I was interested to read how we Brits are, according to recent research, now a nation of moaners.
Only now? In my experience British people are always complaining. It’s not just the weather – a constant source of bellyaching – but they whinge about prices, standards of products and services, their boss, the bloke next door who plays loud music late at night; whatever the cause, grumbling is a national pastime.
So what happened to the traditional British reserve of not making a scene and mustn’t grumble? That, I would suggest, still exists when it comes to face-to-face encounters. You rarely see people having stand-up rows with shop assistants or waiters being lambasted because the steak hasn’t been cooked properly.
I would suggest that this is because the person receiving the complaint is trying to be as polite as the person making it. There have been many occasions when I have needed to complain about something and I’ve usually psyched myself up for the encounter (don’t want to have a nasty confrontation but may have to) only to find that my grievance was handled politely and resolved to my satisfaction.
What’s happened is that the internet has enabled us Brits to go undercover to vent our spleen. Research over the last ten years or so has shown that the phenomenon of ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ has gone viral, spreading to all corners of the UK.
Why? The angry Tunbridge Wells chap was obviously so full of moral outrage that he was compelled to write a letter. This takes effort. I wonder how many times people would have the urge to put pen to paper but then keep putting it off until the moment had passed?
Writing an email or social media post is much easier and avoids confrontation to a certain extent. While it doesn’t secure anonymity, it enables you to keep at a safe distance. It’s rather like knocking on someone’s door – or worse, throwing a stone through the window – and running away.
For example, people often post on our local community forum about the bad service they received in a restaurant. When asked if they complained at the time, the response is usually a resounding negative. So, instead of challenging the poor service at the time, they stew (sorry) about it and moan later.
There is something cowardly about the growth in online vitriol, which is strange because we are not a nation of cowards; quite the opposite.
I suppose the best you can say is at least the prevalence of computers and hand-held devices is encouraging people to write. The only problem is that online channels encourage instantaneous commentary when perhaps it might be better to wait until the flash of anger subsides before hitting the send button.