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My Festivus Grievances about Online Comments, by Adam Grant | LinkedIn

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I love discovering compelling new ideas and doing what I can to help spread the word about them. If you’re going to tell me about your work, though, keep in mind that blatant self-promotion will probably backfire. Studies show that the more you toot your own horn, the more negatively you’re evaluated: self-promoters are not only less liked, but also earn lower salaries and fewer promotions. Bragging about yourself violates norms of modesty and politeness—and if you were really competent, your work would speak for itself.

Downvoting is a very important feature in commenting systems:

In a wonderful New Yorker piece on the psychology of online comments, psychologist Maria Konnikova asks “whether the outliers, the trolls and the flamers, will hold outsized influence.” She concludes that the answer is no, because people are remarkably good at voting down the least helpful, informative, and respectful comments online. I want to go a step further: that if we all follow the principles above, we won’t have as many trolls and flamers to begin with.

Here are Adam Grant's four principles of social media commenting:

(1) Let other people sing your praises. Research demonstrates that when your accomplishments are promoted by a third party, even if that person is a friend or agent known to be biased in your favor, you’re perceived more favorably.

(2) Master the humblebrag. If you don’t have someone to promote you, mix some self-deprecation into your swagger. Evidence suggests that people who make balanced statements about themselves are better liked—and perceived as more honest—than self-promoters. One of my favorite examples is the bio of the bestselling humor author A.J. Jacobs. Here are two excerpts:

  • The Know-It-All… was praised by Time magazine, NewsweekVanity FairUSAToday, Janet Maslin in the New York Times and AJ’s uncle Henry on”
  • “He wonders if he fooled anyone with this third-person thing, or if everyone knows that he wrote this bio himself. “

A.J. strikes a brilliant balance between telling you about his amazing achievements and using his comedic talents to show that he’s perfectly aware of humility norms. For more advice on the humblebrag, see Bruce Kasanoff’s forthcoming book How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk.

(3) Promote achievements that are objective, not subjective. It’s one thing to say that your book was a New York Times bestseller. It’s another thing entirely to claim it’s important. It’s more socially acceptable to tell people about verifiable accomplishments than about idiosyncratic opinions. (Within reason… if you’re in your thirties and still bragging about your SAT score, get over it.)

(4) Focus less on yourself and more on others. The whole problem could be circumvented if we shifted our attention to other people. Rather than telling people how great you are, tell them what intrigued you about them.

I believe in 1, 3, and 4.

I do not believe in 2. Life is too short for humblebragging.