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Your Hashtags Don’t Make You Any Humble

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If social media never existed, what would you be thankful for?

It could be the good coffee your local barista whips up for you every day or the friendly neighbor who just baked pie and gave you a hearty piece. A simple “thank you” would suffice to appreciate their kindness, or give the barista an extra tip.

And not a soul has to know.

But since we’re in a world ruled by instant gratification, there’s “#blessed”.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are bloated with this hashtag spree where people boast about an accomplishment in the cloak of being humble, fish for compliments, or make others jealous on purpose.

It’s as if every aspect of other people’s lives has been touched by the divine. Blessed, or “divine or supremely favored”, is now used to emphasize having a bikini body or going on an all expense paid Caribbean cruise or eating a meal cooked by the best husband ever. They’ve invaded your feed one way or another, and you might wonder why you’re not being blessed with much.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing good news about yourself as freedom for self-expression has always been the impetus of social media. But some people can’t seem to toe the line between sharing positive information that others can find useful and outright bragging.

Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker, has a simpler definition for bragging.

“It’s being overbearing and showing excessive pride,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

‘Nuclear Arms Race’

While it’s good to be thankful for all things big and small, advertising your gratitude on social media defeats the purpose of being thankful. Experts say it’s because of the medium.

“Social media has made all this feel like a nuclear arms race,” said Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune.

In a society of unrelenting competition, the social media has become a warpath where people bring out the big guns i.e., a perfect image of themselves. There’s a stage to show off and a big audience to please. We live for the applause. If we can’t get validation from the peers we encounter face to face, at least a “like”, a positive comment, or a “retweet” of what we post in social media can make us feel better.

“You have to keep up with the competition…” said Jones. “So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to blow your own trumpet. If you don’t, who will?”

The Wall Street Journal cites the results of a series of experiments by Harvard University neuroscientists, indicating that the reward areas of our brain—the same areas that respond to “primary rewards” such as food and sex—are activated when we talk about ourselves. The study adds that we devote between 30% and 40% of our conversation time to doing just that, focusing not on boasting specifically, but on self-disclosure.

Sure, you achieved quite a great deal this week and posted it on Facebook, but “#blessed” is not necessary. Or pretend that you’re humble about it.

Jones made a comment about an artist who won a prestigious award with a big cash prize, and wrote “I am truly humbled,” on Facebook the next day.

“The moment you declare yourself to be humble, even as the world declares you special, the very act of declaration thereof instantly undermines your self-alleged humility,” he said.

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Photo courtesy of Théo via Flickr, Creative Commons

#Happy100Days

#Happy100Days made buzz in the social media about showing gratitude in the form of technology. People had to post photos of the things that make them happy for 100 consecutive days.

“It can be anything from a meet-up with a friend to a very tasty cake in the nearby coffee place, from a feeling of being at home after a hard day to a favor you did to a stranger,” the organizers wrote in the website 100happydays.com.

Those who wish to take the challenge need to register in the website and choose a social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) for submitting photos. Applicants can either go private or public.

“It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest” the organizers said. “If you try to please/make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting. Same goes for cheating.”

The website said that people who completed the challenge claimed to be in a better mood every day, receive more compliments from people, and be more appreciative and optimistic.

As a disclaimer, however, the website said that 71% of the challengers failed due to lack of time.

Spread the Love

We need more than technology in our lives to show gratitude, but it doesn’t have to be much. There are many ways to say thank you without resorting to social media and you’re going to be glad you tried them.

  •         Let’s start with the moment you wake up. You can utter a silent prayer or just silently appreciate that it’s a fine, beautiful day to wake up to. People might have already mentioned it online, but you don’t have to.
  •         While you’re at it, why not send an e-mail to the five closest people in your life and let them know that you’re thankful they’re always there for you whenever you need them.
  •         Or, if you’re living solo, make a phone call to your folks and ask them how they’re doing.
  •         If you have a dog at home and it crawls on the bed next to you, a nice, tight hug is enough to show the mutt how much you love it.
  •         You can give an extra tip to your local barista for the good coffee that never fails to pick you up every morning.

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Photo courtesy of bigbirdz via Flickr, Creative Commons
  •         You can also order an extra coffee for the security personnel that always holds the door for you in the office.
  •         Leave a sticky note saying “thanks!” to a colleague who has helped you fix your computer. Or treat him/her to lunch, whichever works.
  •         When planning on your next shopping spree, make sure to set aside a few dollars to donate to charity or to people who need it most.
  •         If you’re in the area, drop by an old school and catch up with your favorite teacher/professor and tell him/her how he/she made a difference in your life.

People are not most of the time who they post on social media, and so are you. While heralding self achievements and good news can be tempting, what’s important is a sense of self-awareness and a capacity to reflect. No hashtags needed.

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