National apology trend turns to mania

A bemused Europe watches on

This week, Britain was gripped by a sudden wave of apologies, as everyone everywhere began publically apologising for everything and anything – from burning their children’s tea to renovating Klute nightclub – resulting in social media crashing for several hours and panic spreading across the country.

The origins of the incident lie with Nick Clegg’s much maligned apology two Wednesdays ago for making a pledge not to raise tuition fees. Whilst the rest of the internet community basked in its creative parodying of Mr Clegg’s video, an innocuous post appeared on Twitter from mjsmith: “Sorry for burning @jsmith dinner #sorry”. Over the next week, the “#sorry” grouping spread across Twitter into Facebook and throughout online blogging sites, so that by Monday #sorry had become the highest trending topic in the UK.

A phenomenal outpouring of pent-up guilt and anxiety resulted, as people from all backgrounds took the opportunity to say sorry for their deepest darkest secrets.

Bpeter said: “told child Santa does not exist #sorry”.

Dbaker said: “bought battery-farmed chicken #sorry”.

Before long, more prominent figures were joining the craze, unleashing a stream of high-profile apologies:

Gosborne said: “economy buggered for decade #sorry”.

Pofwales said: “tea might taste a bit like almonds #sorry mumsie”.

Jclarkson said: “accident with prostitute #sorry #irony”.

The political and media worlds especially have been awash with apologies, with BBC Radio 4 dedicating a solid hour of the Today programme on Tuesday and Wednesday to public figures who wished to say sorry vocally over the radio. Indeed, Ed Miliband broke down into tears whilst apologising to his brother for beating him in the Labour leadership contest and was forced to retire before finishing.

However, this outpouring of remorse has not had the cathartic effect social commentators initially predicted it would. Instead, such was the volume of penitent traffic that the British servers of a number of social media – including Twitter, Facebook, and the BBC and Guardian free comment appendages – crashed, sending the country into a state of mild panic. Rioting was reported in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Luton, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Belfast, and Falmouth, with looting, arson and armed robbery rocking the streets. Order is now being restored, with arrests – mainly amongst frustrated mothers – climbing into the thousands.

Interestingly, this occurrence is solidly refusing to trend outside of the UK. Social scientist Deborah Niggles has attributed this to “an inherent and petty desire amongst the British to be liked”.

One mysterious tweet which has sparked particular controversy was from God1: “#sorry for everything”.

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