Grrrr ... they're just SO annoying. And this is why ...
It's impossible to spend time on social media these days without encountering an endless stream of selfies and humble brags. Not only have these become so commonplace that we've coined new words to describe these behaviors, but most of us share a similar reactions when we encounter them — annoyance.
Recent research from Harvard confirms what we already know — that as a strategy for self-promotion, these tactics DON'T work and can often backfire.
We're realizing that, even though the whole point of social media is sharing your successes and happiness with friends, if you go too far, it can actually damage your friendships and risk others outright shaming you. Even articles written about the effects of selfies and humble bragging are sometimes penned with a sharp edge of criticism and shame. For example one article ended with this, "Please plug the hole in your self-esteem with something else, and leave our social network feeds alone." Ouch!
But, wait a minute — let's pause and really look at why selfies and humble brags irritates us ... the real reasons. Because, aren't we just being hypocrites? Haven't you shared a selfie (or several) and occasionally posted a humble brag of your own? So why, when other people do it, does it irritate us to the point of shaming and criticizing them?
Your reaction has far more to do with you than you realize:
1. Social media promotes competition and social risk-taking
For starters, social media itself often provokes feelings of insecurity in us and instigates competition. With friends and colleagues generally posting only the highlight reel of their lives, it can feel tough sometimes to "keep up with the Joneses," leaving us vulnerable to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and insecurity.
To feel liked (and accepted), you might feel compelled to brag or post witty commentary, often at the expense of others. After all, snarky commentary has almost become sport for many on social media. The personal disconnection (a.k.a. "keyboard courage") of social media often emboldens us all to say and do things we wouldn't normally in real life, including hostile behavior.
2. Nobody appreciates being (obviously) manipulated
A humble bragger doesn't just want audience admiration, she wants audience sympathy too. This mixed message (admire me, but also feel sorry for me) comes across like clear manipulation and it's seriously off-putting. Needy energy turns people off. We don't like mixed messages and we especially don't like someone hustling a response out of us. It's a new icky form of passive-aggression.
3. Selfies and humble brags lack authenticity
It's not someone's true joy or celebration that irks us. It is sneaky, boastfulness, and compounded with a plea for sympathy that pushes our buttons, sometimes enough that we want to give the person exactly what they're desperately trying to avoid: social rejection and shame.
What works better online is highlighting your true feelings of joy and excitement about a situation rather than simply the situation itself. For example, rather than stating the facts like, "off to Bora-Bora …" take the risk to share your feelings about the situation, "so excited, I'm on the plane to Bora-Bora!" so that your friends can join you in your experience — the point of social media, right? You might be surprised how well your friends respond to your genuine positive feelings.
4. We hate in others what we despise in ourselves
While research shows that people who post frequent selfies have more narcissistic traits, research also shows that frequent social media users are themselves more narcissistic than infrequent users. Truly, none of us are immune to social media's ill effects. In its resemblance to a middle school lunch cafeteria, social media can bring out the worst in all of us. If you find yourself disgusted by a friend's shameless ploy for attention, recognize that you might be wrestling with some of your own shame about wanting attention, too. So maybe cut her (and yourself) a break.
5. Selfies and humble brags spotlight insecurity
In the end, most of us are generally uncomfortable bragging — sometimes even sharing joy. How comfortable you are with vulnerability has a lot to do with your level of confidence, and plays a big part in how you share good news, and also how you react to it online. Our own insecurity lessens our experience of genuine pride, and thus we're bothered more by others' boasting. And, at the same time, we feel even more compelled to brag in order to garner the attention and admiration we so crave. Sharing an accomplishment under these circumstances is less about sharing the joy of it, and more about using it as a tool for attention.
If you are more concerned about mitigating jealousy in others than sharing your joy, or find yourself posting snarky comments to your friend's latest selfie, notice what part you bring to the table, and try to find some compassion instead. Chances are you're both just looking for a little reassurance and love. Know that love will come back to you when you remember to show more of the real you and less of the "this would look good on social media" you.
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