The other day a friend of mine posted the Facebook status update: ‘Wedding Today. Hope I haven’t forgotten anything important…’
Of course, what she meant was, ‘I’m going to tell you all I’m getting married today, but I’d better shroud something so self-congratulatory in a self-deprecation’. On the surface the possibility of forgetting something important (which I have no doubt existed and were quite genuine) was a reason for us to feel sorry for her, while we simultaneously logged the information that she’s getting married, and therefore found someone who loves her enough to agree to that, and almost certainly has organised a large and expensive party for the day that will be centred around her.
This, which is a subtle version of the humblebrag, is how many of us now present ourselves on social media; not always in self-deprecation, but always showing our best side, even if that is created with subtle nuances of negativity etc.
‘Fucking jetlag again’ (I’ve flown a long way again. Ask me where I am.)
‘Bloody Reggie Watts tickets sold out’ (I’m cool enough to both like Reggie Watts and know that he’s playing a gig soon. But this is an opportunity for one of you to post a YT link to ‘Fuck Shit Stack’ to show you’re as cool as me.)
‘Does anyone know a good sports massage place in Hackney?’ (I work out enough to need a sports massage, and I can afford one.)
I’ll reiterate here that I’m not having a pop at anyone who does this, mainly because we all do it in one way or another, and I certainly fall into that category. By way of illustration (and this was in no way deliberate) I present my last Facebook Status:
Bought a crappy record player, now I need some vinyl to complete the Laurel Canyon hippy vibe. Got Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road, Dark Side Of The Moon, CSN and Rumours (Joni Mitchell on the way). Any other suggestions?
Look at the boasting that runs through that like a stick of rock! I’m into vinyl; I have ‘good’ taste but self-deprecatingly it’s a bit mainstream, so I’m asking for help; I live in Laurel Canyon, but I puncture that by suggesting I’m some kind of ‘hippy’… Subtle nuances all the way. And then it all opens up a thread where other people can help, but if they also want to show off a bit under the guise of helping then that works too (by the way, I fully believe that the people who made suggestions did it out of the altruistic kindness of their hearts; thanks, friends).
But I rarely see tweets about people unable to pay their credit card bill (unless it’s because they just bought a brilliant new coffee table), or waking up feeling like shit (unless they were out clubbing till 5am). Why would we tell anyone something about ourselves that would really give a negative impression? Having said that, going public about something bad you’ve done is another way to look good: it was very brave and honest to admit hitting that car last night, or finishing your flatmate’s much-prized cheesecake because you were stoned (and weren’t you cool, getting stoned?).
Some status updates and tweets are obviously straightforwardly positive – not everything needs self-deprecation to stop it seeming self-aggrandising – but I love decoding (correctly or otherwise) the messages within the messages.
We’re through the looking glass, people, and this is the new normal.