What is humblebragging, why is it obnoxious, and how to avoid it

February 15, 2019

Article available in English

“Humble brag” is a new definition that was recognized after the creation of social media. The amount of social media posts that classified as “humble bragging” category increases so quickly that people have become aware of it nowadays. Humblebrag is perceived obnoxious, offensive and may damage your reputation as well as your social relationship. In this article, you will get to see what will be looked as “humblebragging”, why it causes troubles and how to not fall into the trap of humblebragging.

1. What is “humblebragging”?

The word implies “humbly” + “brag”, which has the same expression as “indirect boast”, “disguised brag”. When you express something about you or your achievement humbly, or you complain about it, but actually, it is what the masses are craving, you are “humblebragging”. You may do it unconsciously or deliberately. Let’s look at these two “humblebragging” examples:

(These examples are solely fictional and not related to any individuals.)

This guy seems like he is humbling himself about his Medium posts, but his real intention is routing attention towards his posts’ earnings.

This guy is complaining about how hard the choices he has to make, but actually, he is showing off about securing scholarships from the two prestigious universities.

These two are boasts, couched in humble statements. If you rewrite these two posts straightforwardly, they would be respectively “Look at it! I earned 2000$ from my side gigs!” and “Look at it! I got two scholarship offers from Harvard and MIT!“. Do you get an image of what kind of expression humblebragging is?

So, the next mystery is…

2. …why people humblebrag?

Let’s admit: I also have humblebragged a couple of times. I will try to speculate why people humblebrag based on my thought and point of view, and what I know about humblebragging.

  • They want to brag, at the same time they don’t want to be perceived as full of themselves. The usual approach to elicit admiration is using innocuous, humble statement or disingenuous complaint as a method to deliver the real message, which conversely, put them in the spotlight of attention.
  • By making light of their achievement (coating it with complaint or humility) they attempt to emphasize it in a circuitous but impressive fashion. Using complaint or humility to indirectly make people recognize their achievement will make them feel good, much more than outright bragging.
  • When a person with more success joins the show, they can easily shrug it off “I didn’t brag about it, I was humble enough, I’m complaining about it…“. This kind of thought is often found in insecure people, and by “humblebragging”, they establish their defensive mechanism against potential spotlight competitors.

3. Why is humblebragging obnoxious?

Bragging won’t make friends as it is deemed arrogant, but humblebragging can even be perceived as insincerity. Some people have spent years for achieving something that is being made light of, and it is what bothers them indeed. Moreover, between the two types of humblebragging: Humility-based and complaint-based, people seem to resent the latter more than the former. In their point of view, complaint-based humblebrag is a kind of direct insult that stabs right at their vanity. People inevitably fall into the comparison trap when they see a bragging post, and with humblebragging, the insincerity that people sense in the complaint or humility makes them feel belittled. That is why people perceive humblebragging as more despicable than outright bragging. The fact is, humblebragging won’t elicit any liking or sympathy, it only arouses resentment and contempt.

4. How to avoid being perceived as “humblebragger”?

Whatever the content you post on social media is your absolute right to decide, no one can interfere. However, humblebragging can bring more harm than good, the fleeting gratification your post yields may not worth the damage it causes to your social relationship, which might be already on the verge of collapse. You may humblebrag deliberately or involuntarily, but either way, the effect of humblebragging is the same. Therefore, to not push yourself to an unfavorable position, you had better

brag overtly or not brag at all.

Some people still hate braggarts, but at least you won’t be perceived as insincere or deceitful. Also, as a straightforward brag, you should brag with judiciousness. If there are people who are close to you striving for years for what you are going to brag, you should pay some attention and set the post’s privacy so that they won’t see it. Choose the words carefully so that you don’t seem arrogant and the post won’t induce resentment and hatefulness. If you are unsure of whether you should brag or not, then don’t brag at all. Share your success with people whom you know will positively respond to you with hearty supports.

Conclusion

Social media can bring people closer together, or enlarge the already existing void between people. How you interact with social media can enhance or destroy your relationship. Being aware of when you are going to “humblebrag” will save you from envy and hatred, and being selective in what you post on social media will help you avoid bad circumstances and enjoy your online life better.