Showing off on social media – is it arrogance or confidence?

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Have you ever heard of the term “humble-brag?”

I must admit, it’s new to me.

However, after researching the word, I’m very familiar with what humble-brags are.

“Tired of people mistaking me for someone ten years younger,” “So much attention in the new car – it’s getting boring now.”

You get the picture – bragging masked by a complaint or humility.

The phenomenon has been in the news recently as researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that humble-bragging makes people like you less than straight-up self-promotion.

Whether it’s on social media or in person, I must admit, it’s infuriating.

But then again, I struggle with bragging full stop. And wonder if it’s a typical English characteristic.

While my family and friends all happily put themselves down – criticising their bodies or dumbing-down their talents, they all struggle to accept praise.

It’s something Eseyoma Sodje-Waugh has noticed. The British Nigerian mum of two says she was raised to take pride in herself and is never ashamed to mention that she thinks she looks good when she posts a picture on social media.

Eseyoma can’t understand the new style of humble-bragging as she believes there is no shame in highlighting your successes or being proud of who you are.

Yet she gets a lot of resentment from others for her attitude.

“I get a lot of negative reactions from people, especially ladies. They ask why I don’t wait for other people to compliment me and have been called me arrogant,” she says.

“However, I think it’s very important to be proud of who you are - we have got to love ourselves before other people can love us.

“I look in the mirror and I see a very pretty, confident lady and yes, I will tell myself I am gorgeous. I do it with my girls too. I stand at the mirror and tell them how beautiful they are. At the beginning my eldest daughter hated her curly hair but with all my praise, she has come to accept it and I have noticed now how she points out other girls with curly hair and says how beautiful they are.”

Eseyoma says bragging or being confident enough to say she thinks she looks good doesn’t mean she is perfect. Far from it she says, but she’s learned that focusing on the negatives doesn’t get you anywhere.

She adds: “Don’t get me wrong, I have flaws but I have accepted them. The people that call me names are ladies who are insecure in themselves, don’t love themselves so they can’t accept that there are people out there that are in love with themselves.

“It’s very important that mums, especially those who have daughters, can be confident. Children follow their parents’ lead and we need to be our daughters’ idols.”

UAE-based Brit, Chad Glass says people in the Emirates don’t struggle with self-promotion whether it is humble-bragging or straight up boasting.

“The UAE feels like the brag capital of the world!” he says.

“It probably hit its peak about 18 months ago. Some of the classics have been the holding of a glass of champagne in business class selfie or the ‘look what car I've bought this week’ social media post.”

However, while Chad admits to struggling to boast about achievements in his private life, he understands why bragging is beneficial in business. As the resident DJ at Sofitel The Palm in Dubai and the man behind Asia-based nightlife website, Chad says a little self-promotion can go a long way.

He adds: “I do post the occasional picture of where I'm working but that’s more about letting people know locally where I'm DJing. If I'm pitching for something on a business level then there could be a brag dropped in conversation but that's about selling yourself in somewhere. I try to keep my private life as private as possible.

“Bragging bothers me because I feel there are always people more unfortunate than yourself and rubbing their noses in your successes, particularly on social media, isn't good.”

Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director of The LightHouse Arabia, Doctor Tara Wyne says whether bragging is acceptable is a “subjective value judgement” and will vary from person to person.

However, she can totally understand why “humble-bragging” can be more annoying than straight-up boasting.

She says: “Human beings want to share their joy and sorrow with others so it’s natural that people would want others to witness them at their best. If sensitively done and not intended to make others feel small and inadequate, bragging shouldn’t be a big issue.

The problem arises when we are insensitive to others, we choose the wrong time, place and company and belittle others and make people feel uncomfortable. Celebrating one person or their achievements is all good if it can respect and protect the feelings of the others.

“Humble bragging is a phenomenon where people are strategically using part humility and modesty and part boasting to show others their competence and talent but not alienate others by seeming arrogant and full of themselves.

“People feel it’s insincere, perhaps even a little manipulative. The humble-bragger disguises the boast as a complaint, which elicits sympathy, or as humility, which evidence shows makes people more sympathetic towards them and perceive them as more likeable.”

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