The “humblebrag” continues to spread its sick poison across social media. On Twitter, people publish obscure boasts about how the number of holiday party invites flooding their inbox is stressing them out. On Instagram, influencers post stunning selfies with captions about their supposed acne, while on Facebook, friends comment on events that they can’t attend because they’ll be on vacay in the Caribbean. One study from 2015 called humblebragging “ubiquitous,” with the majority of respondents reporting witnessing a humblebrag online, on the phone, or in-person in the past week.
Everyone recognizes — or should recognize — that hiding a brag within a complaint or an attempt at humility is an awful faux pas. Just as you wouldn’t fart at a dinner party, you should not humblebrag. Yet we persist in doing it. Even I, a massive humblebrag hater, recently made the excruciating mistake of humblebragging while complaining about the practice. “If I ever humblebrag on twitter dot com please murder me,” I wrote, to which a friend responded, “Low key humblebrag about never humblebragging.”
It was a pathetic wake-up call: While humblebragging is nauseating, it’s also painfully easy to accidentally do. I had initially set out to write a screed against humblebrags, and while I still find them incredibly irritating and will mute its worst offenders, I now have a lot more sympathy toward people who feel compelled to disguise their pride or excitement in modesty or complaints.
Because while humblebragging is annoying and pitiful, it comes from a fully understandable place: the desire to share something you like about yourself or that makes you feel happy. Boasting is a vilified behavior, so people go to great lengths to hide their intentions — in the end, it usually backfires.
Humblebrag is thought to have been coined in 2010 by the late comedian and Parks and Recreation writer Harris Wittels, who started a Twitter account dedicated to retweeting particularly egregious examples of the phenomenon. “My second day shooting with Bryan Cranston is almost over. I’m not bragging, I’m sad,” wrote the actor Matt Braunger, whose obnoxious attempt to get everyone oohing and aahing over…