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Arielle Tschinkel
February 21, 2018 2:38 pm

Raise your hand if you’re a fan of sharing all the photos and videos from your fabulous vacation or the bouquet of flowers from your S.O. on Valentine’s Day. No shame — we all fall prey to the temptations of a good social media brag once in a while. After all, what’s the point of social media if you can’t post about the great things going on in your life?

While a little bit of bragging on social media isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can certainly veer into ~extra~ territory, leaving your followers nothing but annoyed with your latest boast post. So how can you tell whether your updates are enjoyable or eye roll-inducing? It turns out the answer lies in your intent — you need to know why you’re posting to begin with.

Utpal Dholakia, a professor at Rice University, explored the topic in an essay for Psychology Today, noting that “sharing positive events and achievements” with our followers on social media supports our happiness, especially when they offer encouraging words and engagement in return.

He writes, "When we inform close family and friends, or even acquaintances, about a job promotion, an engagement, or the arrival of a new child, we provide useful positive knowledge about ourselves that increases everyone’s happiness."

And hey, it’s totally cool to get that teeny ego boost when your pals congratulate you on your promotion at work or gush over your gorgeous new handbag, but Dholakia explains that the difference between sharing and showing off, and it all comes down to intent. If you’re posting “mainly to arouse jealousy, envy, or other negative emotions,” (i.e., to make your ex jealous, or to annoy that pesky coworker of yours!) it can read as bragging.

He says, “When bragging, what information you share and who you share it with, both matter.” So if you’re posting your shiny new job title on LinkedIn, that’s informative and well-deserving of all the Likes. But if you’re writing an essay about how hard you worked to get that promotion, it comes across as fully boastful — and likely very annoying.

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Researchers at the University of Houston recently studied the psychology behind bragging, linking it to other, “more undesirable” personality traits.

They concluded, “Bragging, even when in conjunction with other forms of sharing, was related to more undesirable traits…Individuals who tended to brag when they shared their positive events were more likely to be men, reported less agreeableness, less conscientiousness, and less empathy, whereas those who tended to brag and mass-share reported the highest levels of narcissism.” Yikes.

So how can you be sure that your social media posts don’t breed resentment? Be mindful of your commentary, and when all else fails, keep it short and sweet. Also check the frequency of your posts — the occasional selfie or romantic ode to your bae is fine, but daily reminders of how perfect your life is might not be totally necessary.

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Of course, when you’re killin’ it at work or so happy and in love with your new partner, it’s natural to want to share your joy with the world (or at least your online followers). We all deserve to be celebrated for our accomplishments, and in an all-too-unrelenting news cycle, spreading good news (and therefore good vibes!) can be a breath of fresh air. But being mindful of your posts is never a bad thing, so go forth, prosper, and post wisely. And watch as those double-taps roll in.

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