How To Avoid SMUG*

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How To Avoid SMUG*

Words by Ms Grace Dent

5 March 2015

Are you putting the twit in Twitter? Boost your immunity to *Social Media-based Unbridled Gloating syndrome with these sure-fire steps.

It first broke in around 2010 as the comparatively benign #humblebrag – Twitter’s terrible tap-dancing offspring. Since then this faux-modesty virus has mutated into several more virulent strains and spread into a pandemic via the explosion of new forms of social media.

We now have so many more canvases on which to paint our self-deprecating boasts – whether it’s updating Facebook friends with every #winning work-out; sharing on Instagram how #blessed our sun-kissed holidays are; or taking valuable time out of our incredibly busy schedules to keep Twitter apprised of just how incredibly busy we are.

Left untreated, SMUG (social media-based unbridled gloating) syndrome renders its host completely unable to hide any good fortune under a bushel. SMUG can devastate follower counts, or worse, see its sufferer “muted” en masse, only to be left bragging loudly into a silent abyss.

Could you, or any of your followers, be afflicted? Here, we offer a spotter’s guide to help you identify the increasingly common forms of SMUG from their telltale signs, as well as tips on how to ward off each one.

The symptoms: Life is one big chocolate factory and you’re on Willy Wonka’s personal guest list. To people suffering from another modern malaise FOMO (fear of missing out) you’re the Hooded Claw. Were you upgraded to Upper on your Virgin flight? Are you “frowing” at Prada? Are you inside that hot, bijou new bistro – the one where Mr Jamie Dornan can’t even get a table – eating truffled frites? Why would you waft away that smell of success when you can rub it – electronically – in the faces of thousands? Importantly, “lucky me SMUG” isn’t about wealth. Leave the private jet and champagne snaps to Mr Dan Bilzerian; this is about being connected. It’s about a 4am Ms Katy Perry Insta-selfie with the caption: “So, this just happened”. It’s about hungover tweets to blue-ticked celebs blaming them for your headache. It’s about you being incredibly annoying.

The immunity-booster: On nights out, give your phone to a strict friend for safekeeping. When SMUG symptoms begin, ask them to make you list 10 actual human beings who’d genuinely be happy to know you’re drinking a jeroboam of Dom two tables down from Ms Kate Moss.

The symptoms: Are you tweeting frantically in cross-town traffic? Is your tux-fitting overlapping with your speech-writing? Have you not seen your poor wife since early February? Is your inbox as virulent as Japanese knotweed? Are you under-slept, overworked and running on double espressos and self-satisfaction? Wow, you’re busy! Or completely time-inefficient. One of the two. Busy SMUG is subtly infuriating as it masquerades as the tweeter complaining, but is actually a reminder of their vast professional output. Unlike other lesser worker ants shuffling paper in dead-end jobs. Or stay-at-home dads, doing throwaway tasks like, y’know, teaching their son to read.

The immunity-booster: Remember, no one is going to have evidence of how busy and unavailable they were read out at their funeral. “RIP George: he had such a hectic iCal.”

The symptoms: Possibly worse than Mr Busy at the height of busy bee-ness are the moments when he chills out, albeit temporarily, and has some #familytime to demonstrate his enviable #worklifebalance. He’s in a teepee with his sons in his vast garden. He’s lifting a Netherton Foundry stockpot full of coq au vin on to a 12-person dining table. Earth Daddy might work hard, but at weekends he relaxes – not in a bar with beer splattered down his T-shirt, but like a proper grown-up; one who owns property and an outdoor kiln oven like Mr Jamie Oliver. Earth Daddy relishes staying home, watching trash family TV on a Saturday night with his “wolfpack” – three kids, a beautiful cashmere-clad wife and at least two rescue dogs. After all, it’s #whatreallycounts. Earth Daddy dresses this all up on Twitter as life’s banality but, in actual fact, wants to prove to other men that he’s the sum total of everything they’ve failed at.

The immunity-booster: Your kids would like you more if you lovingly stroked them as much as you do your phone.

The symptoms: One of the downsides of exercise – aside from the destroyed knee joints and nipple chafe – is that when endorphins kick in hard and heavy, you’re left emotionally somewhere between a Pentecostal Baptist during the Second Coming, Mr Russell Crowe picking up an Academy Award and a toddler after 1lb of Haribo TangFastics. Social media is not the place to be at this precise moment. Sure, you just did a sub-45 min 10km in sideways sleet and you feel incredible, no, dammit, inspirational! The problem with “ripped and rugged SMUG” is it serves to highlight the fact that 98% of your followers haven’t been to their gym for a long time. So long, in fact, they’re considering telling the receptionist they’ve been in prison as it’s less shameful than the truth. Instagram at 10am, Sunday morning is the playground of the insufferable gym peacock, littering our lazy lives with sweating selfies of rock-hard abs with spirited notes such as “Just bench-pressed 300lb! Never felt more alive! Legs day tomorrow! #eatcleantraindirty #personalbest #noexcuses”.

The immunity-booster: Leave your iPhone in your gym locker. Nobody needs to know you’re working out. The proof should be in your waspish waistband and your Mr Channing Tatum abs, not because it sounds as if Mr Richard Simmons has hacked your account.

The symptoms: We were supportive about your TED talk, despite the Madonna mic situation. We were alarmed when you went on a mercy mission to West Africa with the World Health Organisation in the midst of this Ebola crisis. We were gently bemused when you were Insta-papped man-hugging Mr Al Gore in Davos and Mr Pharrell Williams at Art Basel. We finally lost patience when you were on Ms Amal Clooney’s wedding guest list because you two “got pretty tight during the WikiLeaks extradition days”. Now you’re shaking hands with Ms Angela Merkel?! How are you so influential? We remember you in junior school when you got a crayon stuck up your nose.

The immunity-booster: Try to remember that despite your very, very big brain, we’re all getting a huge amount of solace from the fact that you’re every bit as needy as we are.

The symptoms: At one glorious time in the dim, distant pre-internet past, people went on holiday and simply disappeared off the radar. No chance of that these days. Mr Frequent Flier takes us all along for the ride with a Facebook album of sandy beaches, bare toes and the sun setting over Koh Samui with the infuriating faux-grumble: “This view will do, I suppose…” Hint: unless you are recovering from a near-fatal superbug, nobody is genuinely happy to see you’re having some downtime in the sun with a Mai Tai, while they’re procrastinating from filling out a 42-page risk-assessment report, trapped in a beige office cubicle that smells unpleasantly of Philly Steak Hot Pockets.

The immunity-booster: If petty customs officials threaten to confiscate your iPhone 6 Plus 64GB and your GoPro camera-on-a-selfie-stick, do everyone a favour: let them.

Illustrations by Mr Patrick Leger