Self-exuberance vs. bragging in the age of social media

One of my colleagues at work recently pointed me to this music video by CharliXCX from earlier in the year. There are some interesting graphics, which really adds to the point of the video (whether it’s sarcastic or serious is up to the viewer!): that selfie culture is going overboard.

On a related note, I read this psychology paper recently (thank you Ged) where Irene Scopelliti (Cass Business School, City University London), George Loewenstein (Department of Social & Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University), and Joachim Vosgerau (Department of Marketing, Bocconi University) describe a series of experiments they did looking at the gap between what *people think* others think of them when they share positive news on social media, and what others *actually think*.

I was unsurprised by the results. To clarify, I’m not a big user of Facebook socially (I use it for work a bit). I do use Twitter a lot though, and I’m starting to feel uneasy about the self-promotional activity that I do on Twitter myself (yes, I do do it, because I like hiding behind the screen instead of doing it in person and Twitter feels less of an imposition on people than Facebook because my connections on Facebook are people I know in real life, versus Twitter where connections are more anonymous – think of that what you will).

Anyway, the research finds that:

self-promoters overestimate the extent to which their self-promotion elicits positive emotions and underestimate the extent to which it elicits negative emotions. As a consequence, when seeking to maximize the favorability of the opinion others have of them, people engage in excessive self-promotion that has the opposite of its intended effects, decreasing liking with no positive offsetting effect on perceived competence.

There are influencing factors: how well you know the person who is sharing this information and cross-cultural influences in how a braggart is perceived, for example. The solution, according to the research? Get others to brag on your behalf, which is another often-observed behaviour on social media, from my experience.

That’s not going to sort selfie culture though. That’s just narcissism, which social media fuels, in my opinion! ‘Contrived perfection made to get attention’, as Essena O’Neill, the teen Instagram star who quit the social platform a few months ago, declared. She got hate for it, of course, and definitely still uses some social media to further her much more purposeful new project Lets Be Game Changers, so take it with a pinch of salt.

You can snap that selfie now – share it with people you know, but think twice about posting it on Facebook if you have a large extended circle of friends! Maybe your mum will share it for you on Facebook, though – the ideal outcome.

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