Posts tagged with "Real Simple"

Holiday letters and the fine art of the ‘humble-brag’

December 3, 2018

It’s that time of year when we start receiving holiday cards—and the enclosed family letters and photos that we love to hate. Whether they are from far-off friends or close-by relatives, many of these missives will come with at least a few paragraphs of humble-brags—“complaints” about the outstanding achievements of children, spouses, and the writers, themselves.

An example: “We barely saw 17-year-old Laura this year, because she was so busy with her cheerleading practices, dance recitals, and studying for those straight-A grades so she can apply to Yale.”

Whether it’s telling our friends about our work-related accomplishments, sharing that we’ve bought a new [insert vehicle or gadget of choice here], talking about a first-class trip, describing the new wing we’ve added to our home, or boasting about our children’s talents, we’ve all bragged at one time or another.

We feel good when we share our successes or the successes of those we love. In fact, a paper published in 2012 by two Harvard neuroscientists said that talking about ourselves gives us the same kind of pleasure we get from sex or food.

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Tamir said

And yet, says a report in Real Simple, who wants to be known as a braggart? Enter the humble-brag. It’s the kind of bragging we see on social media so frequently. It tells the world just how great your life is then downplays it under the guise of humility or self-deprecating humor (Ack! Just spilled red wine on my new book contract! #bumblingthroughlife).

Ironically, that attempt at minimizing big news can actually work against us, irritating others and turning their perceptions of us to decidedly negative. That’s why so many holiday letters hit the trash so quickly.

Indeed, says Real Simple, bragging is a tricky business. In the real world, we can see how people react to a boast. But on social media sites—or when we send those gossipy holiday letters—we have no face-to-face interaction with the recipients: We don’t have the advantage of catching the recipient with a disengaged look, a snicker, or an eye roll—to tell us to adjust our behavior.

To navigate all that, we may (consciously or subconsciously) “try to neutralize the potential image of [ourselves] … as egocentric, narcissistic, or both, by tempering the brag with a self-deprecating comment or disclaimer, hoping that [recipients] won’t detect the brag—or at least won’t be offended by it,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst, psychology professor, told the magazine. .

“But humble-bragging is disingenuous,” social media expert Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California, told Real Simple in an interview. “It’s manufactured modesty as a guise for overt bragging.”

And it’s this dishonesty that bothers people. The opposing nature of a humble-bragging post (I’m so talented! But I’m so modest!) is annoying because it asks readers to go in two directions at once, reaction-wise.

The magazine offers a few pointers to the authors of holiday letters this season:

  • Boast judiciously.Bragging should represent only a small percentage of what you write. That way when something truly great does happen, you won’t feel the need to underplay it.
  • Know your audience.Think about who is reading your missive and how they might react. Did a close friend just lose his job? Then you might not want to crow about the super-fantastic gig you just landed
  • Note which friends’ annual letters you generally like and which you find annoying.Figure out how the two sets differ. Does one person post in positive language, while the other shares things in a way you find grating? Avoid the latter.
  • Enjoy the outrageous humble-brags out there.Let’s face it, e all know (and even love) some people who will never stop humble-bragging. And now that we have a name for phenomenon, maybe we can just sit back and laugh when it happens.

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In-app purchases tempt kids to splurge online

November 4, 2017

Should underage children be permitted to play games using smartphone apps that could involve purchases with real-world money? Far from an idle question, this dilemma is at the heart of recent U.S. lawsuits that Apple, Google and Amazon settled for a combined $120 million.

A public opinion poll released at the end of October by the Angus Reid Institute in Vancouver, BC, finds that Canadians have little sympathy for parents about their offsprings’ unauthorized purchases. Fully six-in-ten (62%) say the parents, themselves, are to blame in such situations.

However, nearly half (48%) of respondents said that they would welcome federal government regulations aimed at preventing kids from buying digital goods—such as coins on Candy Crush— without parental supervision.

Overall, one-in-seven Canadians have personal experience with children buying something they weren’t supposed to on a mobile device – either because they live with the child in question or because it happened to a close friend or family member. Among those under age 35, exposure to situations like these rises to 20%.

What games are known for their temptations? Free apps are more likely than paid apps to charge for items that you can buy within the game, Molly Wood, an executive editor of, a technology site, told the magazine Real Simple. In addition to Candy Crush, the games Tap Zoo and Dolphin Play have drawn criticism for their in-app charges, which can run as high as $30 a purchase. Low-cost games tempt users, too: Players of Bejeweled 2 can spend $9 on 1 million coins, which are redeemable for power-ups in the game.

Among the key findings of the Angus Reid Institute poll:

  • While more than seven-in-ten (72%) agree that “those over age 10 should know better than to make purchases on their parents’ mobile devices.” just 3% of Canadians say children under that age are most responsible when unauthorized purchases are made;
  • Three-quarters (75%) agree that “games that are designed for children or ‘all-ages’ should not allow in-app purchases,” but just one-in-ten (11%) blames app developers for unauthorized purchases by minors; and
  • Those who regularly download apps featuring in-app purchases (61%)are more likely to say government intervention is not needed in this area .

The polling organization notes that mobile games are a massive industry, which is expected to generate more than US$46 billion in 2017. Much of that revenue will come from in-app purchases in so-called “freemium” games—apps that are free to play, but offer players the ability to pay real money for in-game benefits. These may include gems or coins, which the user can buy to speed up play or gain access to new character outfits or game levels.

Indeed, the research found that fully 23% of Millennials have made such purchases. Add to that the fact that about 20% of Millennials had a child in their household or the child of a close friend or family member buy something in an app without parental consent. The rate drops to one-in-six (16%) among those ages 35–54, and to just one-in-20 (6%) among those in the 55+ age group.

Asked who bears the most responsibility, generally, for these situations, more than six-in-ten Canadians (62%) say “the parents.” It’s notable, however, that the group most likely to blame parents is those who have never had a child make an unauthorized purchase – and don’t know anyone who has.

Respondents who have some degree of personal connection to these types of situations are less likely to hold parents ultimately responsible.

It should be noted that, while most Canadians don’t say either children or app developers are most responsible for unauthorized purchases, there is widespread agreement that each group should bear some responsibility. Three-in-four Canadians (75%) agree with the statement, “Games that are designed for children or ‘all-ages’ should not allow in-app purchases”—a finding that suggests a belief that developers who do allow such purchases in their games are contributing to the problem.

When it comes to the degree of blame children deserve for making in-app purchases without their parents’ permission, the age of the child in question is clearly a key consideration. More than seven-in-ten Canadians (72%) agree that, while younger children can’t be held accountable, “those over age 10 should know better than to make purchases on their parents’ mobile devices.”

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