Why We Hate To Brag, But Do It All The Time

November 15, 2013Comments Off on Why We Hate To Brag, But Do It All The Time

No-one you know shouts; "hey look at me, I have an incredibly important job and earn a lot of money!"

Society would consider this rude, self-absorbed, and rather insecure behaviour

We all want to impress our peers. The challenge is to do this subtly. So we drop socially acceptable hints:

You see tweets such as:

"A long boring work trip from Sydney to Los Angeles, and the coffee in the business class lounge is awful" 

Notice the (not so) subtle clues. Work trip suggests an important person. Sydney to LA suggests an important trip. Business class suggests money/status. This is followed by a suffix about the coffee to appear less overt. 

You see subtle references to holidays, meetings at important places, or with important people. These message imply status, success, and an idealized life. You see mentions of exercise to suggest health and virility. 

The key element here is acceptable subtlety. We want to brag. We want to show off. We want to increase our status amongst our peer group – but we want to do it subtly!

We want to highlight our own achievements, showcase indicators of our own status, be associated with successful groups and people…but without being seen as either annoying, self-absorbed, and insecure.

There is an invisible social line between acceptable and non-acceptable boasting.

It's this line that's challenging community professionals. If you set up a recognition/reward programme using platform design, gamification, labels, and personal remarks, you might do more harm than good. If you call someone an expert, if you declare them 'the mayor/boss/king/ninja/champion', you might find they resist the label for fear of being perceived as a showoff. 

You see this in extreme forms. Note the social media professionals who repeatedly proclaim themselves not to be experts. They want to be seen as experts, thus the use of the word, yet not be associated with the insecurity that accompanies it. In internal communities this problem is especially apparent. 

There are no practical, proven, steps here. If you understand and emphasize properly with your audience, you know where to draw the line. If you don't, you'll cause embarrassment and resistance. Be careful. 

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