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August 21, 2012

Is Facebook a Bragging Tool?

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

I know that I am not alone by feeling annoyed when Facebook (News - Alert) friends are incessantly updating their status with trivial reports. “Gluten free candy bars! Yum!” Am I really supposed to care?

I used to feel guilty for letting this get under my skin. But that was before I listened to a discussion on NPR (News - Alert) featuring Wall Street Journal columnist, Elizabeth Bernstein. Bernstein’s articles, “Are we a society of braggarts?” and “Bragging in the Facebook Age” have sparked many interesting discussions about online media’s role in self-promotion.

On NPR’s live chat, callers agreed or disagreed with some of Bernstein’s sentiments. Here are some of the highlights:

Who has bragging rights?

I stopped feeling guilty over being annoyed by relentless status reports when I looked at it like this: They are bragging, and according to Bernstein, “[Bragging] is harmful for relationships because it turns people off.” A caller suggested that Bernstein is just “bitter”—an accusation she didn’t refute. And to be fair, Bernstein advised other people who find incessant status updates superfluous and irritating to determine if these feelings stem from insecurities.

Facebook image via Shutterstock.

But something that was not mentioned was that there are religious or cultural influences that teach people that extreme attention to one’s self is wrong. When some people see, “Going to the gym and then to a wine tasting!” it translates to, “I am more important, or I am doing more important things than other people who are not posting what they are doing.”

Whether these superficial status reports are considered bragging or not, sound advice came from a caller named “Sarah” who said to “Limit posting to once a week; one status update or one picture.”

Bernstein claims that some of the bragging phenomenon can be blamed on the economy, as aggressive self-promotion can seem like the only way to get ahead in this tough job market. And one caller, a self-described “self deprecator,” expressed that as an artist today; your career depends on your online gallery. In this situation, Facebook could be an ideal marketing tool because it’s free and its graphics and publishing tools seem to constantly evolve. This can be a real problem for people who can't bring themselves to brag.

What’s worth bragging about?

Although Facebook is consistently incorporating new ads, some media experts maintain that Facebook is not a free marketing tool --- it is a social venue and only personal information should be exchanged in order to preserve the concept.

But regardless of how it’s used the two topics that seem to annoy people the most are kids and exercise. Perhaps these topics are even more annoying than ads. It makes sense that people are put off by this considering how “bragging” annoys people, and these two subjects, kids and exercise, are also subjects that typically instigate brag- offs.

One listener said, “I am tired of my married friends uploading pictures of their children, or status messages saying "I have the best husband on earth." Meanwhile I am sure they are miserable and they do it to show the world how "happy" they are.”

Another person, however, argued on behalf of people who post reports whenever they meet a fitness goal. These reports, she believes, make her proud of her friends and in return are motivating.

Is Facebook the cause of a society of braggarts?

Some people have pointed out that the human race has been bragging since the beginning to time—as evidenced by the etching on cave walls. Other people believe that Facebook is simply the evolved Christmas card with the family in matching sweaters on the cover and boastful reports about the kids inside. Considering these points, Facebook has not caused our society to brag, but it does highlight how excessively we do it.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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