder Holland to arrange his schedule to talk at my dad’s funeral, but I must confess I still feel a bit awkward when he sends me emails signed “Jeff.”

  29. Another version of this would be loudly complaining in the grocery checkout line to whoever has even a tenuous reason to listen about how terrible your troubles with your ex-husband, your finances, your teenager, your bad knee, your… whatever all are.

  30. It’s really hard trying to figure out why in the latest edition of モルモン書 they changed the word for prophet from 預言者 to 予言者. Can anybody out there help me, please? Before I leave for Kyoto, if you can.

  31. lol

  32. I gave up Facebook for Lent. I give up soda every year so it is hardly a real challenge anymore so now I give up soda and something else every year. In the past 8 days sans Facebook I have gotten more schoolwork done than the last 2 semesters combined. It isn’t that I am addicted to Facebook, it is just that I am nosy and I like to see my (fake) name in print.

    I am a veritable master of the humblebrag. Almost everything is a joke to me, especially myself, and so I can get away with saying some pretty outrageous things. My brags usually have to do with how awesome I am or how smart I am or how great I look or of course my hair. I don’t usually talk about all the great things I am doing because you know, I don’t want people to feel bad about themselves.

  33. We ended up deciding that a redacted, heavily edited, and anonymized version of our exchange would make for interesting blog fodder.

  34. #33 FTW !

  35. I can’t think of anything any of you would understand.

  36. 28 is not only a perfect humblebrag, but simultaneously begs for sympathy. *slow clap*

  37. SUPER busy you guys, but keep up the awesome commenting

  38. Some people are so proud that they display false humility.

    I have the opposite problem. I’m so humble that I display false pride, just so people don’t know it.

  39. I once knew someone who was more humble than me, but than he started bragging about it…

  40. When I was the AP/zone/district leader on my mission . . . [insert any mission story that has nothing to do with you being AP/zone/district leader].

  41. The following is a true story:

    One time, on my mission, the members of my mission district were discussing their patriarchal blessings. Of the four of us, each had bragged about some promise made or implied in their blessing except for me. They asked me about mine. I answered, “It’s really no big deal. It’s pretty typical, actually. It says that if I keep the commandments, I’ll go on a mission, serve in the church, get married, have a lot of kids, lie dead for two days in the streets of Jerusalem, that sort of stuff.” The district was silent for about a minute before they realized the power of that humblebrag.

    I’d tell other mission stories, too, but I’m afraid the public nature of this setting prevents me.

  42. In between episodes of Rocky and Bullwinckle there used to be a cartoon where an old gentleman would spin fantastical yarns, always ending with the line “No brag. Just fact.” Just sayin’…

  43. As we went home from our missions, our mission president would give us a blessing and would tell us we’d go on to be a great general authority, stake president, bishop, Elder’s Quorum President, or whatever. Bragging rights obviously followed, at least for some.

    My mission president didn’t have a lot of faith in me, or else he knew I was destined for an early death. I’m certain I’m the only one he blessed that was called to the specified calling while still in my 20’s.

  44. “I really hope all these 19-year old sister missionaries understand how tough missions are.” – actual tweet in my feed a couple weeks ago from an RM-dude.

  45. I don’t think 44 is a humblebrag. It reads more like d-baggery.

  46. I never do this. I just act like an unapologetic conceited asshole all the time. Of course, it’s just an act. OR IS IT??????

  47. “It’s hard for me to watch American Idol, ’cause I have perfect pitch.” – Jenna Maroney

  48. These have been fun. But I don’t have time to follow along anymore…I just found out tonight that I have to spend the next day or two thinking about (agonizing over!) who is supposed to be called as counselors in the bishopric.

  49. I tried. I failed. My Facebook wall was littered with so many humble brags. I give up. It was annoying and exhausting to see how I’m seriously so blessed. #sorryiamsolame

  50. “Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

    “And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?”

    “The indirect boast; — for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing any thing with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved on quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself…”

  51. Similarly, my SIL once insulted me while setting herself up as being oh so sweet. I was very pregnant and several of my in-laws came to stay while traveling to a family reunion. She said, “Oh. I was so worried that you would wear yourself out cleaning and getting ready for all of us. I am so glad that you didn’t.” What!! Things were plenty clean and dh and I had worked hard but the comment was horrible either way.

  52. # 50 for the biggest amount of win ever. I am all swoony. Who doesn’t love some Pride & Prejudice?

  53. EOR, it’s pretty much my favorite novel. 200 years ago, there was Jane, skewering the humblebrag.

  54. From my nephew on Facebook today: “18 game hit streak ended today, but get to enjoy an SVU record for a little while, was a fun run.”

  55. Hit Streak Qustioner says:

    Tracey, what type of Law & Order record does your nephew hold at Southern Virgins University?

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