Everybody’s talking about the Me Generation–including me, because the students that I see in counseling are a product of this generation. These are the kids who have grown up in an era where no one keeps score in sports. Everybody is a winner, which is why everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.
These kids have also been told that they are special and brilliant and deserve great things, whether they’ve earned them or not. Some researchers argue that these messages are creating a narcissistic epidemic in which today’s youth are superficially connected, attention-seeking, vain, and materialistic.
And there is some evidence for these claims. After all, “selfie” was the 2013 word of the year. People can have hundreds of followers without doing anything particularly interesting. And the rising popularity of Twitter is evidence that every random thought that someone has throughout the day is newsworthy.
Perhaps it is because I am not a product of the Me Generation that I have been reluctant to participate in social media. I didn’t want to get caught up in competing over who has the most friends because I knew I would lose. And as much as I am interested in getting to know people, I don’t really care about when someone is going to the gym or what they had for dinner.
I also don’t like to have unauthorized pictures of me floating around in cyberspace because I’m afraid I’ll look fat in them. Plus I don’t know how to strike that pose that all the young people do that’s supposed to make you look more attractive. Because I don’t like pictures of myself, I’ve only posted about 3 selfies, and they were all with someone else. That’s more like a selfie+1. Which is not as narcissistic, if you ask me.
However, my blog has forced me to participate in social media, and I have to admit, it’s not all bad. Yes, it allows narcissists to have a bigger audience, but it also gives the introvert an opportunity to have a voice. And sometimes it can accelerate positive social change. Before, there might have been one person on the playground strong enough to stand up to a bully. Now, there can be millions of them.
Personally, social media has allowed me to stay in touch with people who I would have never heard from before FB. And I have connected with people through blogging who I would have never met otherwise. Plus, if Pope Francis can take a selfie, it can’t be that narcissistic.
Critics of the Me Generation claim that all of the unconditional acceptance that psychologists recommend is to blame for this narcissistic epidemic. I don’t think that’s accurate. In a previous post I talked about the difference between self-esteem and self-worth. Self-esteem is about accomplishments and self-worth is about inherent value. Focusing on trophies, appearance, and success are ways to instill inflated self-esteem, but not self-worth.
Instead of telling kids that they are all winners, we should be telling kids that they are still worthwhile, even when they lose. Even when they become old and gray. Even when their 15 minutes of fame are up.
Until that happens, we haven’t truly taught the next generation what it means to believe in themselves.