#humblebrag

Recently a Facebook friend named Larry accused me of “humblebragging” when I wrote, on Facebook, that someone recognized me in a coffee shop. It pissed me off—A. Because I wasn’t bragging or even half-bragging; I was admitting how thrilling and rare it was; B. Because, well, fuck him.
Admittedly, I was in a dark mood, and blocked Larry from my Facebook page. We’re not actually friends, so, well, big whoops? Well, Larry wrote to me that he thought his blockage was unwarranted. I invited him here to state his case. He agreed—as long as I don’t use his last name (which is sort of ironic, me thinks).
Here’s Larry …
Two weeks ago, Jeff and I got into a gentleman’s disagreement, or whatever it’s called when two people yell at each other over the Internet.
OK, it wasn’t yelling, we were civil, but the language he used when he e-mailed me about my Facebook comment indicated that he was more than just a little ticked off. He felt the comment was way over the line of appropriateness, and he was upset. He should not have been, and here’s why …
First, at the risk of offending him further (even though he graciously invited me to write this) I have to stand by what I said. He was humblebragging. He tried to dress his mild bragging as humility. But just like doing so is far from awful, calling someone out when they humblebrag is also far from awful. It’s a gentle jab … a way of poking lighthearted fun, meant to elicit an eyeroll from the target and a chuckle from any observers. It’s not meant to demean or hurt the person it’s directed at. I’m pretty confident that the vast majority of Internet users interpret it in this way. Perhaps Jeff does not, but he should.
Second, I should address “people being horrible to each other on the Internet.” I put it in quotes because I’m using it as a term of art. Essentially, by my definition it covers emails/messages/whatever that are full of anger and hate. Jeff has written about this subject before and I agree with him that it’s a big problem. I also recognize that because of his line of work, Jeff is subjected to it much more often than most people. Here’s the thing, though: if you think that being ribbed by someone on your Facebook page (whether for humblebragging or for any other reason) falls into the category of “people being horrible to each other on the internet,” then you need to recalibrate your perceptions. When you share a story publicly and the gist of the story is that you are popular, you should be prepared to get some “non-horrible” criticism in return. The Internet should not be used for “being horrible,” but it also shouldn’t be used exclusively for positive affirmation. A Facebook page is a place where ideas get exchanged. If you have your own page, and you use it to share ideas, others might sometimes tell you they don’t like the ideas. This is something Jeff absolutely has to be able to deal with. Given the way things unfolded here, I’m not sure he grasps this.
So perhaps Jeff reacted so negatively to my comment because he thinks that accusations of humblebragging are meant to be deeply insulting, or because he finds the idea of having harmless fun poked at him via Facebook revolting. It doesn’t really matter. He’s being oversensitive either way. Now I just need to get unblocked from his page so I can explain myself there …

4 thoughts on “#humblebrag”

  1. Larry summed it up perfectly, and though I hate facebook would be his friend. The only people more annoying that humblebrag is when folks on twitter ask for a ‘retweet’ of personalities.

    Example:

    “Hey Jeff, it’s my birthday can I get an RT?”

    Or sympathy RT’s:

    “My Mom is in the hospital and loves your work. Can I get an RT?”

  2. A lot of this may come down to Jeff’s relationship with Larry, which of course I know nothing about, but as a citizen of the Internet I really feel like being accused of a humblebrag is one of the more benign things out there. It can even be done affectionately depending on the context.

    So, to me, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And I say that as a fan of this site.

    And thus ends my assessment of the situation. The court is dismissed.

  3. I'm The Guy Who Approached Jeff At The Coffee Shop

    I was the person who approached Jeff at the coffee shop.
    I was having lunch and did not want to bother him because he was working. I don’t know much about writing, but it appears to be a solitary environment. I’m 9 years older than Jeff, don’t do Facebook nor Twitter, and was always a big fan of Jeff’s work since his local newspaper days; I believe he worked with someone I know during the Trader days. At my job, there are 200 people in the company building and constant conference calls. Good or bad – the feedback is immediate. Just wanted to let Jeff know that I was a reader of his work and look forward to future writings (and he told me the topic of his next book). It was a 2 minute conversation as I did not want to bother him in HIS work environment. Jeff wasn’t humblebragging. In any job, positive feedback is important. I just wanted to let him know his efforts are appreciated.

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