“I’ve observed a general societal decline in kindness to our fellow man,” wrote the blogger Matt Raymond in 2010. “At the same time, our senses of entitlement have seemingly spiked. You can look almost anywhere and witness this unfortunate evolution.”
“As part of the autograph community,” he continued, “I see this all the time.”
The autograph community is what it sounds like, the community whose members collect autographs. Raymond, writing at the website Autograph University, went on to list 10 rules of etiquette for grabbing famous signatures— “Don’t try to graph a celebrity who is with their family,” “Don’t interrupt a celebrity,” “Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” and so on. Manners.
As that post hinted, the autograph was in danger, but more due to technology than “general societal decline.” Last year in the Wall Street Journal, Taylor Swift observed that she hasn’t “been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only memento ‘kids these days’ want is a selfie.”
Swift’s remarks sparked a few more online commentaries about diehard fan habits reflecting changes in civilization-wide mores. A few autograph partisans posited that a supposedly urbane practice was being replaced by a supposedly savage one: “The golden rule of autograph-hunting was that you never touched the celebrity; the inescapable law of the selfie is that you’ve got at least to put an arm round them,” wrote The Telegraph’s Christopher Middleton, who called selfie pursuit “as close to human big-game hunting as you can get.”