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Social media is often called out as an outlet for bragging. Or its spin-off, the #humblebrag. We hear all the time about how the pressure to keep up with the shiny, happy people we see on Facebook is making our mental health suffer.
…A popular internet trope is now the antisocial individual, the homebody, the push back from scenesters. It’s now all about revelling in singledom, jokes about therapy sessions, the terror of being an adult or putting it out there that hitting a club can actually be pretty hellish. And slumming it on the couch? Heaven.
The most popular memes on humour and pop-culture-based Instagram and Twitter accounts such as The Fat Jewish and Girl With No Job et al? Pictures of cats chilling on couches, confessions of a sub-par life and vignettes of people expressing a (sort of) joking disdain for other people. Or as one poster puts it: “God bless Uber drivers that don’t attempt small talk”.
…When Caterina Fake popularised the idea of (FOMO) or the fear of missing out, she wrote that the internet itself exacerbated this anxiety, and I’m sure she is right. But, in a world of constantly switched-on, ostentatious displays of popularity and people having an ostensibly TOTALLY AWESOME TIME, perhaps it isn’t surprising that things would start to pitch in the opposite direction (known as JOMO, joy of missing out).
Illustration by Kaye Blegvad
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The same technology that allows people to voice their displeasure with dictatorships, police brutality and prejudice also enables them to carp about mediocre meals, rude customer service and that obnoxious guy at the next table who won’t shut up.
It was once considered unbecoming, or annoying itself, to moan publicly about trifling personal ordeals. Now, in a seismic shift for the moral culture, abetted by technology, we tolerate and even encourage the “microcomplaint”: the petty, petulant kvetch about the quotidian.
…The category of the “complaintbrag,” a cousin of the humblebrag and “first-world problems,” a term that has drawn its own share of first-world complaints for its patronizing stance toward non-first-world inhabitants.
In what may be the most common example, the offender moans about a lack of free time (besides that devoted to tweeting, of course) because of the burdensome demands of a hugely successful career. Horrors of luxury travel feature prominently.
The smartphone in particular has facilitated extemporaneous caviling. Irritations that the passage of time may have soothed can, in the moment, be immediately expressed to an audience. Often these complaints take the form of a narrative developing in real time: the talkative taxi driver, the hostile airline ticket clerk, the interminable security line, the malodorous seatmate and crying baby. Such threads frequently pick up steam as the audience validates or shares the narrator’s posts; the nuisances others must contend with can make for excellent vicarious entertainment, and accreting Likes tend to fuel the microcomplainer.