Are we witnessing a bragging epidemic, or does it only sometimes feel that way? Facebook gives us a constant stream of parents boasting about their kids’ academics, musical talent and sports prowess while others flaunt their exotic travels and exploits. And there is the so-called “humblebrag,” where the braggart decries some small difficulty while really reminding everyone of why his or her life is so good. Why do we boast? Does it benefit us, and when, if ever, is it OK?

Peggy Klaus, president of Klaus and Associates in Berkeley and author of "BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It"
Bruce Feiler, columnist for The New York Times and author of "The Secrets of Happy Families"
Benoit Monin, professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Stanford University
Simine Vazire, associate professor in personality science in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis

  • Wilbur

    Studies have shown that using Facebook does not increase the number of friends that one has, nor the quality of friendships. It also harms the academic performance of students.
    To me most of what’s on Facebook and Twitter is mental junk food. It’s filler for an empty life and an empty mind. It’s a way of putting off personal growth and delaying critical thinking.
    And the origins of Facebook should cause suspicion.
    After all, part of Facebook’s funding came from In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999.
    More on In-Q-Tel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-Q-Tel.
    If one day it is revealed that Facebook was just a way for the ever-growing American police state to gather information on citizens, I would not be at all surprised.

  • disqus_fZQMbEzC69

    The golden rule is lost on most people. Do you enjoy hearing someone brag or humble brag? No, you don’t. So why subject another human being to it?

  • Sunny O’brien

    The Silicon Valley Asperger’s association is headed up by Zuckerberg and the Stanford campus.

  • $11165038

    I don’t see the issue. Seems like a lot of over thinking here. People have always bragged about their kids, their accomplishments, etc. I don’t take offense to it. I think the more pressing issue is why are people so thin skinned. It seems that there is epidemic of being offended by just about anything anyone says or does. At some point, you just have to learn to deal with the fact you live in a world with other people and not everything they do will be likeable or even enjoyable. Life with other people in it is messy and it is time to learn to accept that fact.

    • Marshein

      People always did it but before the Internet not so many people walked through our homes and our lives every day.

  • Aaron

    I’m awesome. Since this is a fact, it isn’t bragging.

  • Aaron

    I agree with the notion that people have always bragged about themselves and/or their kids. My concern is what feels like a huge increase in how often people begin from a place of bragging or insert a self-aggrandizing comment that is totally off topic. That makes me feel like the person is simply waiting to toot their horn rather than having a conversation, let alone listening. I’m 40 years old and my experience is that that sort of behavior has exploded in recent years.

    • BTaylor

      And therein lies the difference and where it becomes each persons decision to weed those braggadocio people out of their lives. I post about my experience put am also very active I’m commenting and engaging other people about theirs, however big or small. When it’s only one way all the time, you see their intent and heart and then…weed them out. Otherwise I’m happy for them!

  • I thought people bragging were annoying until I met the first set of parents who thought their child could do nothing right. It was heart-breaking. I taught their child, a good, smart kid who tried hard. Now, I am much more tolerant of bragging.

  • Kimberlein

    People like me who live under enviable circumstances and who have enviable things will always be disproportionately viewed as braggarts. Last year I bought a Lexus. If I had posted this news on Facebook (which I did not), a mention of the Lexus brand would be perceived as bragging, whereas if I had bought a new Hyundai, mentioning the latter brand would not get the same reaction.

    What I have observed, in my life, is that people who have the least enviable circumstances are free to share details about their lives because others aren’t made to feel jealous or inferior when speaking with them. A friend of mine waxes on for minutes about her family’s fantastic camping vacations, but I am sure I would get dirty looks if I went on for the same amount of time about how much I enjoyed my week-long stay at the Four Seasons in Maui.

    The result is: people like me who have things that others might be jealous of have to censor ourselves, deliberately omitting details that people might get the wrong impression about. This is sad! I wish I were more free to communicate about my authentic experience without worrying that people will view this as a show of superiority.

    The truth is, people who resent others for “bragging” may simply be insecure within themselves. What kind of car I drive, where I go on vacation, how my kid is doing in school, and how much money I make only matter to people who need to compare themselves to me–they say nothing about my own need to compare myself to them.

    • Aaron

      What is your “authentic experience?”

      • Kimberlein

        One that would not require me to think twice before I speak for fear that what I say might be perceived as braggadocio.

        For example, I have wanted to eat at The French Laundry for (literally) years. I had a reservation in December but I had to cancel due to a family emergency and I have a new reservation in March. I am genuinely very excited, not because I want people to be impressed, but because I am a total foodie and I am dying to see what they serve, and to try a fantastic wine, and to see what the restaurant is like, but I feel like I can’t really talk about it.

        On the other hand, I have been to some amazing taco trucks (again, because I am a total foodie!) and real foodies don’t discriminate. Raving about my favorite taco trucks would be no problem, but raving about The French Laundry would be seen differently. Yet, my authentic truth is, I would be raving about them for the same reason–because I love food.

        • Kimberlein, you don’t get it at all. You are more than compensated for the lack of bragging rights by the fact that you CAN take expensive vacations, buy yourself a new Lexus and treat yourself to a meal at the French Laundry. I love great food too, and would love to eat at FL, but I can’t afford to. However, as a former chef, I’m a great cook, and my husband definitely gets to brag to his wealthier buddies about the fantastic meals he has at home. You want to have your cake and eat it too. That’s still a no-no.

          • Kimberlein

            Respectfully, I think that you are missing the point 🙂 The point is, there is a double standard.

            You are basically saying that the fact that I can afford to go to the French Laundry at all should be “enough” to make me never want to share it with anybody in my life. That basically proves what I am saying (and the main point of my example). People who have access to things that others want are shamed for discussing them, while people who have less access can more freely discuss the details of their lives without fear of being shamed.

            The truth is, I am really excited about going to The French Laundry. And the only person who knows about our reservation is my husband. Why should I be safe sharing my genuine excitement about the next episode of Downton Abbey but not safe sharing my genuine excitement about eating at a restaurant I’ve wanted to eat at for ten years?

            It’s about the double standard. It’s “still a no-no” to say anything that doesn’t trip others’ insecurities? Obviously.

          • Why don’t you invite a fellow foodie who can’t afford a meal at FL to join you and your husband? Then you can reminisce together about your incredible experience, which I’m sure it will be. Hell, you could even share it on Facebook, because you’ve done something genuinely worth bragging about–an act of generousity. It’s the selfishness of your talking about things that you can afford to do that others in your circle can’t that is wrong. To call this a double-standard that in some way hurts you is absurd. Grow up.

          • BTaylor

            Oh jeez…give me a break, now she can only talk about her experience if she invites someone that can’t go? And that’ll make you view her differently? How should she put it to make it right for you? ‘My husband and I finally get our dream romantic date and here’s our cousin Sally?’ Now that’s absurd. In fact THAT is the worst form of bragging, people who post how humbled they are by all they do for others. I travel all over the world for my business. I’m posting of my experiences. I’m sharing with my family and friends. I’m not bragging, it’s just my life. I kinda have to throw it to the wind, and while I’m very aware that I’m blessed to get to do those things, those that love me, know my heart and circumstances and are happy for me.

          • BTaylor

            By the way, the French Laundry has been on my dream list since I first read of it in the 90’s! Kimberlain, can you be my friend so that I can see your pics and live vicariously through you? Yum! Enjoy!

        • Marshein

          Wealthy people don’t get to brag to people who are poor. Similarly, thin women do not get to moan about how fat they’re getting to very fat women; and white people don’t get to tell black people they’ve been oppressed as white people; and 40 year olds don’t get to talk about how old they’re growing to 60 year olds. Do you get it yet? It’s political, and it is also just basic common courtesy.

    • John

      Give me a break

    • mllepriest

      Kimberlein! Oh I KNOW! I really wish I could feel more comfortable posting about how great my life is, the awesome new cars I buy and the fantastic sex I’m having with my hot Brazilian personal trainer. But those resentful, jealous, less fortunate people ruin everything!

      • Kimberlein

        Thanks for your unnecessarily sarcastic response. I guess it’s easier to answer as you did rather than to address the point I made with an articulate opposing point of view.

        The point is, there’s a double standard. People DO react differently to someone who talks about their Hyundai and someone who talks about their Lexus, even though both people might have un-self-important reasons for mentioning the brand of their car. People DO react differently to hearing that you had dinner at a taco truck than to hearing that you had dinner at The French Laundry, even though you might genuinely want to mention them in the same spirit.

        The fact is, people who have things that others want are often judged and stigmatized for it, and made to feel unsafe for mentioning it, just as you and others have proven by your responses. Even if said in a perfectly benign way, without a tone or spirit of bragging, there are always those whose own insecurities will cause them to bristle at the very reference.

        Why is it so hard to be honest about that? There is no resolution to this (or any) issue unless we can be honest.

    • Wilbur

      A person who needs to brag is by definition inferior.

      • BTaylor

        I guess it’s all how it is done. Saying she’s having dinner at the French Laundry is not bragging in and of itself. It’s her experience and she’s sharing. That doesn’t make her seem on tiny bit of inferior to me, makes her interesting and in the know because its one of the greatest restaurants in the world. Sounds like it might make others feel inferior, but as you can see from her lament of not sharing with anyone, that is not her intent. Lighten up.

    • Pontifikate

      This is as old as human nature and there are all kinds of ancient expressions and lessons about envy and how not to arouse it. You might read some.

  • Aaron

    It sounds like the panel is talking a lot insecurity at the root of bragging. Do the academics on the panel see any indicators that insecurity is somehow on the rise? Or a related idea, that “we” are more preoccupied with comparison to others than in previous eras?

  • Erin R.

    Bragging on facebook is the No. 1 reason that I feel depressed about my own life on a regular basis. The bragging that is upsetting to me is done by women, about the fact that they are having babies, and they post photos of their ultrasounds, photos of their growing waistlines, etc. It is especially painful to me because I cannot have children myself, and so I feel like the bragging is about something that really doesn’t make them special people at all. It’s just that they were blessed with fertility, and I wasn’t. But the praises and encouragement that these pregnant women receive from other women also invalidates my feelings of being proud that I am a successful, educated businesswoman, because bragging about how much money I make of what a great job I have on facebook seems inappropriate and even gauche.

    • Kimberlein

      How does others sharing their happiness (and others being happy for their happiness) invalidate your feelings? Is somebody telling you that your feelings aren’t valid? Would you begrudge somebody for expressing their happiness about your pregnancy or commenting that your kids were cute if you posted ultrasound/toddler pictures on Facebook?

      • Erin R.

        Kimberlein: I explained it in my post. I’m basically saying the same thing you are: that on facebook it’s okay to brag about something that is really not some great feat (like having sex and getting pregnant), but I, like you, am a successful and educated businessperson who can afford dinners at French Laundry, but I feel that I cannot share that on facebook because that is considered gauche. But sharing ultrasound pictures is not considered gauche on facebook. And you asked would I begrudge someone for commenting on my pregnancy, and I think you’ve completely missed my point, which is, I CANNOT HAVE CHILDREN, and so for an infertile woman, facebook is a painful place.

        • Wilbur

          Facebook: Where Losers Go To Brag.

          • Marshein

            I don’t think it’s losers. I think the structure of FB just lends itself to a particularly obnoxious characteristic of the human animal: the belief that we must act and feel positive at all times, coupled with a taboo against discussing truly intimate topics. But hey, I don’t want to talk about intimate topics with thousands or hundreds of people! So I finally decided, the only point I can see to this is business promotion and I stopped going on FB.

    • Marshein

      Then why do you use Facebook? I get depressed and go thru similar feelings about very different issues from yours, so I simply stopped using it.

  • Pete Touschner

    The mayor declared it Michael Krasny day on Friday? Michael, you are totally bragging. And you are humble bragging when you ask your guest whether it is bragging! (Not that this is a bad thing. Your show is awesome.)

  • While I am not a parent, I think being a parent is incredibly hard work. If parents want to tell us the good things the kids have done, I am willing to listen. I will say, though, that one can use the “hide” feature on Facebook to hide or limit the comments of those who are too much for them.

  • Sharon

    I consider myself modest, perhaps bordering self-deprecating. My two boys, however, often like to brag – about toys, about accomplished relatives, and their own talents. which often makes me cringe. I don’t like to be the one undercutting them all the time. How do you deal with this?

    • Wilbur

      In Bruce Lee’s movies, the braggards and big-talkers are the first ones to hit the floor moaning in pain.

    • BTaylor

      You have an honest conversation that they sound like spoiled little a-holes and to knock it off. Have you ever had them volunteer or community service? Have they been around those less fortunate than themselves? If not, how can you expect them to know differently and feel they’re blessed?

  • How wonderful to hear talented, intelligent friends of mine on Forum, sharing their expertise! I’ll BRAG FOR them, so that they don’t have to do it for themselves! Hello to Benoit and Peggy!-Yael

  • Nikolay Yordanov

    bad bragging is vanity without dignity

  • victoria s.

    Unfortunately, this is a culture of “ME”! No shame…

  • Francisca

    I totally agree with you @Liz11:disqus. It’s nice that other people are having a great life, we should celebrate it, not create a jealousy mode. I know it’s hard, but let’s try harder.

    • Wilbur

      If you believe the douche bags of Facebook are not lying when they make wild boasts, you are the fool they’re hoping for.

      • BTaylor

        Guess I just don’t have a lot of douchebag friends? Why would I? Delete delete delete if you do.

  • Francisca

    Why is it ok for us to feel sorry for unfortunate things and not feel happy for nice things? It should go either way. Like I said before it’s hard, just try to ask yourself when the jealousy feeling occur within you. Trust me, it’ll make you feel better. I’ve tried it before and it works 😉

    • Marshein

      I don’t think this is about us not being able to be happy for someone’s good whatever, it’s about someone bragging. If a friend completes law school, for instance, I’m going to be happy for them and stuff any insecure feelings I have about myself. But if they’re constantly bragging about their trips to Europe or whatever, I’m going to resent it. These are different issues.

      • BTaylor

        Yes, your issue.

  • Caitie

    I have to wonder, if people bragging on Facebook did not receive the positive reinforcement from comments, would they still brag?

  • MattCA12

    Cultivate the ability to actively “listen” to braggarts – whether on the soccer field sideline or on Facebook. The secret to winning friends and influencing people? Act interested in their kids.

  • Most people you see on mainstream media are more accomplished than average. Seems like just about everyone on Forum has, at least written a book. It’s a good show, however. On Facebook there is also a lot of honest sharing of the less than positive kind. People sharing their illnesses, loneliness and boredom as well as their accomplishments.

  • Marshein

    I was thinking: bragging is strongly encouraged by our culture, that is, American culture, where the U.S. of A. is constantly touted as the greatest country that ever was or ever will be. What passes for patriotism frequently comes off as braggadccio (sp?). Kids are fed this propaganda from kindergarten or even pre-school up. Every baseball (or other sports) game includes a hefty dose of pro-Americana. Nobody teaches kids it’s impolite to tell someone from Spain or Italy, “My country is the best in the world.” So why would they think it’s wrong to say “I Am the Best Person in My School.”?

    • BTaylor

      I would teach my kids that that is impolite. Anyone that doesn’t is an idiot.

  • It amazes me how some seem to loath social networking, but as this whole big old world turns round and round, us people within it are entitled to our own opinions and beliefs.

    People use social networking for a variety of purposes; some to promote their artistry, others to inspire and encourage others, and some do use it to lift themselves up.

    So what!

    It is understandable how someone who is in mental anguish could look at someone’s joyful posts and feel less than within themselves; it’s called insecurity, depression, etc…

    It’s no different than living next door to a family that appears to have it all together; with the nice manicured lawn, a pool in the back, a few kids, and the ideal parents who love and are affectionate with one another…

    If there is an emptiness inside, a void that sees that image as joyful and happy, while seeing their own as drab and boring…

    Then that esteem problem is a personal issue that requires attention (perhaps medical).

    Like anything in life, things can be exploited within the cyber world or outside of it and, as always, a pessimist will always see things in black and white.

    The bottom line is…

    it takes all types of personalities to make the world go around. ~GD

    • BTaylor

      Great points made.

  • Most of my Facebook friends use Facebook to promote our political views. Lots of political discussion on Facebook.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor