I once heard the Israeli lyricist Ehud Manor (1941–2005) say on the radio that with the death of his parents came the sad realization that from that point onward he had no one to brag to. It was a sincere and sobering insight. Since in most cases our parents are eager to hear all about our success, sharing it with them in great detail, is not even considered bragging. We merely humor our parents, and if unfortunately we don’t have any good news to report, it is our duty to think of something, even the smallest accomplishment, to brighten their day.
But this happy arrangement tragically ends once our parents are no longer with us. Unfortunately no one else in the world (not even our partners, siblings, best friends, or PhD advisers) is that invested in our success. Those who are close to us at best tolerate our bragging, but in the rest of the world it is regarded as bad form.
Many of us, myself included, find the transition into a brag-free world challenging. But luckily, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg we do not have to contend with this cold and lonely existence.
For the orphans among us and for those who just want to let others know of their success and good fortune, Facebook has become an ideal venue. Social media has revived and legitimized bragging in many different and creative forms.
We take for granted that our virtual friends are curious to see our photographs having fun with other friends, or that they share our delight in our success and would like to hear all about our conquers.
Social media has become a surrogate parent, even if our friends do not care that much about our life, they can still be supportive through the ingenious invention of “like.” Liking someone’s photo or status is easy, immediate and satisfying. It is a very small price to pay to appear kind. Liking is the contemporary rendition of the old-fashioned benign yet remote father who used to hide behind his newspaper at dinner time and every so often would utter absent mindedly: “good job” to his wife or children.
On Facebook we could be as annoying as we wish, brag to our heart’s delight and our virtual friends would pay us in kind. And if that bragging becomes too much to bear, we could always block (another ingenious Facebook invention) the bragger and he/she will never know it.
On a more serious note, we often need to brag or to “toot our own horn” because no one else would do it. People around us are just too busy, or too self-absorbed, to notice or to remember to support and to praise.
At the time when my daughters were young, in the late 80s, in the US, an unusual bumper sticker inquiring “Have you hugged your child today?” was very popular. We used to laugh at it in our family, but it is a good reminder. In many cultures praising is minimal, but the need to be recognized and acknowledged is universal. Every child needs to be hugged and every person needs to be praised.
Social media with its thumb-up applaud emphasizes what is lacking in our non-virtual life. But if real people could not satisfy our insatiable thirst for praise, at least there is Facebook.
PS. About one form of bragging: