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'Unlike' the bragging


Publication Date : 26-11-2012


Today, simply because I have - as the famous saying goes - eaten my fill and have nothing better to do, I thought I would make a stand.

And the thing I am making a stand against is boasting, specifically boasting on Facebook.

I was inspired to take this stand, in part because of an article titled "When Did The Internet Become So Nice?" in the latest issue of New York magazine.

I am not sure what the whole article is about - I have the attention span of a gnat - but I gather it is a lament on how we do not dare confront our friends online and are willing to "like" really inane things on Facebook.

And I agree that we are letting violations of human decency that would normally get someone chastised as a braggart in the real world somehow go unpunished.

Worse, because there are some fools out there "liking" these posts, the anti-social behaviour is being rewarded.

I realise that nearly everything anyone posts on Facebook these days includes some element of boasting. I realise that the whole depiction of our lives on our Facebook profile pages are but a fake version of the real thing, one where all the ugly, stupid or painful things are removed, one where any photo of us that we regard as unflattering is untagged.

If you post a link to a funny video, you may be trying to share that said funny video with your friends but you may also, at the same time, be displaying that you have an excellent sense of humour and that your knowledge of funny online videos is far superior to theirs.

If you don't have a funny video and choose to post a complaint, you have to make that rant special in some way.

So either you try and complain about an experience that only relatively few people could have (this is part of a bigger set of boasts known as humblebrags) or you try to rant about it in a way that is wittier or snarkier than any previous rant on the same subject.

In case you have not figured it out, I will be making some gross generalisations here. I am perfectly willing to accept that there are people who commit some of the sins that I have described in this column without being a braggart.

When these people share photos on Facebook of their holiday in Crete, they are doing so only out of a deep and sincere concern that all their friends may not appreciate all the beauty there is in the world.

Anyway, I could go on naming more ways people show off on Facebook but I want to pay special attention to two types of braggart in particular: the wannabe-gourmet and the insecure jetsetter.

Let's start with the gourmets. Now I want to be clear that I am not trying to pick on people who go to fancy restaurants and take pictures of food. There, the boasting is at least partly justified by the fact that it can be seen as a simple recommendation to the boastee.

But what if you get an Instagram image of a dish you made which includes a 35-word description of it?

I read something like, "I just made a luscious roasted fillet of Australian Kobe beef nestling in a Kent garden pea puree, temptingly accompanied by a succulent spinach and onion compote, triple- cooked Maris Piper chips and Indonesian long pepper sauce" and I wonder what I am supposed to do with this information.

Am I supposed to ask you for a recipe?

It used to be if you wanted to show off your culinary skills, you had to invite someone over for dinner. Now, there is no more accountability. It could taste like cardboard and you would still put it online as long as you can find an Instagram filter to make it look nice.

Pre-digital age, no one would even dare pull off a stunt like this. First, they can't be sure the picture will turn out nice. Second, it is really hard to whip out a photo album mid-conversation.

Jetsetters are even more annoying, especially in the way they try and slip in the exotic location they are in into normal, everyday posts.

Say they want to post a link to a magazine article they read. They can't just say: "Hey guys, read this." They have to say something like: "I really enjoyed this piece. Read it all the way through while on my flight out of Sao Paulo."

Or let's say they want to talk about current affairs. They have to drop not-so-subtle geographical clues: "I just caught up on the whole baby swop thing. Wow. (Ok, I know I'm late but it's really hard to get free Wi-Fi in Bologna)".

And they also have these maps with little pins on them. Imagine you were having dinner with your friend and he decided to pull out a map with pins on them to show you where he has been. Wouldn't you tell him off?

Well, we are doing this on Facebook.

We are so nice to our friends these days, so afraid to hurt their feelings that we bite our tongue and say nothing. We don't tell them - like a good friend should - that they are being real jerks.

And then, someone comes along and "likes" the post. The boaster goes away reinforced, thinking this is the type of stuff people really want to see from him.

Today, I say "No more".

I mean, we are perfectly happy to flame strangers for seemingly small infractions, so why not flame our friends?

From this point forward, I shall no longer stand idly by while my Facebook feed is filled with boasts. If my friends are boasting, I shall call them and tell them to cut it out. I want to make the online world a happier and more humble place.

Will you join me?


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