Josh Romney, Mitt Romney’s son, is drawing some flak after rescuing four people from a car crash on Thanksgiving. It wasn’t the act itself that sparked the ire of so many on social media, but rather the tweet he posted in the aftermath of his self-acknowledged heroism.
Romney tweeted a photo of himself standing next to the overturned SUV, writing:
“Was first on scene to big accident, see pic of car in the house. I lifted 4 people out to safety. All ok. Thankful.” @joshromney
The photo and caption of the offending tweet quickly drew accusations of “humble bragging,” considered by some an even worse offense than overt bragging. Why? Because the humble brag is not only doused with an obvious shot at phony modesty, but it also cheekily seeks the sympathy of an audience supposedly incognizant of what the braggart is trying to get away with.
The humblebrag first made its way into the popular lexicon after it was coined by American comedian Harris Wittels in 2011. Wittels subsequently set up the Twitter account @Humblebrag; a compilation of what he considered the worst-offending celebrity humblebrags. On the page you can read just about every type of humblebrag, from the innocuous gloat to swaggering shows of not-so-subtle self-aggrandizement.
So how is a humble brag different from simply expressing modesty, you ask? Well, it seems it may be in the juxtaposition of the braggable act itself, followed by verbiage attempting to downplay it. This obvious whitewashing could be in the form of self-effacing humor, like this tweet from Jimmy Fallon:
Emmys tonight. Send good viiiiiibes. (that my tux fits.) — jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) September 23, 2012
A humblebrag can also be offset with an appeal for compassion following an unpleasant experience:
Other approaches include the “look who I’m with” humblebrag:
Remind me not to stay out til 2am w/ @kidrock again. Hurtin’ for certain today.
— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) September 3, 2012
The “I’m not worthy” humblebrag:
It’s been 10 years but I still feel so uncomfortable with being recognized.Just a bit shy still I suppose. — Emma Watson (@EmWatson) July 23, 2012
And the “I’m so humbled” humblebrag:
The humblebrag is not limited to celebrities by any means. In fact, you’ve probably noticed friends and family posting their own brags in your Facebook feed or Twitter. It’s becoming an all-too-familiar phenomenon as social media provides us with ever more platforms from which to blurt out these verbal selfies, or cries for acknowledgement and approval from virtual strangers. Kudos to those who can pull off a humblebrag, but we’ve yet to see anyone successfully do it.
What’s the worst humblebrag you’ve seen? Post yours in the comments section below.