A few years ago, my husband got a promotion at work. It was a position he really wanted, and he had worked hard for so long to get it. Finally, his dream had come true. We went out for dinner to a nice restaurant to celebrate. My husband asked the waiter to take a photo of us and he posted the photo on Facebook. He tagged me, wrote a brief message of gratitude, and declared publicly his new position at work (what some may call humblebragging).
I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of sharing this on Facebook. What if his boss sees it and doesn’t like it? What if he rubs some colleagues from work the wrong way? I felt he should have waited until he settles into his new role before making people feel some type of way. I did not share my concerns with him though, I had to let him savor his achievement however he pleases.
I thought to myself, maybe I am just uncomfortable with sharing such news online because of my cultural background, it’s no big deal, until a “concerned friend” sent me a private message saying…be careful what you share on social media, when you share too much, people can get jealous and jinx your life… anyway, I am happy for you!
Sharing versus showing off… who is the judge?
If you are on social media, I am sure you’ve come across people being criticized for sharing too much, for bragging, for being shallow, for not being conscious enough in this era of wokeness. There is a lot of bashing going on around. Most of us have experienced both sides of the coin; we either take it upon ourselves to call out the “braggarts”, hoping to teach them how to act and what to post, or we couldn’t be bothered at all, we simply ignore or unfollow.
Though it’s not easy, I try to do the latter.
In my old Instagram account, I used to share photos of the books I was reading, screen shorts of pages I liked, and I would write about how the books were helping me in general, sometimes I would get comments like… we know you are smart, you don’t have to show everyone that you read a lot.
I closed that account.
I have a close friend whose dad is super active on social media. He collects vintage cars for fun; he is a Concours d’Elegance fanatic. He once faced backlash on social media for posting photos of cars and buying unnecessary cars whilst there are children starving in some parts of the world.
He is one of the most generous men I know. Generous with both his time and materials.
A former colleague of mine used to travel a lot. Weekend getaways were the usual for him. He would travel business/first class, spending his nights in 5-star hotels. His social media pages were flooded with photos of his travels. He lived to travel. If you didn’t know this guy, you would think he was showing off, but once you got to know him, you would learn that for him weekend getaways, travelling first class, 5-star resorts were no big deal. He came from a wealthy family. Some people are just born in wealth and this is what they know as the norm, we should not hold that against them… he was simply living and sharing his passion.
Glorification of suffering: Do we just want to see people sharing images of pain and suffering and not their achievements?
Here on Medium, some writers have written articles or shared on social media how much they are earning and how far they’ve come in their writing career. The range is from new writers being proud of the first 2 USD that they’ve earned, to others earning as much as 10,000 USD. I haven’t seen any criticisms directed towards the 2 USD earners, but I have seen the high earners being criticized for showing off and being warned to be careful.
Just like life, social media didn’t come with a manual. The do’s and don’ts are subjective. We have different tastes and preferences which are shaped by our individual characters, cultural backgrounds, religious practices, etc. Even where we are in life will determine how we interact with others and this applies to what we post on social media as well. These things change, they are not cast on stone, we live and learn.
Can we just let people be?
How I overcame my need to fix the so-called “Braggarts”
We never go to our neighbours’ houses and lecture them on how they should live and what photos they are “allowed” to hang on their walls. It is their house, they can do with it whatever they please.
Whether it is simply living, whether it is bragging, whether it is sharing in the hopes of encouraging others to not give up on their dreams, it is bound to affect us in some type of way. Maybe, instead of bashing others, we could ask ourselves:
Why does a yoga trainer with a “sexy” body rub me the wrong way?
Would I have felt better if she wasn’t “sexy”? If you’ve been working hard to get fit, lose some weight, gain some muscles, recover your health….whatever your reasons, why is it such a bad thing to celebrate your wins publicly? No one knows how long and hard you’ve worked to attain this. If dressing up sexy and sharing your photo on social media is how you celebrate your wins… however shallow it may seem to some, I think you have a right to do so. Some celebrate by drinking themselves into oblivion, some binge-watch Netflix… personal preference.
Why does a stranger’s holiday pictures in exotic 5-star resorts make me uncomfortable?
Would I have felt better if they were hitchhiking and camping somewhere? Maybe they worked hard for it, maybe they have just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and they have a few days left in this world. Maybe they saved for so many years before they could afford this holiday, maybe they are influencers and the hotel offered them free room and food in exchange for their services?
Why do I think people who post pictures of themselves wearing designer clothes are shallow?
If they were wearing cheaper clothes, would they have earned my respect? What does that say about me? We all have our expensive habits… some prefer clothes, shoes and handbags, some prefer cars, some a home in a lavish neighborhood, for some just keeping their money in their bank account and watch it grow gives them satisfaction, other spend on education, others travelling first class and 5-star hotels. Who are we to decide how other people should spend their money and what they should share on their social media pages?
How much is showing off too much, anyway?
One cannot deny that some pages are just purely commercial and causing more harm than good, some are fake, some are bragging, but we will never know the motivation behind people's post from our side of the screen.
If we do not like them, we can simply unfollow.
Downplaying our success to make others feel comfortable is too much unnecessary baggage to carry, we do not even know who these “others” are.
Shine however you please, you’ve earned it! And if one day you wake up and feel that your way of living is shallow, you are free to change and do whatever you please. It is called GROWTH.