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I've spent a long time on the Internet -- much more than can be considered healthy, and possibly more than can be considered legal. In that time, I've seen a lot of stupid things, from people weighing the merits of Picard against the two-fisted merits of Kirk to people inventing something called a Lycos to people trading hastily Photoshopped pictures of cats misspelling very simple words.

But even taking those things into account, one of the stupidest things I've ever seen (and that never seems to go away) is the farce of Internet bragging. Whether on Usenet or forums or the Facebook wall of someone you're cyberstalking, it's not hard to find someone on the Internet boasting about their rad video game skills or the beauty of the women they lay all the time or how many Dilbert comics they've made. Once you start seeing these misguided boasts, you'll soon realize they're among the saddest written words on the Internet. Instead of a sign of how awesome the poster is, they are instead inevitably a marker of how clueless they are about how the Internet actually works. Please, I beg you, children and stupid adults: Do not brag on the Internet. Here's why:

5
Because No One Will Believe You

There's this thing about the Internet that you may have heard before, so if you think you know everything, feel free to skip this point. Because we're all behind computers, everyone on the Internet is highly anonymous; our online personae don't have to in any way be tied to our real world figures. An example: You might think of me as Chris Bucholz, your trusted Internet guide and all around gentleman, but how much do you really know about me? Did you know I'm actually a team of 53 Vietnamese sweatshop comedians and one thesaurus? I'm not, but dammit, now that you think about it, I probably could be. Because we're separated by keyboards and glowing wires and I guess RAM, you can't read my expression or touch my face to tell if I'm lying.

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Also, about half the Internet are typing dogs.

And the same thing holds for any claim made by anyone on the Internet, especially in a place with a low barrier to posting, like basically everywhere you hang out. Anything could be a lie, and there's often no way to prove otherwise. Text is all obviously bullshit, and even screenshots and pictures can easily have their pixels repixelated. That's why, when someone makes a bold claim about themselves on the Internet, the default response of everyone else who's been on the Internet for more than a day is to say "OK," and then they go on not believing a thing. It only takes one cybersex session with a typing dog before we get shy about believing anything about anything online.

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"That's messed up. You're messed up, bucholz_42_sextank."

4
Because You Probably Haven't Done Anything That Important

Take a step back and look at the accomplishment you're thinking of boasting about. Is it related to video games in any way? Is it about all the muscles you have, and all the karate those muscles know? Is it something that nearly everyone in the world could also do, like grow huge breasts? Congratulations, you're not a huge deal. I don't want to deflate you too much, because maybe you're 12 and this recent achievement is kind of a big deal to you. It's these little successes that make life worth living, and there's no reason you shouldn't enjoy them and feel proud about them -- except for karate, which has, I think, kind of waned in value the last few years. But that doesn't mean these achievements are going to impress other people. In the grand scheme of things, your gaudy list of Xbox 360 achievements isn't that big a deal. It's not like you've created polio.

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"Eat my shit, Salk."

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3
Because Someone Reading Is Way Better Than You

Depending on the popularity and activity of your chosen Internet cesspool, within seconds, minutes or hours of submitting a boast, someone will reply that they've done the same thing, only way better than you, and that you're kind of pathetic for even bringing up your little feat. "Son of a bitch!" you shout. "No one knows more karate than me!" you add, punching the monitor in half. Indeed, striking monitors in twain is the first (and most popular) of two possible reactions to such a counter-boast: 1) "That son of a bitch is lying!" We've already explained why this is likely, but if your reading comprehension is not entirely there, a recap: It's because everyone on the Internet lies, all the time, and if they're not lying, you probably should just pretend they are. If that realization doesn't help you understand why you shouldn't have bragged in the first place, well, read that sentence again and see if anything clicks. 2) "Unless they actually are much better than me." The Internet is a big place, and by now everyone who's not desperately poor or elderly is probably hanging around on it in some capacity. Competitive cyclists, Nobel laureates, former Mouseketeers and all sorts of accomplished people are, as we speak, hanging out in the comments section of Cracked right now, just being incredibly accomplished. Which means that unlike in say, high school, where you might very well be the best battle rapper around, you're definitely not that on the Internet.

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"And they call me MC Rhyme-A-Lot cuz I rhyme a lot, and if you ain't impressed, then you're hard to impress."

So which will it be? Will you accept the humbling that comes with knowing you're second best? Or decide that the other guy's a liar, and accept the implication that that means you're probably a liar, too, and the confusing spiral of self-doubt and despair this realization will set you on?

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"So I actually suck at Angry Birds? Well, it looks like self-mutilation again for me."

2
Because No One Cares

But let's say you're hanging out in a strange online community where people don't immediately snap your head off when you say anything. Oprah's site, I guess.


That really is just a guess; if anyone has evidence that Oprah's a huge bitch on the Internet, I'd love to hear about it.

These people not only believe what you've said, but also they don't think your claim is trivial and won't immediately try to one-up you. But here's the kicker: They don't care. Remember that anonymity thing? You're basically a complete stranger to these people, and it's kind of hard to get worked up about the accomplishments of a complete stranger. In the best case, you're likely to receive polite disinterest in response to your boast; more frequently, you'll get snide replies, mocking you for sharing anything about yourself at all.

But what if you've established a reputation and fixed persona in this community, and actually are speaking with people who know you and believe things you say and care what they are? They're your friends, dammit, they have to care, right? Even then, after all the heavy lifting of making friends, you still shouldn't brag ...
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1
Because They're Your Friends

I'm going to be a dick about terms here and point out that there is a difference between bragging and talking positively about yourself. Think about your real friends in real life (the human, fleshy ones, not the sex pillows). Now think about how they relate news of their genuine accomplishments. I can think of very few cases when one of my friends who'd done something noteworthy hadn't passed on the news with an air of humbleness. There's always a celebratory tone, to be sure, but the point of the story isn't about how great they are. They're sharing a success. Whether they graduated from school, won an award or finally succeeded, after a frustrating series of missteps, at getting their balls to drop, the tone is always one of a goal reached. That's not bragging. Bragging is trying to puff yourself up, letting all witnesses know what a fantastic human specimen you are. This is useful during job interviews, and is of course a normal, healthy part of the mating process ...

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"CHECK OUT MY HUUUUUUUGE ASSSS, BITCHES!"

... but it's not the way we speak to our friends. In fact, if they really are your friends and they catch you bragging, the first thing they should be doing is popping your bubble as violently as they know how. Reminding you of the time when you weren't so good at Gears of War, or the time when you played Gears of War instead of passing your second year of university, or the time you forgot to consume anything but diet Dr. Pepper for 34 hours while playing Gears of War and were checked in to the ER with a rapid heart beat and "imploded kidney syndrome." So there you have it, fools. Regardless of when and where you brag on the Internet, the only possible outcome is disinterest, accusations of lying, petty games of one-upsmanship or stark reminders of your other, larger failings. It's why people who've hung around the Internet for awhile talk very little about themselves and spend most of their time viciously tearing other people down; behavior that is, sadly, the current apex of Internet maturity. ____________________________

For more from Bucholz, check out 5 Silver Linings Now That Identity Theft Ruined Your Life and The 6 Most Overhyped Technologies.

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