When did people become so rude? No, this isn’t a rhetorical question, I genuinely need to know. What the hell happened in our society that we started to think it was okay to be ill-mannered and discourteous to others? Mummies ramming into your legs with their pushchairs and not so much as a whispered excuse me; cars blocking the exit of other cars for hours while their owners go to lunch (yes, that is a true story); dinners where half the table doesn’t show up and not a single message of explanation is sent to the organiser. It’s become a free-for-all, and I’m struggling to understand why.
I recently brought this up with a friend of mine after yet another distasteful interaction with someone from customer service, and he said something very interesting about how the pandemic had basically robbed people of their social skills, or at the very least, made them less willing to try with others. The thing is that while I think the pandemic has played a part in making us all feel a little stranger and more isolated, I don’t think it’s the main cause.
I mean, just take a look at the internet. Some of the earliest definitions of trolling can be found in 2011. I remember when you would see an awful comment here and there, but now, you can find entire forums bashing strangers gleefully. The thing about technology is it takes away the human element. In Shakespeare’s time, if you wanted to insult someone or be rude to them, you’d either have to find them or send them a letter that might take weeks to arrive. Nowadays, if someone doesn’t like the way your armpit looks in a photo, they can tell you straightaway. There’s no cooling-off period. There’s no pause to reflect. The problem is that we now spend so much time online that that attitude is now being reflected in real life too. It’s almost like we feel that everyone else is not as real as we are.
It’s time that we all sat down for a second, took a break from our awfully busy lives, and really smelled the coffee. We are here for too short a time for us not to be the best we can be and not leave the world a little bit better than we found it. Be kind and if you can’t do that, just be quiet. Who knows, eventually you might even alienate enough of your friends to not have any dinner plans that you can’t be bothered to cancel.