Social Media #Bragging: The Science of Ego

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Posing for a cover shoot is scary..." That's the beginning of a tweet by Katie Couric, and it's a perfect example of a new subsection of social media. It's called a "humble brag." You know, telling people why your life is so hard, while subtly reminding us why your life is so sweet.

Looking for a political brag? Try Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush:

"They just announced my flight at LaGuardia is number 15 for takeoff.  I miss Air Force One!!"

But celebrities aren't the only ones doing it.

Here's @DrBryanC"Today, a patient asked me if I go to the gym. So awkward when that happens. We're not here about me. We're here about you."

Elizabeth Bernstein is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and she's wondering when we became so rude.


Elizabeth Bernstein, Joe Hernandez and Brad Mielke

Comments [14]

Faith MCKinney from Indianapolis

Ok, I'm a braggart, I admit it! I'm up to 3107 pics on Facebook and most of them are of my "Big Head"!!!

Aug. 19 2012 09:50 AM

Zach J.: what a silly comment! Just because the less remarkable attributes of a person are highlighted (and/or encouraged) by a tool such as FB doesn't mean one should opt for the scorched-earth response of divorce. No; one simply notices what is going on, and then, when invited to weigh in on whether FB is turning people into braggarts, one does so, at the same time offering additional information about what else FB elicits from at least one of its users (and I'd bet, bazillions of others worldwide). Understand now?

Aug. 18 2012 11:13 AM
Zach J. from NYC

Larry: That's hilarious!!

Jen from Miami: Get a divorce already!

Aug. 17 2012 04:01 PM
Seldom shares from NYC

for an interesting documentation of our cultures me-centric drive, check out

Aug. 17 2012 03:40 PM

I love when you see idiots posting on facebook about being on a FABULOUS vacation....while they are still there! Recently where I live there were a group of local thieves who hacked accounts of people who had public status posts and were out of town. Found the addresses and robbed the homes. People don't think about the consequences of over-sharing!

Aug. 17 2012 02:40 PM
Chelle from Portland, OR

When I post on Facebook, I try to consider what is worth saying about the day, which often does end up being the more positive things. Is that bad? This may be the only avenue in our (American) society where it's allowable to share the good things, which counteracts many years' worth of negative news media that came before the invention of socail media. I do know some people who love to complain as well, and they can be accused of "needing attention". Let's remember this is all self-directed interaction-- you can choose to not respond, not read others' posts, "unfriend" people, or simply not log onto Facebook very often.

I think at its best, social media is a way to share our experiences, good and bad. At its worst, it creates the illusion of connection and contributes to the loss of our social skills and basic manners in person.

Aug. 17 2012 01:45 PM
jen from miami

I have to leave a comment here because I refuse to become a sheep and get a FB account. However, my husband has one--and, yes, he tells his "friends" (people he never sees in person!) what he is doing (as though anyone cares) and he likes to project an especially positive image of himself, never admitting the negative things I see on a daily basis (bad moods, neediness, inconsiderate behavior towards others, downright anti-social behavior resulting from mismanaged stress). In other words, what people project about themselves on FB is simply not the full story, and anyone who believes that what they are projecting is being believed (or even welcomed) is so self-delusional as to be emotionally stunted. Avoid them at all costs, including not marrying them in the first place!!!

Aug. 17 2012 01:32 PM
anna from new york

What you consider "sharing" is probably most of the time self promotion. The fact that you don't understand that doesn't change the fact.
There is at least one generation raised on "strategic planning" "team working" "positivity/negativity," etc.
Yes, it looks like most of "social media" activists or just participants are corporately shaped zombies, marching ... as ordered.

Aug. 17 2012 01:01 PM
Jude from Boston

your guest's description of the 'perfection milieu' of social media sounded very much like a description of depictions of American life in 1950's media. Perhaps social media is simply at a similar stage, and will continue to evolve into a more realistic reflection of modern experience.

Aug. 17 2012 11:50 AM

I think being on Facebook is just fun...I love sharing and reading what my friends post..good and bad status updates. No one is forcing anyone to read what they are not interested in.

Aug. 17 2012 11:50 AM
Ann from Belmont, MA

I was literally about to post photos on Facebook of my two new gorgeous chairs that just arrived when I heard this story. I really want to share my excitement with friends, but now I feel I might be bragging. Should I post something depressing first? I did just chip a nail.

Aug. 17 2012 11:41 AM
cdbwa from Seattle, WA

The disturbing thing about this story is the implication that you are responsible for how everybody else feels about what you post on social media. Really? If folks choose to feel bad about themselves because you have a good day, that is their choice, not your responsibility. If folks think you are shallow and vapid in your posts do they need to continue reading your posts? The idea that you can't control what you take in and how you feel about it is nonsense.

Aug. 17 2012 11:39 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My friends and I like to boast and brag about our low self esteem... Yesterday, I irritated people by discussing how I accidentally sprayed myself in the eyes with bug spray, and I couldn't read the caution label on the can, because I couldn't see...

I also began a discussion about whether or not squirrels pick their teeth, you know because they have nuts stuck there...

Ironically, I never need love from my friends and loved ones. On the contrary it is the Facebook friends I have never met that I need attention and adulation from...

Go check out my wall, become my friend... If you need me to write low self esteem comic updates for you, um... how about seven bucks an update... Come on, seven bucks... how's that for low self esteem.

We need people who just went to the gym or ate sushi to post that, cause we need to know where they are, every minute, so that if they go missing we can follow their trail

Aug. 17 2012 08:46 AM
anna from new york

She is right, but she presented it in a shallow way. She forgot to mentioned, for example, that people brag between their shrink sessions and cocaine injections (? the right word). She didn't notice the connection between eternal American Carnegianism (Dale)/salesmanship and this bragging and between shallowness/insecurity and this bragging.
Normal people with strong identity (away from/in opposition to constant Carnegian sale, sale, sale promotion) don't spend their days selling themselves.

Aug. 17 2012 06:51 AM

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