How to brag on social media without meaning to…

Getting to grips with the age of social-media in an already complicated multisport world, Martyn Brunt presents the seven deadly sins of online bragging…

Martyn masters the essential art of the stealth boast

In days of yore, being a triathlete simply involved being able to swim, cycle and run, and absolutely nothing else. Then over-competitive people started making it more complicated by introducing sinister things like training for transitions, nutrition plans that don’t involve chips and burgers, race strategies, and all sorts of other ungentlemanly conduct.


And more recently, there’s things like weight training, plyometric leaping about, training plans consisting largely of loneliness, and special mouse-finger exercises to enable you to enter races in the nanosecond between the ‘Online entries open!’ and ‘Race full, sucker!’ messages on event websites.

Add to that I’ve discovered yet another skill required to operate fully as a triathlete – how to brag effectively on Facebook.

Inevitably, it’s not quite as straightforward as just typing ‘Just done 65 miles on my bike’, because British modesty and self-deprecation come into play. But we are also triathletes, and that just doesn’t satisfy our need for people to understand just how athletically awesome we are. More likely you’ll see something like ‘Just done 65 miles on my bike, average 16.5mph, headwind made it tough, held 280 watts for the first hour then increased to 300, now for bagel and a lie down before swimming.’

So as online boasting seems to have become an essential triathlon skill, here are the seven deadly sins of Facebook bragging for triathletes, otherwise known as ‘How to convince your friends that you’re an athletic god without looking like you’re trying’:

 1 The blunt instrument

The most unsophisticated way to tell people what you’ve done is just to say it straight. For example, ‘Swam for two hours before breakfast, loads of kick means running will be hard later’. You’ll get a few ‘Likes’ for this. Those who don’t click ‘Like’ think you are a knob. Note the casual mention of two training sessions in a day, which is what this post is really about.

2 It’s getting better all the time

There’s no better way to brag yet look modest than to write about your improvement. For example, ‘Managed to cover 50 miles in under 3hrs on the bike today, must be finding some form at last.’ The self-deprecating tone belies the real reason for the post, which is to say, ‘This kind of performance is actually normal for me because I am awesome.’

3 The motivational saying

A handy way to let people know you’ve been training is to include some poster with a motivational saying like, ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do’, with a comment underneath that says, ‘Had this in my head during this morning’s run.’ The subtext is of course not only to let people know you’ve been running, but that you’ve overcome some major but unspecified challenge in order to do so. You are double hard!

4 The third-party endorsement

There’s no better way to let people know how far you’ve cycled or run than to get someone else to do it for you. Apps like Garmin Connect, or better still, ‘Check out my activity on Strava’, offer a handy way to keep your friends fully informed of your endeavours in tedious detail without it looking like you meant to.

5 The ‘my friend is flying’ gambit

‘Great 60 miles with [insert and tag names of friends] this morning. [Insert name of friend] was absolutely flying.’ On the face of it this looks like magnanimous praising of someone else’s superior fitness, but the unspoken brag here is, ‘And I kept up with them.’

6 The self-deprecation special

My friend Neill, a sort-of Weeble with limbs, is particularly adept at this one which usually goes, ‘I know I am crap/old and this was only a small race with few entrants, but somehow I managed to come second in my age-group’. Whereas the purpose of this post could be achieved by deleting all the words up to and including ‘somehow’.

7 The joke

This is one I frequently employ, posting things like, ‘Why do my genitals shrivel to insignificance upon contact with lake water’, which is just a smokescreen for saying, ‘I’ve been open water swimming.’

So there we have it, all the skills you need to get bragging today. And given that everything else on Facebook is just invitations to develop a gambling habit and pictures of cats with fruit on their heads, the odd self-praising post doesn’t really do any harm. Does it?


More by Martyn

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