bragging on facebook

Are We a Society of Braggarts?

bragging on facebook

When Anthony and I launched the site almost a year ago we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had a business plan, a site design layout (we’ve since updated to the platform you are viewing now), various Culture-ist social media accounts and an editorial calendar — we  had it all figured out.

Well, not completely.

Over the course of the year, we learned that the amount of work we had to do couldn’t possibly fit into 18 hours days. We also realized that people don’t just come to your site, and that you actually have to sign your life away to social media platforms so that you can entice them with pretty photos and intriguing headlines in the hope that they will click on a story or two (family members included). But the most interesting aspect of launching a startup is the bragging component.

When we first began networking with other folks in our industry, we were floored by the level of bragging that went on. There was the endless lists of “Best Blogs,” and the slew of elite partnerships, ad network circles, seed funding opportunities and of course the promise of becoming a TV personality, expert and resident guest on CNN, The Travel Channel and who knows what else. It was exhausting just listening to all the gloating as it tap danced around the room.

We began to feel inadequate and defeated before we even really started. Each day, I would scroll through my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed only to see other colleagues posting about their success. They were essentially creating their own buzz, and it was working. Lines of positive comments would follow and then the rounds of social sharing would commence.

I began to “research,” if you will, these cases of success and for almost every one, there was a high level of self-created buzz. I realized that what all the hype, hooplas and hurrahs really came down to was competition: the never-ending race to always be on top.

It’s no secret that our society has become neurotically competitive over the past 10 years. And it could be attributed to the economic crisis, which may have put many of us in survival mode, but I do think it goes even further than that.

Elizabeth Bernstein wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, which explores the braggart phenomenon. In the piece she writes:

“Clearly, the Internet has given us a global audience for our bombast, and social media sites encourage it. We’re all expected to be perfect all the time. The result is more people carefully stage-managing their online image.

Boasting isn’t just a problem on the Internet. In a society of unrelenting competition””where reality-show contestants duke it out for the approval of aging celebrities and pastors have publicists””is it any wonder we market ourselves relentlessly?’

The article goes on to talk about how competition rules our culture from the New York mom who is willing to go through an intensive application process and spend $50,000 a year on tuition so that her three-year-old can receive a “well rounded” education; to the 45-year-old postal-service worker who brags to a member of her congregation about the interviews she does with celebrities for her freelance gig at a local online entertainment magazine.

So how exactly does one tread in humble waters when we live in a society that is flooded with notions of perfection and apparently people that live up to this notion? It’s a tricky balance. One that may require dishing it out (in a humble, sometimes humorous manner that shows appreciation for one’s audience) in the business world and toning it down on a personal level.

Anthony and I have learned that sharing the site’s successes via our social network’s is almost a necessity. The industry has become so competitive that if we chose to sit back, we might lose the opportunity to gain new eyes on the site. For some reason, many people need to hear that other larger, reputable organizations also value our work; it’s just the way things are in this business.

As for our personal interactions, well, we’ve certainly become more aware of this odd neurosis that is tainting our culture and have made a conscious effort to be mindful of what constitutes healthy conversations.

“Unfortunately, some people can’t seem to tell the difference between sharing positive information that others might actually want to know and flat-out crowing. Let me help: Bragging involves comparison, whether stated or implied,” Bernstein points out in the article.

Hopefully we as a society will realize what we’re headed towards and stop all this ridiculous egoism in its tracks. Otherwise, we may become so knee-deep in our own stuff that eventually there will be too much to plow through and no one around willing to help shovel.

  1. I was also shocked at the bragging and self-promotion that goes on on Twitter and FB when I first entered the blogging world. I find that the self-promotion that is done with a little bit of grace and humor (as well as an appreciation for one’s audience) goes over a little better than the blatant gloating. I’m still a strong believer in quality content and word of mouth as the real keys to success though. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’ve never subscribed to a blog or site just because the owner made it on to a top 100 list and tweeted about it!

  2. Marina, your comment was so refreshing to read. Unfortunately, I think many people get caught up in this strange “groupie” mentality and they begin to promote sites because they read somewhere that it was one of the most popular in the blogosphere. I agree with you that self-promotion can be executed in a humble, humorous manner and will most likely come across as simply sharing positive information rather than all out bragging.

  3. As a new *hobby* blogger (i.e. not doing it for the money), it’s fascinating to observe other bloggers. On the one hand, I’m impressed at the considerable time and effort that the pros put into their sites and social media interactions. It really is a full time job, and not a week goes by without someone posting something about why travel blogging isn’t worth it.

    But I’m also disappointed by the bragging, and by the people who recycle old content in an effort to keep visible, esp on Twitter. One minute they’re in Germany and the next they’re back in Thailand…I read the post, go to leave a comment, and see that the last comment was a year ago. I suppose this speaks to our short attention spans and the fickle nature of social media. But for some reason, it cheapens the experience for me.

    Likewise, I have noticed a few “cartels” out there…people who seem to have a backroom deal to promote each other…as a reader, I now take extra care to have a discriminating eye for content that I truly find fresh and appealing.

    At the end of the day, it’s a business…I get that. I applaud the hard work that people such as you put into it, and the effort you take to “keep it real”.

    1. Thanks Drew. Running a site is definitely a full-time job (plus overtime). We appreciate your comments and agree with many of your points. It’s important to “keep it real” – escpecially if you want to have a mutually respected relationship with colleagues and readers.

  4. I think you’re absolutely right, Maria. I too have felt self defeated so many times again and again only to discover that those bragging didn’t particularly have a stellar product to begin with…but what they did have was a rock hard ego! We need to realize that yes, it’s important to remain competitive, but to never forget that you cannot build Rome by yourself.

  5. Oh dear don’t get me started! Walking that fine line B/W humbleness & deep-fried Braggadocio is a nightmare.
    I became part of the social-network, honk-a-thon this Feb, when I started my Blog/Small business. I had always stayed away from FB, Twitter, etc because I couldn’t stand the ‘Look-at-me’ culture we live in. But like many, I’ve had to succumb to get my business noticed. I’m neither an aggressive, competitive person nor a natural self-promoter (Problem no 1!)
    I do not mass follow, suck up to celebs, fall for the marketing strategies of ‘Collaborators’, who often steal your ideas/words & pass them off as their own. Neither do I present just one side of myself to get likes or votes. I do not & cannot bombard people everyday with my latest sassy idea or item to sell & I don’t retweet or post every nice thing said of me. It’s just far too narcissistic & gauche for my liking.
    In the past few months I have noticed, those with the most ‘Front’ seem to get ahead. Often without an original idea & more often, something taken from another blog/website & presented as their own! This has happened to me on more than one occasion & many others I’m sure. Most of their fan clubs have been bought & or engineered for success. There are people who like FB pages with no content on it, simply because they’ve been promised a giveaway. Quantity it seems for some is far better than quality. Those of us who design, Photograph, write, etc..feel at times afraid to share, let alone over-share 5 times a day, with self-congratulatory pats on the back, because of the trolls who disrespect & steal content. What some people deem ‘Sharing’ ‘Clever’ & ‘Good Marketing’ makes me break out in a rash!
    It is so hard to keep positive & motivated, when you feel everyone else has the pushy, sneaky edge (with angle-shots of their head to match!) but we all have our own level of personal integrity that we either sell, sacrifice or stick to. Good luck with your projects & Thanx for your great article Xx Rani

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