The Scourge of the Holiday Humblebrag - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Scourge of the Holiday Humblebrag

The Scourge of the Holiday Humblebrag

By Taylor Mayol


Because this holiday Scrooge wants to bring back the real spirit of giving. 

By Taylor Mayol

If someone volunteers and doesn’t post a selfie to prove it, did she really do good? We think so, but these days, our Facebook feeds and Snapchat stories suggest otherwise: They’re riddled with images of our peers ladling soup into bowls and announcing donations to one charity or another. ’Tis the season of the holiday humblebrag.

To which we say: Bah, humbug. We’re all for good works, but documenting holiday charity on social media, not so much. In fact, we don’t want to see another photo of you at the homeless shelter with perfectly coiffed hair, a big smile and that carefully chosen Valencia filter. And if we do, we may well report it as “offensive.” 

While social media can be used as a fundraising tool … it’s often used ex post facto, as a way to gloat.

The whole point of the holiday spirit is selflessness, not selfies. Bragging about good works isn’t just tasteless; it tends, somehow, to undo them. (We have it on no less an authority than Matthew 6:1-2: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward.) Besides that, burnishing your image to the detriment of others’ privacy and maybe even dignity turns you into the homeless paparazzi. Do you think the dude you’ve just handed a sandwich wants to be the star of your next profile picture? 

Besides, talk is cheap. Unless your last name rhymes with Huckerberg and you’re giving away billions of dollars, you really shouldn’t let others know about your good deeds. While social media can be used as a fundraising tool — more on that in a minute — it’s often used ex post facto, as a way to gloat. It’s slacktivism at its worst. UNICEF made the point perfectly: “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.” So donate. Anonymously. 

There are, of course, upsides to all the posting about good works. Publicity and peer pressure can seed a movement around good works, as with Giving Tuesday, a relatively recent invention that resulted in some $118 million in online donations on a single day this month. Samaritan selfies “provide social proofing” to others, says Beth Kanter, a nonprofit consultant and social media expert. And it’s true that such posts are less obnoxious than the average selfie. “Here I am doing community service” beats “here I am in Rome, aren’t I awesome?” argues Heather Mansfield, the blogger behind Nonprofit Tech for Good.

Still, we’d rather forgo the selfie-obsessed soup scooper for a little more humility. So this holiday season when you’re about to post that incorrigible brag, think twice. As your mom always told you, it’s about giving, not about getting … likes. Even if you are #blessed.

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