Me Me Me: Observations on Facebook Brags

According to many a study out there, most everyone on Facebook is a narcissist of one form or another. And if you’re a frequent Twitter user, it’s probably worse.

I don’t happen to believe that narcissism through social media is linked merely to those two outlets. There are social networks out there I’ve never even heard of. But if you can have followers and if you have enough ego, you can certainly whip up an unhealthy dose of overinflated self-importance.

Ice cream flavor “Facebook”: the “taste of time-wasting narcissism.”

I happen to love social media. That’s probably not a shocking admission. I mean, I have a blog with my name in it. (Perhaps that’s the ultimate form of narcissism?)

But here’s where I want to focus on one specific aspect of social media narcissism, and those are the Facebook Brags. I’ve been watching a lot of The Newsroom lately, so if I come across as if I’m doing a monologue from an Aaron Sorkin production, that would be why.

The whole point of Facebook is to share one’s accomplishments, milestones, the occasional selfie, some vacation photos, a snarky observation or two, and even cute stuff.  And if you’re into debate, there are plenty of conversation-starting articles, too. It’s what makes Facebook go ’round. Facebook takes the narcissism to the next level by advertising every single change and/or update we make: Likes, comments, profile photos, cover photos, job description, etc, as if it’s all equally important; so to that extent, it’s not entirely our fault.

Where self-involvement becomes untenable is the constant (over)sharing of things a person is doing that are “above” his or her friends’ experiences. When your Facebook statuses are all brag and no substance, it makes other people you’re friends with (or “friends” with) want to click Hide.

Recent studies suggest that passive participation, as in, not actively participating, on Facebook makes a person more unhappy. Another blogger went into a lot of depth analyzing the different kinds of updates one can post and their underlying motivations, the main ones being narcissism, attention craving, jealousy inducing, and “image crafting.” Particularly on the subject of blatant brags, s/he writes:

Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just excited and need to brag to someone. Even if that’s the case, the only people it’s okay to brag to in life are your close friends, significant other, and family members—and that’s what email, texting, phone calls, and live talking are for. Your moment of self-satisfaction is profoundly annoying to people you’re not that close with, and they make up the vast majority of people who will be subjected to the status.

I won’t lie–in the nine years since I have been on Facebook, spanning from my early twenties to my early thirties, I’m guilty of having penned most, if not all, of the types of status messages that Wait But Why writes about. Twenty-somethings are absolutely more self-involved than most other age groups. However, as I’ve gotten older, matured, and reigned in my baser impulses, I now much more carefully choose what I decide to put out there; so much so, that I have found myself all the more sensitive to brag after brag after brag, particularly if it comes from one person.

When I’ve realized someone is a Braggart 4 Life, each status message earns an eye-roll and some kind of thought along the lines of, “We get it, you’re fabulous and we should all be grateful to be associated with you,” and I categorize that person as shallow/superficial and on the outskirts of friendship. I’ve unfriended people for less reason than being a braggart, but I could see this type of behavior driving much of the unfriending happening around Facebook.

My point here is not to make anyone feel badly about using Facebook. I check it all throughout the day, even if I’m not posting anything, just to see what my peeps are up to.

The point is that braggy, douchey status updates, if someone just HAS to write one, MUST also be balanced out with other types of posts. It’s kind of like Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (ain’t that the truth)): for every hubris-soaked statement or photo you put out there, make the next two funny/snarky/sweet/banal. It’s that simple!

Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself without those who would share in your actual triumphs and joys. That’s a promise.

Breathes There the Man
Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung.

Where I finally understand this whole viral thing

Truth time. A little secret from me to you: I really didn’t understand what “going viral” meant until maybe last year.

This guy looks viral.

Using my brain and what we call “contextual clues,” I finally figured it out but for whatever reason the term didn’t click for me for some time, even though it makes logical sense.

In the regular world, though, the word ‘viral’ does not bring forth positive images. Anytime someone talks about a virus or infection or contagiousness, we want no part of it. But in social media, it’s the best thing that can ever happen to you. So basically, digital wet sneezes are a good thing.

(Ugh. I just grossed myself out typing ‘wet sneezes.’ Don’t get me started on sneezes.)

In our era of instant gratification, news and information is now spreading so fast that something even taking a few days to become popular is slow. Which is craziness! Technology has basically turned hearing about something “through the grapevine” into a competitive frenzy, where news travels at the speed of…..well, internet connectivity.

It’s gotten to the point where, when someone finds something out two or three days after most people have chewed it up and spit it out all over email forwards/Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon/Reddit/YouTube/Google+/Tumblr/Pinterest/Foursquare/LinkedIn  or what have you, there is always a person who will reply, “Dude, you’re just now hearing this? Where have you been living? Old news, bro.”

Remember America’s Funniest Home Videos? I think that show is still in existence….Anyway, prior to YouTube it was the only way silly home accidents which were poorly shot could ever go viral, and even then, they didn’t guarantee that people would see them, because that would mean people would have to choose to tune in to watch Bob Saget host the show. It would have been funnier if he could have been himself instead of the cleaned up version of himself.

Off the top of my head, I can name several examples of things that went viral and of course, it’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to add your own examples in a comment! The ones I thought of are:

Friday by Rebecca Black. Talk about a train wreck of a song and music video. I heard about it on Tumblr and then Twitter. I had to see for myself. The sequel is even worse because it’s not catchy in the slightest. (Should there have been a sequel? No.)

If you’re like my friend Scott and you still haven’t subjected yourself to this nightmare but want to give in, here’s your chance:

And if you want to see the best version someone could ever possibly perform of that song, it’s when Stephen Colbert sings with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. Go here for that piece of television magic.

Three words: Evolution of Dance. I don’t even remember how I heard about this – an email forward, maybe? But it still holds up. This video was a big deal because he got a million hits on it and that was before a million was no big thing.

This next one is by the infamous Alexandra Wallace who made a racist rant about Asians in the library at UCLA. The backlash was incredibly funny. She had no idea that her ignorant decision to make fun of a singular group of people would end up forcing her out of her own school. An ABC After School Special could have told her that.

And here’s the response to her rant (my personal favorite) by the talented Jimmy Wong. Warning: his song will get stuck in your head! But in a good way.

And last but not least, we have The Bed Intruder Song. A couple of guys took Auto Tune and made an interview with a “regular Joe” from the projects into a national sensation. Ke$ha should give them a call since they clearly know how better to use Auto Tune than she. This thing blew up and a full version was released on iTunes. I may or may not have purchased the ring tone.

So basically, you either have to be incredibly talented or incredibly dumb to have something go viral. I’m happy to say that out of the examples I mentioned, only one was due to stupidity. Alexandra, I hope you’re in a better place, honey.

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