Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No really, it's all about Me...

This monologue features a combination of the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘I’ll’ 8 times; ah, if only everybody issued such a disclaimer before embarking on the kind of one-sided jaw-workout that I’m regularly subjected to over the course of an average day.

Casually throw a ‘how are you?’ in the direction of someone you haven’t seen for a week and you’re likely to glean one of two responses: either the standard, apathetic “yeahgood” grunt (usually delivered with a gaze firmly fixed on anything other than you), or a detailed account of how a tickly cough turned into a phlegm fest while a suspected bout of athlete’s foot actually turned out to be a rancid verruca. Hear this, people: just because Dr Christian has turned Embarrassing Bodies into a prime time TV career, we don’t all want to hear a warts and all account of your latest ailments. Similarly, recounting the results of your latest search on Genes Reunited is only interesting to other self-obsessives who have signed up for the same service, and as for the latest spiel from your regression therapist: oh come on, if you really were Lord Byron/a Parisian showgirl/the Queen of Sheba in your last incarnation, surely you might have morphed your way into a life less ordinary this time around? A reciprocal riposte in the form of an enquiry as to your own wellbeing, meanwhile, is unlikely to be forthcoming - because, you see, nobody cares how anybody else is (or what they think) anymore; The Sound of Your Own Voice is currently riding high in the social communication charts, and it’s apparently so catchy that it’s set to dominate the Number One slot for a very long time to come.

I recently had to shelve a travel plan because I’m currently in the middle of dealing with a funding crisis affecting a project I’ve been involved with for several years. I didn’t want to leave the situation hanging in midair, and the cut also meant that I’m left struggling with a personal cashflow crisis; in other words, times are hard. I duly emailed the person whom I was supposed to be visiting to explain my situation. Did she respond with, perhaps, her commiserations, a few kindly words of support or an enquiry as to how things might turn out? Of course not! Instead, she emailed me back to reassure me that she’d made alternative plans for the cancellation period so I wasn’t to worry about her (and don’t worry, I won’t - not ever again). At a recent dinner party, a traveller’s tale from a guest who’d just returned from a stint driving across France swiftly turned into a bland volley of one-upmanship across the table: someone else once drove across America, but a friend of somebody’s friend had trekked across the Sahara desert. Everybody talked across each other and the white noise of egomania filled the room for hours on end, until taxis were called from mobile phones that themselves provided yet more one-sided conversations with no thought for others at all.

Cultural trend-spotters may blame the current (anti)social climate on the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which offer an accessible soapbox for the ‘Me, Me, Me!’-ers to waffle on from. But the MMM’s were thriving long before issuing acquaintances with an update on our lives was restricted to a bulletin of 140 characters or less, telling people at bus stops about the dream they had last night (can there be a duller subject than somebody else’s dream?), blathering on about needing ‘me’ time and spending a fortune on ‘pampering sessions’, ‘treats’ and increasingly expensive, ever-more-complicated accessories in a (literally) vain attempt to make themselves interesting.

An over-developed, inflated, misplaced sense of self is, in my opinion, a singularly repulsive character trait. If I can get a word in next time I encounter someone suffering with the ego mania virus, I’ll tell them why I’m right.