Much of someone’s character is supposed to lie in what they don’t say about themselves. But what if they signal it instead? As everyone knows, status updates are the new status symbols. Tweet about buying the big-ass Mercedes-AMG G65 and, chances are, you’ll get trolled for showing off and destroying the environment with your gas-guzzler. But post a picture of your family and your new car with the Thar desert in the background, and talk about the private walled garden and the plunge pool that comes with the 1,000-sq-ft luxury tent that you’re staying in, and you’ll get exclamations of delight, a thousand likes and hearts, comments on how lucky your family is, and questions from strangers on the features of your car and how it negotiates the desert.
The pretty young wife of a filmstar posts a close-up of herself in a dus-lakha haar on Instagram, and instantly gets called out for being a woman on the make, or, at best, a wannabe Bappi Lahiri. The same woman posts a long shot of herself in a traditional setting, wearing a Banarasi sari that’s accessorised by not just the same necklace but also gold earrings and a diamond tikli and mentions that the sari is a replica of an heirloom belonging to her mother. And, voila, she’s showered with praise for her taste and values, and besieged by strangers wanting to know where the picture was clicked and by whom, and the price and source of the sari/the necklace/earrings/tikli.
The truth is there’s no essential difference between the posts. Both times, the man and woman are boasting about a new, expensive acquisition. Only, in the second instance, they have gift-wrapped their showing-off with a context that lends them a patina of caring—about family and traditions. And who doesn’t want to buy that, at least publicly?
Once, showing off was considered shameful; something that only insecure, egotistical people with new money and tired minds did. But in today’s social media-dominated universe, where marketing (of me and mine) is mandatory, almost everyone brags—through pictures or posts. It’s almost all right, as long as you follow the rules.
For one, bragging about possessions is passé. In line with your identity, your social media presence must be crafted from your unique experiences, your concern for the environment and your reflective relationship with your inner self—possessions can just come in as props.
Which means no talking about your Hublot Big Bang unless you’re using it to set an alarm to get out of your Sferra Giza 45 sheets and start your Ashtanga yoga. If you must show off your hand-knotted silk carpet, it’s best to use it as a backdrop for the ‘mandalas’ that you paint every morning as a lesson in mindfulness. Posting a picture of champagne glasses strategically placed next to your boarding pass in a first-class airport lounge is banned unless you can follow it up with photos of you spotting Omura’s whales at Nosy-Be in Madagascar.
And finally, do choose your words carefully. Please don’t be the man who announces that he’s the world’s best braggart. If you must share the news, please remember to say: “I am humbled to know that the Swedish Academy is considering me for the Nobel Prize in Boasting.”