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Annoying Facebook updates: Is the ‘underbrag’ the worst of them all?

Do you underbrag?

For instance: "I passed out eating KD in bed last night," or "My ex just spotted me eating McDonald's alone. Great day!"

The practise of revealing unflattering details about your life in a self-deprecating way – in quiet anticipation of the "likes," comments and re-tweets that inevitably follow – has long proliferated on Facebook and Twitter.

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But only last week did it get a proper name: the "underbrag," as coined by The Atlantic's Jen Doll.

The underbrag, she writes, is "when you brag your own disaster or situation that one would not normally brag about."

They aren't fake like the blatant brag, and they also have an air of damn-the-consequences – especially if you've friended your boss online. Many underbrags are debaucherous, Ms. Doll writes. Translation: Alcohol was involved.

"I woke up with all of my clothes on, including my glasses and boots, and a bucket of chicken wings next to me. I then stumbled to the bathroom, where I discovered a goat in my bathtub! Whatta night!" is one she's conjured.

Of course there are still those Facebook and Twitter users who foolishly employ the old-school, straight-up brag in most of their missives. Ms. Doll points to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Bernstein who argued that social media lets us post such vacuous brags constantly. "Best gift ever from the best husband ever," and "Sunset sail. Turned into a moonlight sail. Shooting stars everywhere…Perfect" are just two of the brazen brags Ms. Bernstein pulled from Facebook for her piece.

"They are not edgy or interesting or scary or drastic," Ms. Doll writes of such brags, which more likely to nauseate the writer's "friends," much like those engagement photos popping up in your Facebook newsfeed every month.

Ms. Doll also traces the evolution from humblebragging to underbragging. Humblebrags, she writes, are now on people's radars too. (Her over-the-top example: "I'm such a klutz, I broke the heel of my new Louboutin when I was getting out of the Venezuelan diplomat's Lincoln Town Car.")

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The underbrag meanwhile, is a "post-brag-brag." "It's the third wave, if you will," she quips. "The underbragger is ... changing the rules of bragging as we know them."

Trying to wrap his head around the custom in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman posited this scenario:

"If I mention that I fell asleep drunk on the sofa last night, surrounded by the detritus of a half-consumed McDonald's meal and empty cider bottles, you might not envy me. But that's precisely the point: by telling the world, I'm implying that I don't care that you don't envy me, and that I am secure enough to report my debauchery without needing to contemplate the consequences. Which is why you should envy me."

He roots for the underbrag: "If we're all braggarts now, at least let's hear not just from the obnoxious hype artists but also from the intelligent, good-natured, likable people."

Do you brag, humblebrag, underbrag or none of the above on social media?

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect spelling of Elizabeth Bernstein's name.

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Zosia More


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