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The age of selfies and the rise of incivility

It is tempting to believe that there is nothing particularly wrong with the world, except inevitable aging. Alas, old age comes with its share of crankiness. When people begin muttering that “past days were better,” it’s almost always a sign that their hair is graying fast. Borges used to remember a friend who complained about young people “who nowadays mumble unintelligible words or just expect you to read their lips.” The man, obviously, was reluctant to admit he was suffering from hearing loss.

After that long disclaimer, we wonder if there is a correlation between the growing number of selfie sticks and the —mostly idiotic— selfie photos, a plague of modern life, and the incivility that swarms around us. Of all the ills that abound —rude behavior in public transportation and in the street, lack of basic email etiquette, littering— there seems to be no worse one than the inability to apologize.

Saying “sorry”, it seems, would puncture, in their immense emptiness, those vastly inflated egos behind those merry faces that profusely multiply themselves in an infinity of self-inflicted photos that, in turn, are inflicted on family and “followers” on social media. Much is made of the virtue of forgiving. Yet to forgive, forgiveness must be asked for.

Perhaps “sorry” is dropping out of the common vocabulary altogether. Orwell has reflected on the vicious cycle that begins to corrode consciousness when the lexicon shrinks. Once the words are missing to express an idea, the concept vanishes too. It’s hard to imagine how the word “sorry,” and the notion it expresses, can survive in an era so badly voided of a higher virtue: humility. Or maybe it’s just we are getting old.