I am not on social media, but I often see screen shots of people’s social media updates through a number of Whatsap Groups. One hashtag that seems to pop up a great deal, is #humbled.
This is frankly very confusing.
In the same baffling fashion that people seemed to enjoy the complete misuse of the word ‘ironic’ in the Alanis Morisette song of the same name; there appears to be a universal celebration of the complete misuse of the word, humbled, on social media.
The definition of humbled is “to cause (someone) to feel less important or proud.”
It is a wonderful word, but on social media it is used by individuals to self promote their own achievements or the achievements of others which also manage to shine a positive light on themselves as well.
This is the complete antithesis of the meaning of the word itself, it is in fact a perfect example of malapropism (the unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase)
In fact this word, malapropism, perfectly describes social media. It seems, that in the incessant hunt for more followers and ‘likes’, people have allowed their friends and family to go completely unchecked on social media.
The result, of this willing ignorance towards the meaning of words has been that people you would view as sane and balanced in real life; take on an online personality that is akin to a parody version of the person you thought you knew.
The smallest achievements, having a coffee and reading for example, are constructed into perfect photos and then posted with a never ending litany of hashtags. It is as if everyone has willingly chosen to not live in the moment and instead sacrifice the present in order to project a clearly constructed image of themselves onto the world. It is like choosing to live like David Beckham, everything you do being constructed for maximum commercial benefit, without actually any of the commercial benefit for fame.
It is not only banal tasks that are elevated to matters of huge import; the previously frowned upon tendency of parents to publicly praise the various achievements of their children in public, has now, for some reason, become universally acceptable. Instead of demonstrating an appropriate modesty towards your children’s talents; we now have to put up with parents praising their every single act incessantly, and with a variety of carefully constructed photos and bewildering hashtags. What was once the behaviour of a small number of, usually derided, parents, has now become the norm.
If people are concerned about the mental fragility of Millennials and their ability to deal with the slings and arrows of life; we should be deeply concerned about how the young children of today will fair when they leave the nest. It is as if we all watched “The Truman Show” and rather than agree that the movie demonstrated however perfect a life may seem; if it is not real, it will be an unsatisfactory one. We instead have come to the conclusion that Truman was crazy to leave his make believe life, and have spent the years since ,carefully constructing our own online versions of “Seahaven Island”.
And so, may I suggest you start looking at both your online profiles, and those of your family and friends; as parody accounts. Hopefully this may take the sense of self-importance out of the medium and it can become a forum for self effacing humour, rather than never ending self aggrandising.
A little bit more Blackadder and a little less Tony Robbins.