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Put a Cork in It

Thu, 05/09/2024 - 09:41


When did it become so okay to be a show-off? How did boasting become socially acceptable? The 21st century has one reply: Instagram.

Time was that peacocking about one’s achievements, bikini body, alma mater, or gold-plated dinner service was considered bad taste. Proverbs 27:2 of the King James Bible warns, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” An 1875 book on manners we picked up observed, “There is no surer sign of vulgarity than the perpetual boasting of the fine things you have at home.” In his radio show, Garrison Keillor satirized the American tendency to egotism: “Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Endlessly observing others’ apparent perfection can be damaging. A 2023 study described in Communications Psychology reported diminished senses of self-worth and well-being among youths ages 10 to 14. Personal observation has suggested that, for all ages, the endless images of others’ five-diamond vacation destinations and Bonpoint-attired offspring can leave an Instagram user feeling queasy, inadequate — or worse.

May is Mental Health Month, and some experts recommend taking a break from online overexposure. We suggest powering down, stepping outside, and taking in the fine spring weather for a few minutes, instead.

This editorial has been updated. Garrison Keillor is not dead.

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