A recent article titled “Are We All Braggarts Now?” by Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal immediately caught my eye. Bernstein surveys the phenomenon of how social media sharing trips up humility and creates pressure (real or imagined) for people to play up their personal accomplishments and those of their families.

Think of it as “social media bragging.”

Social Media Humility

We’re all familiar with bragging blog posts and status updates where Facebook friends and Twitter followers are ostensibly sharing what they’re doing currently (or just did or are just about to do). It’s clear many times these social networking updates about personal accomplishments are a thinly veiled blurb whose real message is, “Look how special I AM and consider how special YOU AREN’T.”

At one point I was saving online bragging examples from Facebook friends and Twitter followers as examples for a blog post on the bad ways to use social media. I never wrote the blog post because of my struggle with sharing the actual social media status updates as examples and calling out individual people for online bragging. While I know plenty of people who wouldn’t hesitate to make a negative example of someone on social media, it’s not an approach I’d want to follow. My previous compromise was running a Dilbert comic strip on social media bragging and humility juxtaposed with a saying from Proverbs: Don’t brag about yourself let others praise you (Proverbs 27:2).

To get the point across about how to better use social media for sharing personal accomplishments with humility in the “Are We All Braggarts Now?” Wall Street Journal article, Elizabeth Bernstein shared a sidebar listing five ideas for how to “Shine without Being a Braggart.” From my reading, though, her examples would STILL sound like online bragging if they showed up from Facebook friends or Twitter followers in my social media streams.

7 Ways to Share Accomplishments Online with Humility

Instead of pointing out online bragging offenders, here are 7 lessons from Facebook friends and Twitter followers  who share personal accomplishments without online bragging and are clearly tempering the instincts we apparently all have to derive pleasure from talking about ourselves.

1. Consider every good thing that happens to you as a blessing, i.e., you weren’t completely responsible for the good thing that happened to you, so don’t take all the credit.

2. Approach your personal accomplishments with a sense of sincere appreciation not a sense of entitlement.

3. Be self-deprecating. Poke fun at yourself in areas where people tend to assume/think/know you have strengths and talents.

4. Make sure your online sharing reflects a balanced view of your life:

  • For every incredible vacation or trip photo, share something mundane from your daily life.
  • For every windfall you are celebrating, share a moment of challenge, concern, or self-doubt you’ve faced.
  • For every personal or family accomplishment you trumpet, share when things didn’t work out as you expected - and that’s not, “Instead of winning the $200 million Powerball, I only won $600,000 : ( ”

5. Share and Like many more great experiences from other people than great blurbs you share about yourself.

6. Congratulate others; don’t self-congratulate yourself. Even if you think you’re self-congratulating with humility, chances are you’re not.

7. Before you share your update about what’s going on with you, re-read it and think about if whether you’d perceive the same update as online bragging if it came from a loved one? How about from a casual friend?

Are you put off by social media bragging or are you unfazed by it?

Do you have some egregious examples of bragging on social media you’d like to share courtesy of Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Or maybe suggestions of people who seem to apply these lessons (or others) to share personal accomplishments with humility? - Mike Brown

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