Social media these days is a philosophical fest. We boast about our own humility – a bit of a contradiction there, but that is exactly the point of this post. It’s a rant. A rant on the rise of the ‘humble’ posts on social media, more specifically on LinkedIn.
In the last 10 years, my LinkedIn account has been dormant. I never really gave it my time and energy. As a result I was left behind in the professional quest to form good connections and source relevant opportunities. If tomorrow I delete my profile, I’m sure I won’t be missed. But such are the evils of the social media world, not having an account on each of the top 4 platforms is also a cause for concern. “She doesn’t have a FB/Insta/LinkedIn account? What is she hiding?”
With Facebook and Instagram there is a set agenda – make yourself appear grander than you really are. The use of filters and slo-mo’s help accentuate the larger-than-life personality. It’s unsaid and agreed upon, every one does it. But what’s up with LinkedIn? I find LinkedIn to be a confused second cousin in a family of social media apps, who is unsure of his place in a sit-down formal dinner. At one end, you have a head of a leading IT company accepting an unknown (probably paid) award, and at the other end a recruiter is sharing her philosophical musings faster than she probably hires candidates to fill a vacancy.
The psychology behind the false humility
Humility is defined as “the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others”. It is an extension of one’s humble and down-to-earth nature – attributes that are best left for others to discover. I see so many posts beginning with “I am humbled/It is humbling..” to “receive/be nominated/considered for 30 under 30/best leader/best speaker” that it truly is mind-boggling. By adding the ‘h’ adjective you cannot lessen the intensity of blowing your own trumpet.
The need to be liked, admired, respected and receive a positive validation from our industry peers has paved the way for the humble posts. Check out any article on ‘what it takes to be a successful leader’ and ‘being humble’ is probably one of the top 10 traits. Great. Now that we know what it takes, let’s just fit that word in all our conversations. A few professionals take this approach. Thanks to the instant world that we live in, they feel this is the quickest and the easiest way to build credibility.
But what is the quickest way to build credibilty?
Sadly, there isn’t any. To be known as a credible and a responsible professional, one needs to dedicate time and energy. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight.
Once I even came across a gentleman who had set up a sponsored post on Twitter which started as “I am truly humbled and grateful for being awarded….” He actually paid Twitter to broadcast this humbling message (read: advertisement) in order to reach new followers or potential clients. Bizarre!
The English language is full of appropriate and positive adjectives that can be ascribed to such situations – excited, proud, happy, elated, grateful, delighted, surprised (and many many more) – feelings that, I am sure, are shared by the owners of the post, that’s why the need to announce it to the digital world. So then why the need to be seen as humble?
Why the paradox?
I used a line earlier – “To blow one’s own trumpet” it literally means to ‘boast or brag about one’s abilities, skills, success’. No doubt the phrase has a negative connotation to it. When one talks about his/her achievement (often repeatedly) it is easy for others to slot him/her as a brag or a show-off. And no one wants that on their professional image. So to cushion the blow, announcements about self-achievement usually come with enough padding. The underlying thought is usually – Even though I worked hard and deserve this recognition, I must show that I also have a decent share of humility.
Having said that, I believe there is a way to convey one’s true emotions without going against the societal expectations or one’s own actions. If you are not being boastful, it won’t reflect in your communication. It is as simple as that. And if you are being boastful, then do so without worrying about the repercussions. After all, it is your hard work and you deserve all the success.
I can only hope that in time professionals develop the tenacity to stand their ground and share what they feel. In the meantime, I will continue to be on the lookout for more humbling posts.