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The Age of the Boast Post: Sharing Achievements and Mental Health

It’s that time of the year when everyone is graduating, announcing on sites such as LinkedIn that they’re now equipped with a degree and a whole host of professional experiences already under their belts. People write ‘boast posts’ about the awards they’ve won, the places they’ve been, and the lessons they’ve learned, for employers to browse in search of the best employee. It’s only natural they would want to showcase their best assets. On the other hand, not all of a user’s connections on LinkedIn are potential employers, many are fellow students, peers, and friends. So what happens when their connections fall behind in professional experience and see these boast posts?

To fully understand the effect of these posts, we first need to understand the effect social media can have on users. The NHS has reported that young people are particularly vulnerable on social media, as usage incites comparison with other users. For a new graduate who may be struggling to make a start in the job market, you can see how these boast posts could be intimidating. As everyone appears to be achieving much more than them, the graduate may believe these achievements are easier than they actually are.

By seeing a string of accomplishments with failures omitted, it can lead to a warped sense of reality, where part of a person’s struggle is hidden behind their profile. Often on LinkedIn, we see the grade the graduate achieved, but not the revision, exams, late-night cram sessions and confusion that went into the degree. They seemingly achieve their goals with little to no work, and that can be frustrating to someone in their connections who may still be struggling in the same areas. NHS reports that this can lead to low self-esteem.

Stanford University coined the term “Duck Syndrome” to describe this effect. Users appear to post all these accomplishments, seemingly effortlessly, like a duck glides across the surface of the water, but we don’t see the frantic kicking beneath, or the struggle of the user who is posting. This contributes to a distorted online reality.

A LinkedIn user (also a recent postgraduate) reported that although they were aware there was failure behind their accomplishments, “it’s still difficult to remind yourself and keep your chin up at times. It’s especially hard when you’re failing and people have all these opportunities.” They found themself feeling let down by their own successes.

An important point made by the Child Mind Institute highlighted that people are much more aware of models in magazines as setting unachievable body standards, but that this does not translate when friends or influencers boast on social media accounts. Having your own connections succeed and omit information from their successes to project a full and professional profile, it can lead to their connections on LinkedIn feeling like they should be achieving more.

Social media can also have a positive effect on a person’s mental health. It all depends on how users spend their time online, and their own mental health before using any sites. VeryWellMind highlights some of the positive effects of social media on those with social anxiety such as:
  • It’s easier to establish connections
  • May experience less anxiety socialising online
  • An outlet to share their feelings
  • It may help make them feel less alone

The positive effects described are particularly true on sites such as LinkedIn when we see users post their struggles for their connections to see. These posts can encompass the difficulties they faced and how they overcome these obstacles which can motivate others. This can help users feel less alone in their struggles.

LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman posting about his struggles.

VeryWellMind also shares some of the disadvantages from those with social anxiety:

  • Friendships are considered weaker than in-person ones
  • Risk feeling inadequate
  • Risk of stress, depression, and internet addiction
  • Poor sleep patterns

Another LinkedIn user added that “it’s hard to figure out how not to boast. It feels a bit horrible talking about how great you are, but if you don’t then your profile is boring, so it’s hard finding a balance”. This user highlights that LinkedIn is used to emphasise an individual’s employability, often resulting in individuals sharing their accomplishments. Regardless, if someone achieves something, they're allowed to boast about it. Often users feel proud and want to share with their connections projects or goals they've been working on. In some careers, such as in the creative industry, it's important to keep potential customers up to date with your projects in order to highlight your skills. If you're a freelance writer, you will want to get your portfolio out there to as many people as possible to increase clientele. Artists can't place themselves at a disadvantage by hiding their work away.

So, how do we find a balance between these different aspects? LinkedIn is essential at times for employers and employees, therefore, hiding away achievements will place users at a disadvantage. It is important to keep your profile looking its best, as described here. Some of the ways you can showcase your successes and failures are:

  • Posts that highlight your struggles, obstacles, and journey to your current career path/achievements.
  • Posts that share videos and articles highlighting failures, and give beginners in your industry tips.
  • Providing insights into your own career and how you succeeded.
  • Suggest opportunities whenever you can to fellow connections
  • Joining groups, as you can find others similar positions and feel less alone.

This article also emphasises the ways in which groups can be used to your own advantage on LinkedIn.

Although it seems unfair that people have to censor themselves for the good of their connections, we must remember that we can be mindful when sharing our achievements with others. We can present a successful yet honest image of ourselves, which may help those around us who might be blind to the struggle. For more in-depth information about the relationship between social media and mental health, see here.

Becky Robinson - Writer/Editor
A Creative Writing graduate with a love of modern classical literature. Currently sharpening her editorial skills and working to help others improve their writing abilities.
The Age of the Boast Post: Sharing Achievements and Mental Health Reviewed by Rebecca Robinson on Friday, July 30, 2021 Rating: 5

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