A recent study undertaken at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US, examined a worrying social media trend. The study, entitled “Humblebragging: A Distinct – and Ineffective Self-presentation Strategy”, drew several conclusions: for example, that when children “humblebrag”, they often mimic their parents’ online behaviour, and that the practice can actually damage the healthy development of their self-esteem.
Humblebragging, made famous by American comedian Harris Wittels, is boasting in the form of bragging, often masked by a complaint – as in the following messages:
• “Saw an old lady trying to cross the street today. Without second thoughts, I immediately helped her out. #feelsgreat”
• “Went to this really epic party last weekend with booze everywhere and I’m still SO hungover!”
• “This Tokyo trip is starting to get boring. Been here so many times already and there’s nothing much left to see. Ugh, I knew I should’ve just spent the summer at the Hamptons!”
For the study, the Harvard team tested 302 people on their perception of bragging and complaining, incorporating the humblebrag: “I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model.” Responses indicated that people found such comments indicative of complete narcissism and insincerity.
A 2014 study entitled “Can You Tell That I’m in a Relationship? Attachment and Relationship Visibility on Facebook”, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, revealed that humblebraggers generally have extremely low self-esteem and are often anxious.
Authors of both studies concurred that parents can actually damage their children by humblebragging about them. Thus, instead of posting a comment like: “Our weekends are so busy because Johnny has been asked to play on two select teams and that is interfering with his ‘gifted’ math classes he is taking at the local university. But, hey, the things we do for our kids,” parents should reveal their natural pride in their offspring, should they feel compelled at all to let others know online.
Tips for parents talking about their kids online include: do make posts in moderation, but don’t make the messages about yourself and don’t use children as comedy props. And always be aware of mentioning other children’s names and posting their pictures without permission.
The Harvard study authors insist that parents need as much education about online etiquette as their children. An unsavoury text will be quickly disseminated and will be there forever. Note, for example, the by now well-known tweet from then assistant football coach Herb Hand, when he was at Penn State University in Philadelphia in the US: “Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence… glad got to see the ‘real’ person before we offered him (a scholarship).”
Category: Spring 2016