COLUMN: Social media bragging can quickly backfire
Everyone has that one friend who constantly brags about his or her super tremendous internship on social media. After all, as the millennial slogan goes, if it’s not on social media, it didn’t even happen.
And while self-promotion can be awesome — if you’ve got it, flaunt it — after a while, your Facebook friends can become highly irritated by the shameless promotion of your greatness to all 1,372 of your friends.
People talk about FOMO — fear of missing out — mostly in regard to parties and friendships, but FOMO certainly has a place in the stress of college internships. To that person: When you’re constantly posting about your fantastic internship, your Facebook friends may be sitting at home feeling inadequate and awaiting a future of impending doom.
Huffington Post blogger Alissa Dean argues that Americans are hardwired to compete. Therefore, self-promoting posts can “trigger self reflection and social comparison, whether it’s conscious or subconscious.”
But it makes sense. You’re excited you finally got that sweet dream internship. You’ve probably worked hard in school, held lots of previous jobs and broke out all your best interview moves — or just knew a guy. It is quite exciting. Go tell your friends, inform your family and update that nifty LinkedIn account. After all, you deserve it.
But, studies show that self-promotion can backfire.
George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote a paper “You Call It ‘Self-Exuberance,’ I Call It ‘Bragging,’” in which he looked at the potentially negative reactions sparked by people sharing their achievements on social media.
“Our research supports that being the recipient of self-promotion may induce bad feelings. Undoubtedly some of these feelings may be due to the fact that others’ self-promotion makes people feel annoyed, so they may end up being resentful,” Loewenstein wrote.
So, for the people who are always posting their accomplishments — whether it’s snagging that great internship, meeting someone famous through work or getting into four law schools — just know that a lot of your friends might not only feel irritated, but also start resenting you.
Nevertheless, a worthwhile concept to keep in mind is that social media in internships is just like everything else: People only share the things they think other people will be impressed by. The exciting posts on Facebook probably do not represent day-to-day intern responsibilities. No one posts pictures of cleaning the kitchen, restocking the fridge or running a package to FedEx.
Instead, we choose to post the images we think are impressive. We have our real identities and our online identities, providing an unbalanced picture of our daily lives. MIT professor Sherry Turkle told the Boston Globe that managing our online selves has become extremely complex, in part because of the difference between our virtual selves and our real selves.
“During the day, you look at your noncurated self. You live with your mistakes. On Facebook, you’re always the way you want to be,” Turkle said.
I discovered that I was part of the problem. At my previous internship, I sat around waiting for someone to give me something to do. I was bored. But then I noticed a cool film poster next to me and opened my Snapchat to take a picture. I shared it with my friends with the caption #internlife, making my job seem exciting.
Though I have loved every one of the internships I’ve had, those Snapchats and Facebook posts were not fully representative of my experiences. My experiences were great, but for the reason any internship is great: I learned a lot and made valuable relationships.
I met Steve Carell when I worked for his production company, and while I didn’t get a picture with him because that would have been unprofessional, if I had posted a picture of me and him, my Facebook friends probably would have been impressed and maybe a little jealous of my awesome internship. But they would have been jealous for all the wrong reasons.
Though meeting Steve Carell was everything I had hoped and dreamed it would be, it was not representative of my day-to-day life. But that’s all people would have known — if I had even done it in the first place.
Self-promoters out there, know that your friends are annoyed and envious. And for those recipients of self-promotion, know that all your friends — including myself — can be dirty little social media liars.
Mollie Berg is a senior majoring in communication. Her column, “All in A Day’s Work,” runs every other Wednesday.