Not to brag

I have an autographed picture of Miss Piggy.

Have I ever mentioned that before? I got it when she was in New York City, co-hosting The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on New Year's Eve, 1996. Being how difficult it must be for a puppet to hold a pen with a felt hoof, I appreciate her efforts.

In a lifetime of experiences, I can pinpoint that as one of my prouder moments – right up there with peeing next to Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked,” the bestselling novel turned Broadway musical (and for clarification, that happened in the boys' bathroom during a book signing event at the Union-Endicott High School four years ago. No pleasantries were exchanged between us, but I think it's brag-worthy nonetheless).

It's funny that people are compelled to brag about whatever it is they're particularly proud of. We hear people bragging every day. You run into an old friend at the grocery store who tells you about his promotion, or you overhear a coworker talking about the house she recently closed on at the more intricate end of town. And how about that conversation you had at the bar the other night? You know, the one with the guy who said he was what... a lion tamer?

If it's an accomplishment, we get the overwhelming desire to put it out in the open. Admittedly, even I'm guilty of sneaking the fact I've shaken hands with two United States Senators in the last year into casual conversation. The peeing next to Gregory Maguire thing is a little more difficult to work into the typical water-cooler talk, but can be done with some careful conversation maneuvering.

Several weeks ago, I listened to a public radio forum that said we are experiencing a “bragging epidemic” that’s strengthened by our growing use of social media and other new-age methods of communication. It makes sense, seeing as how nobody I know can scroll their Facebook page without seeing a post of at least one person that’s tooting their own horn, so to speak. Then there's the humblebraggers, the types of people who tell you they're sitting on top of the world but do so modestly in a way that’s disguised by stories mild challenges and that “woe is me” attitude. You know the type.

The question many sociologists face now is, is this brave new world of braggarts OK? What good, if any, does bragging do for us, and what's acceptable when it comes to bragging with our friends? And what about bragging to strangers?

It's an interesting concept. Perhaps we have grown a little too free in sharing our own gratifications; but arguably, the phrase “bragging epidemic” comes on a little strong. We might be all too eager to share our positive experiences and photos with our Facebook friends, but I say if you want to share pictures of the trip you and your family took to Maui, then share away. That video of your kid's dance recital? Upload it. Pics of the first dinner you've ever cooked that wasn't burnt and not consisting of hot dogs and mac 'n’ cheese? Go ahead (and be sure to tag your middle school home economics teacher).

These things don’t make us a nation of overly zealous braggarts. It makes us human. These are the kinds of things that make us proud. Pride leads to confidence, confidence leads to creativity, creativity leads to productivity, and so on.

Besides, if not the for the proud moments, what's left to talk about? The negative? I've been know to stick my foot in my mouth on occasion, but I know better than to air my dirty laundry for all to see.

All in all, this notion that we've become too boisterous isn't exactly a new phenomenon. True, it's become easier to boast in front of a larger audience. Then again, even ancient civilization drew pictures of themselves and their saber-toothed tiger kill on cave walls. The only difference between that and sharing photos to Facebook is the “Like” button.

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