Listening to someone boast about their accomplishments can be a seriously draining experience. But while nobody likes a bragger, a brand new study suggests that humblebragging is even more universally despised than feigning modesty about your own achievements.
A humblebrag is when someone reveals some kind of positive news about themselves but delivers it under a veil of artificial modesty, and it’s become an increasingly common way for people to talk themselves up on social media without appearing self-centered. Well, if this new study out of Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill is any indication, people can see right through it, and they think you’re even more of a jerk than if you had just boasted openly.
The researchers (PDF) surveyed a total of 646 people about their own experiences with humblebragging, asking them to keep track of instances where they spotted a humblebrag as well as how they felt about the practice in general. The researchers found that a specific type of humblebragging, where the individual hedges their boast in a humility-based comment such as “Hair’s not done, just rolled out of bed from a nap and still get hit on, so confusing!” is both more noticeable and more annoying to others.
Of all the types of comments one could put in a social media post, humblebragging was seen as the least sincere among the volunteers participating in the research. Even outright complaining and plain old bragging scored higher in terms of believability and sincerity. Put simply, you’re better off just bragging about what you’re proud of than trying to deliver it in an underhanded way.
“The negative correlations between liking, perceived sincerity, and perceived competence with ratings of humblebragging suggest that despite their efforts, these Twitter users were unsuccessful in using humblebragging to self-promote,” the paper notes. “These findings offer initial evidence that the more individuals are perceived to use humblebragging the more they come across as less likeable, sincere, and competent.”