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In the aftermath of the holiday season and with the start of a new year, there’s a good chance that your social media feeds are full of people “humble bragging.” The term was coined by a writer on Parks and Recreation, Harris Wittels, and it describes a way to brag about your life and accomplishments in a covert way that allows you to avoid shame or guilt. “I’ve lost so much weight none of my clothes fit anymore!” “I hate when a restaurant can’t break my $100 bill.” What are humble brags on social media hiding, and what are you getting out of posting on social media?

Why Do We Humble Brag?

Many people are uncomfortable sharing their successes, and use humble bragging as a way to still show off their accomplishments without feeling the same shame as they would for explicitly stating what occurred. Another study found that people use humble bragging when posting on social media to try to impress other people. By making ourselves seem better or more accomplished in a subtle way, we hope to have other people we admire respect us and think of us positively.

How Do Others Perceive It When Posting on Social Media?

According to the same study linked above, many people perceive humble bragging as worse than flat out bragging or complaining. While you might think coating your accomplishment in a complaint makes you seem humble, it actually makes people react more harshly than they ordinarily would. A loss of authenticity or sincerity can come with serious negative social consequences, so what can we do about humble bragging?

Moving Past Humble Bragging

Humble bragging affects and bothers different people on different levels. Obviously, people who have struggled with a certain issue in the past are more likely to have their feelings hurt or be rubbed the wrong way. For example, your post on there not being change for a $100 bill at the gas station could bother your friend who has struggled juggling two jobs to pay the bills more than your friend who is a lawyer. When thinking about whether or not you should share something on social media, think about your emotional triggers and those of the people who surround you.

Recognizing the things you are sensitive about will help you to react less harshly when you spot humble brags on social media. It can also help prevent you from comparing yourself and your success to others. Finding empathy for those who you care about through recognizing things they might be sensitive towards can also help you when you think about bragging. When you have something great happen to you, don’t be afraid to share it—that’s not humble bragging! However, save the same or false humility for the drafts folder.

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