“Oh damn, I just spilt champagne on my new Ferrari. What an idiot!”
All forms of bragging can be annoying, but according to a recent study the example above a) doesn’t work and b) is probably just making you bloody angry right now.
The official name for this kind of comment is “humblebragging” and it’s the art of giving yourself props tempered with dashes of modesty and self-depreciation.
Rather than just boast about something outright excellent in their lives, humblebraggers do so in a roundabout way. But now the truth is out: it’s not working, folks.
Researchers at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of experiments to reveal how others perceive humblebragging.
The first finding of the study was that humblebragging is common. According to the results, 70% of the 646 people surveyed could recall a humblebrag they’d heard recently. The other 30% probably don’t use Facebook.
Social media has exacerbated humblebragging as the urge for people to share the minutiae of their lives coupled with the pressure to receive “likes” results in a never-ending stream of garbage, self-aggrandising posts.
The researchers then classified humblebrags into two categories: complaint-based (it’s so annoying when girls won’t stop hitting on me!) and humility-based (I’m not that handsome – why do girls always hit on me?). The majority of the humblebrags were complaint-based.
When examining how people respond, the researchers found that humblebragging was less effective than straightforward bragging because it made humblebraggers appear phoney.
“People choose to deploy humblebrags particularly when motivated to both elicit sympathy and impress others,” wrote the researchers.
“Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy, we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”
If you absolutely insist on humblebragging (and you shouldn’t), the results of the study suggest that humility-based brags are the way to go.
But it looks like honesty is the best policy, so the best way is to just go for it. Listen to this master of bragging in his prime – no humility here!