Over the past five years, I’ve noticed an exponential boom in showing off. Everyone’s at it. One friend tells me, every time I meet him, “You know what? I’m extremely good at my work.”

Having returned to an editing job, after a decade as a freelance journalist, I’m also struck by the new obligation to show off in pitches for articles.

A decade ago, someone would pitch a piece by saying, “I wonder if there’s any chance you might be interested in something on the history of slate-mining in the Haute-Savoie department of France.” Now they say, “I’ve written an extremely interesting article on slate-mining in the Haute-Savoie department of France. I’m delighted to offer it to you.”

Why don’t show-offs realise that it never works? Don’t tell me you’re funny and extremely selfless, sunshine! I’ll believe you the moment you say something funny or do something selfless. Until then, I’ll suspend judgment.

Where did all this vanity – a subset of the deadly sin of pride – come from? America is partly to blame. In only a year and a half of living in New York, a decade ago, I threw off my old armour of false self-deprecation and started showing off. Across the Atlantic, there’s a sort of conversational deal: I’ll say I’m marvellous and you’re marvellous, too; then you return the compliment.

Social media – that standby explanation for modern, sinful behaviour – also plays a massive part. If you spend all day on a computer – praising your friends, damning your enemies and posting your achievements online – you’re bound to turn into a show-off.

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