Humblebragging — that is, preening before your web community under an ultra-thin veneer of self-deprecation — is one of the best/worst developments of our narcissistic social-media culture. Harris Wittels over at Grantland is the authority here (he cites some bro with the Twitter handle @TotesMcGotes as a master of the form), but the phenomenon is everywhere and endlessly fascinating. Celebrities are the most common offenders, due mainly to their wealth and unquenchable need for attention, but even we norms can be humblebrag perpetrators. If you’ve ever mentioned how well you did on your SATs after you left high school, this list (by no means exhaustive) is for you.
1. The Incomprehensible Humblebrag
For a shining example of this tactic, look no further than the Twitter feed of the Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane. At any time of day you’ll find some garbled tweet that is probably a brag, but is definitely not English. Here’s two of his most recent, as of this writing (quotes mine): “Ask d a. Or. Wooh. Or French ie did she suck me and waka dick. N stack bundles bitch u get around u get dat killer pussy,” or “Polow stole my song medicine dold it 2 plies put keri on my song. N dud video polowddon itsOnsight ibput dat on bam my son.” Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa also falls into this category sometimes with his Dada-inspired butt-dialed missives to his constituents. Maybe it’s bragging, and maybe it isn’t. No one can say for sure. Gucci and Grassley should collabo.
2. The Graduate Degree Humblebrag
Thanks for the biweekly updates on your comparative literature doctoral thesis. It has really been a wild ride keeping up with every test and class you’ve taught over the last six years, and how you really wish you could go out this Friday but you have to study again. When you get that adjunct position at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, be sure to keep us abreast of your post-student life, like loan repayments and the endless miles of flat expanse in every direction. You earned it!
3. The Workout Humblebrag
This time-honored humblebrag can take many forms: marathon training, Reebok CrossFit, posting photos of yourself looking all casually fit at the beach as you nonchalantly glisten and frolic in the water, or just constant updates about you going to the gym. Those of us who are reading these updates while hunched over a computer at work don’t really want to hear about how you just don’t think you can make it to the gym for the 12th straight day, or how you started cramping up a little at mile 17 but battled through it, or how your bench press is down to 245 pounds. Just remember: Paul Ryan also bragged about his physical prowess. Paul Ryan is a douche.
4. The Celebrity Sighting Humblebrag
I once ran into Jeff Goldblum out by Columbus Circle. He was shockingly tall, to the point that if I had tried getting a photo with him, his head probably would’ve been cut out of the picture. (This, in hindsight, would’ve been the best kind of celebrity photo to have—a framed photo of headless B-lister Jeff Goldblum hanging over the mantle. If I had a mantle.) In these situations it’s best to try something unusual. For instance, if you happened to be in this Bulgarian bar at 4am when Jean-Claude Van Damme walked in and started arm wrestling dudes, you need to turn your hat around, Over the Top-style, get in there and give the world the humblebrag it has been waiting for.
5. The Superpower Humblebrag
OK, we get it. You woke up one day with the strength of ten men and could shoot lasers out of your eyes. It’s not much of a secret identity if you’re posting about how you didn’t get much sleep last night, but can’t say what you were doing except that it had something to do with “super villains” and a “doomsday machine.” If only you had developed super-powered circumspection to go along with your hyperspeed and mutant healing factor.
6. The Friends in High Places Humblebrag
I was reading something Bill Simmons wrote the other day (my mistake, I know), and he casually tossed into his column how he “texted” Kobe Bryant about something or another. He couldn’t just say he “asked” Kobe, which is humblebraggery enough on its own? The needlessly implied familiarity increases the humblebrag factor exponentially, and Bill—as a lifelong Boston sports diehard—should be ashamed at this level of intimacy with the enemy. Dial it back, buddy. Red Auerbach just rolled over in his grave.
7. The Intramural Sports Champion Humblebrag
While many of us lose any real athletic ability we had as we exit our high school years, the competitive fire never really goes out. As such, many people join intramural sports leagues, where they can compete in low-impact sports like softball, dodge ball, Quidditch, or beating up people who play Quidditch. While not as many people care about your cornhole finals as, say, the Stanley Cup (the numbers are probably closer than you think, though), that doesn’t mean that you can’t add a little drama to the proceedings. Channel your inner Vin Scully when retelling the story of how you overcame a 15-point deficit and hit six cornholes in a row, like you were the Reggie Miller of the lawn sport.
8. The My Incredible Child Humblebrag
Unfortunately, parents gloating over their child’s supposed amazing accomplishments has no real shelf life. From the first time they soil their Huggies and create a likeness of the Virgin Mary to the time they get a full ride to Harvard for their high school science project in which they cured cancer-AIDS and Princeton was nice but “not for us,” there will be many years of hearing just how great little Trevor or Addison is doing. It’s okay to be proud of your kids, but let’s not forget those of us who went to public school and excel mainly at disappointing our folks. We need humblebrags, too.