‘Falling Stars Challenge’ Takes the Humble Out of Humblebragging

The meme began as an unusual way to show off one’s wealth, but it’s taken on new meaning while spreading across Asia.

Flaunting your wealth on social media usually looks a tad more subtle than this.

The Falling Stars Challenge, a meme that has rocketed through Asia, features people posing as if they’ve fallen out of their luxury cars, with the luxury contents of their luxury bags spilling out on the pavement for all to see (and judge). The expensive goods are meticulously arranged so followers can admire the makeup, jewelry, shoes and other items that have oh-so-embarrassingly been laid bare.

But the meme has become democratized, spreading from its beginnings as a way to take the humble out of humblebragging. It now encompasses any number of chosen identities, becoming a way to display the physical items and pursuits most closely associated with oneself.

It’s popular among beauty and photography bloggers, fitness and food enthusiasts, and artists of all sorts. Hospital workers have shown off the tools of their trade, while others, with a touch of self-deprecation, have offered their more accessible collections of yoga mats, junk food and trash. They don’t even need to fall out of cars.

The challenge originated in Russia and has spread throughout Asia, especially in China, where thousands of people have participated on Weibo, a popular social network. Even rigid government departments have joined in.

The Consular Protection Center of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a photo that showed a worker falling into a pile of paper. A police school photographed a fallen officer surrounded by bullets.

The People’s Daily, the main news outlet of China’s ruling Communist Party, chose not to condemn the meme, as it has others. While it didn’t approve of flaunting wealth, those participating in more creative versions “have been busy with life, but there is no shortage of hard work; there is also an interesting soul behind the serious face,” the paper wrote in an editorial.

Daniel Victor is a Hong Kong-based reporter, covering a wide variety of stories with a focus on breaking news. He joined The Times in 2012 from ProPublica. @bydanielvictor

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