Carolyn Hax: Facebook braggarts foster competitive feelings

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 28, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion .

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Why do people feel the need to use social media to constantly brag about their lives? I can’t tell you how many pictures of bouquets and dinners and chocolates popped up on my Facebook feed around Valentine’s Day — on top of the already daily descriptions of “perfect boyfriends” and pictures of vacations in real time. When did people stop living life and start just trying to prove to others that they are doing so?

And, my main question, how can I stop from getting sucked in to feeling like I need to prove myself to everyone else? I have a wonderful boyfriend with whom I share such a bond that I don’t CARE how big his bouquet is or how much my Facebook “friends” know or see . . . but I almost feel guilty. Like my indifference toward bragging means this relationship really must not be brag-worthy.

Facebook Facade


The first part is easier to answer than the second: Just block habitual braggarts from your news feed. Save your page for people who post things that interest you.

Some might say just to stay off social media altogether, a perfectly good and uncluttered solution — but if you see a lot of good amid the bad, then waste a little extra time on your settings to accommodate your peeves.

The second question, how not to care? If only that were about adjusting your settings.

It is possible you run with a crowd that’s particularly competitive socially, but that presents a chicken-or-egg riddle: Are they making you that way, or did you seek them out because you’re that way?

Fortunately, that question becomes easier to answer if you consciously remove yourself from the competition — not just on social media, but in other interactions as well.

It’ll take a bunch of small, on-the-spot decisions (and a few mental recitations of an “It’s not a race” mantra) to break a habit of comparing yourself with others socially. However, if you’re able to pull it off enough to step back from your guilty feelings, then you’ll be able to see whether it’s your environment or your emotional makeup that motivates you to measure your happiness against others’.

Re: Bragging:

Does that go for posting a “thank you” to your spouse on Facebook for a gift? For me, it was more of giving him credit in front of our friends for what he did for me, rather than bragging about what he gave me. What about those posts on birthdays, where spouses post on their partner’s wall and go on about how much they love their spouse? Is that unacceptable bragging, too?

Anonymous

Is there acceptable bragging? Why does the “credit” (ew?) need to be in front of your friends?

To me this isn’t about being boastful so much as being needlessly public. Okay, send a bouquet to someone’s office so a person can enjoy the flowers, since often most waking hours are spent there vs. home. But proposing on stadium Jumbotrons I thought was a fad that needed to die, not one that needed to be shrunk down to fit individual screens.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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