"I am so honored to announce..."
"I am excited to tell everyone..."
"Guess what happened to me?!"
On a typical day, our Facebook News Feeds are full of swagger and bravado. Someone always has something to brag about. We've all done it, although certain people (and we know exactly who they are) boast way more than others. You might assume a big-time bragger is a classic narcissist with an ego the size of Mark Zuckerberg's four new houses combined.
Turns out, you're flat wrong.
According to research from Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas, people who frequently use "I" and focus on themselves are less secure than those who limit their use of the word. Pennebaker's study claims people who say "I" a lot "subconsciously believe they are subordinate to the person to whom they are talking."
That means, when a Facebook friend tells you about his recent "personal best" 10-mile race, he's not being egotistical. He may actually be insecure and trying to please.
Aside from profanity and nudity, there are few "rules" on Facebook on what we share and how we share it. We rarely feel compelled to hold back from gushing about our lives. Perhaps you've seen this status update once or twice?
"I have the most perfect husband!" which is then followed the obligatory bouquet of red roses.
Sure, people might give the post a few "likes" and smattering of "OMG You're so lucky!" and "What an amazing guy!" Dr. Pennebacker, however, contends it makes you look insecure.
On the flipside, if we monitor our number of "I" statements on Facebook, we elevate ourselves and come across as confident.
Here's the proof based on Dr. Pennebaker's work:
...112 psychology students were assigned to same-sex groups of two. The pairs worked to solve a series of complex problems. All interaction took place online. No one was assigned to a leadership role, but participants were asked at the end of the experiment who they thought had power and status. Researchers found that the higher the person's perceived power, the less he or she used "I."
Translation: the less we brag about ourselves, the more self-assured we appear.
A quick pat-on-the-back on Facebook might seem insignificant since everyone does it. But the "I" holds subtle power and can negatively impact how people view us. Go ahead and use Facebook to share your world with family and friends. It's still the quickest and smartest way to connect with people who matter (even them).
While you're tapping away in the status bar, be sure to keep track of your "I" statements. If possible, use "we" instead of "I" and take the attention off yourself. Dr. Pennebaker: "Pronouns signal where someone's internal focus is pointing." In that way, look out at the world and not in at yourself.
So it's not "I ran my personal best today!"
It's "Congrats to everyone who finished the race today. The weather was rough, but we fought through it and all crossed the finish line in one piece."
If you give others the attention -- or at least share the spotlight -- people will subconsciously think of you as a super awesome person.
No bragging necessary.