Taking endless selfies in the big cafe of life
We’ve all been there: relaxing over Sunday coffee in a lovely little cafe, only to have the peace pierced by the screeching of a baby who clearly doesn’t like the latte.
So, what to do? Do you politely ask the parents to remove their bawling bundle of joy, or do you suck it up and have your own Sunday ruined by unholy howling.
In Sydney, one cafe goer has sparked a fierce debate by rising up for the silent majority to ask the parents of a screaming baby “to take their child for a walk or find another solution”.
According to the yarn, the cafe goer didn’t do it lightly – the wailing had gone on for 10 long minutes before he decided enough was enough.
It’s fair to say the parents of the screeching child didn’t exactly see it the same way, offering a middle-finger salute and branding the guy a “despicable human being” as they marched indignantly out the door.
Let’s put to one side the debate on whether crying kids should be kicked out of cafes. (And anyway, there is no debate: of course they should be kicked out, if the parents clearly aren’t doing enough to quieten down dear little Bonnie, or – despite every attempt – dear little Bonnie simply can’t be calmed.)
I’m much more interested in the thought processes of people who are so self-absorbed that they can’t appreciate the impact of their actions on everyone around them.
Self-worship has never been more pronounced than it is now. Individuals have never had such conviction about their own importance. People have never spoken so openly about their own feelings about themselves.
In English grammar, we’ve always had the first person (me), the second person (you) and the third person (he, she, it and they).
Almost overnight, we’ve seen the creation of a new third person: myself. (“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment,” says Novak Djokovic. “I’m happy with myself if I’m a little heavier,” says Khloe Kardashian.)
Gone are the days when you received, say, a letter in the post from a local real estate agent politely asking for your business when you next sell your home.
Now you get their life story and a fridge magnet photo – like this house seller you’ve never met should be front and centre in the kitchen with your family happy snaps.
This week, I received a simple email request from a random interstate PR company updating its media contact lists.
It started like this: “I’m Stella and I recently moved over from Belgium as a PR intern. Last summer I obtained my master’s degree in Communications and since I always had a passion for travel I decided to pursue a career abroad. For the next couple of months I’ll be assisting with PR activities.”
It’s too simplistic to blame this me-magnification on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter – but I will anyway.
That is, after all, where you’ll now find millions of “selfies” – so-called self-portraits taken on your phone and quickly uploaded to social media.
Sequential selfies are apparently all the rage – a mate recently watched aghast as a stream of Facebook posts were uploaded by a friend in her 40s getting highlights in her hair. Does anyone care? (Well, actually, it generated dozens of “likes”. Go figure.)
Truth is, even the most traditional media – from ABC radio to The Advertiser – now constantly seek our opinions.
Why? To entice us with easy, non-challenging questions to their own websites, so they can increase web traffic and ultimately advertising revenue (or government funding, in the ABC’s case).
Well, OK, more power to the people. It’s a brave new world where all opinions are valid, instead of information flowing just one way, from talking heads like me, for example.
But let’s just hope this new global fascination with naval gazing doesn’t hinder our ability to empathise, or appreciate the needs of others also enjoying a Sunday coffee in the big cafe of life.
That’s what I’ve been telling myself, anyway.
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