Why It's All About Us
In Greek mythology, hubris, or pride, is the tragic flaw that
often brings about the downfall of the main character. A
prime example of this is Narcissus, who was known as the
most beautiful man on earth. Just as Narcissus fell in love
with his own reflection, “Generation Me” is slowly becoming
so engrossed with themselves that creativity and individualism
are falling to the side. Will we break our gaze and see
the reality of our egotism, or will we become a culture of
repetition and recycled ideas fuelled by our “me first” attitude?
In order for us to judge this, we must first understand
the different generations and how they compare to
The traditionalist generation
was one of conflicting ideals. Innovation
was key, yet society consisted of norms and
boundaries. Resilient and strong, this generation
pushed through unimaginable hardships.
The Great Depression plagued the birth of this
age bracket, and their adolescent years did not
improve, with Pearl Harbor and the beginning
of World War II going on.
However, these events would not derail this generation.
Instead, they sped into a period of novelty.
The introduction of the polio vaccine and
the space race demonstrated the scientific and
technological advancement of the age. But even
amidst all this improvement, the society of the
time was not advancing by any means.
Gary Ross’s Pleasantville poked fun at the typical
nuclear family: a father who worked and provided,
a mother who chose to be a housewife,
sons who dreamt of becoming astronauts, and
daughters who dreamt of marriage. Hidden beneath
the surface, this cookie cutter world had
problems. Depression and alcoholism usually
went undiagnosed. The culture of strict conformity
and willful oversight gave this generation
its strengths and weaknesses both.
As the traditionalist veterans returned home
from war, their dreams were simple: a comfortable
house, a good wife, and lots of children.
After 80 million births, the Baby Boomer generation
The Baby Boomer Generation Building on the momentum
of positive attitude and achievement,
Baby Boomers had many successes. They pursued
higher education in large numbers. They
also continued to run the space race. Nevertheless,
they experienced major upheavals with the
Vietnam War in the 1960s and the Civil Rights
movement that spanned the ‘60s and ‘70s. Although
there was an increasing complexity
in this bracket, class differences continued to
separate people just as they had in the traditionalist
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy
on November 22, 1963 shocked the growing Baby
Boomer generation. America was devastated by
the death of such a young and ambitious figure.
JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated
only five years later, on June 4, 1968. In the same
year, Martin Luther King was assassinated on
April 16th. This did not deter the movement but
strengthened and fuelled it.
Always maintaining appearances of composure
and strength took its toll on some of the Baby
Boomers, who experienced depression and anxiety.
Low self-esteem also swept across this generation.
Today, Boomers face a troubled health
care system and a large part of the population
The expansive Baby Boomer generation was so
large that it became the parents of both Generation
X and Generation Me. Early Boomers typically
have very different goals and parenting styles
than later Boomers. This difference in child rearing
techniques has built two vastly different generations.
The optimism of the Boomers
would not continue to propagate down the generations.
A new and angry group known as Generation
X was born. They were resilient, independent, and shaped by the fact that they
had not been coddled emotionally. Working
mothers and divorce became an increasing social
trend affecting Gen X. Because of this issue,
Gen X believed that parents were no longer
infallible—rather, they were human beings
who made mistakes and could be questioned.
This idea was also fuelled by their ambition.
Gen X wanted to do well in their chosen careers.
They expected immediate and ongoing
feedback and redefined the meaning of loyalty.
Their commitment lay only with the team
and boss that they worked with. They did not
stick with one company; when working with
a firm was no longer beneficial, they would
move on. Finally, this generation was marked
by increasing technology in domestic arenas,
such as desktop computers, copier machines,
and handheld calculators.
Generation X, the elder sibling full
of angst and frustration, was followed by Generation
Me (GenMe), a group coddled and given
so much attention that it has become known
for its ego and confidence. Unlike the Boomer
parents of Generation X, the Boomer parents
of GenMe nurtured and loved their children to
the point that this generation (and even their
parents) became convinced that they could do
Born in a technological era (between 1980 and
1994) Generation Me has become accustomed
to the internet, cellular phones, cable TV,
and other luxuries which have created the expectation
of instant gratification. We want what
we want, and we want it now.
In a work setting, GenMe prefers to work in
teams and, like Generation X, has a constant
need for feedback and reassurance. GenMe is
not only capable of multi-tasking, they have it
down to a science. They are known to do homework,
listen to music, text message, and chat on
instant messenger all at once. A technologically
advanced group, Generation Me learns quickly.
GenMe has also been affected by many tragic
events, however. For example, September 11th
made GenMe more aware of the world around
them, forming a generation that is slightly more
global and knowledgeable of the world beyond
America. Additionally, the Columbine shooting,
which killed 13 and injured 23, flooded the media
with images of students holding their hands
on their heads and rushing out of the school
building. The next day, it seemed as if every
school in the nation had bag checks and metal
detectors. More recently, a student opened fire
on the Virginia Tech campus, killing 32 people
and wounding many more on April 16, 2007.
The massacre ended in the student-shooter taking
his own life.
These random tragedies rocked the core of this
generation and brought about a frightening confusion.
Somehow, innocent people died simply
by going to school or work. GenMe endured
these events, but also became immune and desensitized
to the violence in the process.
None of these facts, however, explain how we
became so self-involved. In order to get a more
accurate picture, we must dig deeper under the
Through the Looking Glass
When brainstorming what experts mean
when they call our generation narcissistic,
the 2004 movie Mean Girls suddenly comes to
mind. A character named Gretchen Weiners,
whose father allegedly invented toaster strudel,
most memorably said, “I’m sorry people
are jealous of me, but I can’t help that I’m so
popular.” At first this is laughable, but on second
thought, it’s dead on. Sometimes, we get so self-obsessed
that we feel the world revolves around
us. Sometimes, we feel like we deserve more
credit and attention than others would actually
care to give us.
Blogs and YouTube
The internet and its endless capabilities have
catered to our apparent self-loving attitude.
It has never been as easy for us to spread
our opinions as it is now. Almost anyone
can post a message on an online message
board or create their very own blog using
LiveJournal (LJ ), Blogspot, and even Facebook.
If you were a little bit more ambitious,
you could even design and program your
own website from scratch. Never theless,
according to Jean M. Twenge, author of the book,
Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are
More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable
Than Ever Before, “Blogs are built around the
idea that everyone wants to hear your thoughts.
Had a bad day? Tell the world on LJ.”
The advent of YouTube has only added more fuel
to our self-centric fire. Look at the very name of
the website. YouTube enables an ordinary person
to attain his 15 minutes of fame by recording
and uploading any of his or her videos. Without
it, how would we have ever shown the world
our capability as amateur stuntmen, innovators,
musicians, and filmmakers? How would Chris
Crocker have earned his claim to fame by defending
Britney Spears from the media?
Reality television has put a different spin on
the same idea. As the New York Times reported,
“Reality television has spawned a generation
of viewers who feel entitled to be on camera.”
In 2000, “Survivor” started the reality
show craze, with “Big Brother,” “Temptation
Island,” and “The Bachelor” quickly following
suit. Eight years later, a whole slew of shows
have followed suit, including “Fear Factor,”
“I Love New York,” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
When you really think about it, no matter how
differently you dress them up, the underlying
themes and messages for these shows are all
the same. They’re all about love, money, and
fame. Even more broadly, they’re all about one’s
struggle to prove that he or she is better than
the rest. Therefore, one can prove that he or
she deserves to be on TV and to receive that
$1 million, that recording or model contract,
or that hot guy or girl. We start believing that if
we can attain that prize at the end, we can get
almost everything that we want.
I Want It, When I Want It
In Generation Me by Jean Twenge, this culture
of self-centeredness is descr ibed as such:
“Materialism is the most obvious outcome of
a straightforward, practical focus on the self:
you want more things for yourself.” We want
movies, books, and video games that entertain
us. We want clothes and accessories that complement
our style. We want products that will
please us; and sometimes, that isn’t enough.
Brand name products have never been as
popular as they are now, because we have become
accustomed to having the best available.
However, the problem arises when we start
wanting and purchasing things we cannot afford.
If we’re not careful, we become victims of
credit card debt because we have become too
preoccupied with our desires.
Many of us already use our hard-earned cash
from our part-time jobs to pay for our cars,
laptops, cellular phones, and mp3 players,
instead of saving it for that rainy day our parents
told us about. One might wonder how
much money could be saved by avoiding such
In Dollars or In Utils...How Can Success Be Measured?
In our parents’ time, success was measured
on a f iscal or inf luent ial scale. How much
money you made or your impact on the world
was the barometer of your accomplishments.
Today, GenMe measures success by how happy
you are. Sometimes, happiness is brought by
how many toys you own and sometimes, it is
triggered by something more substantial.
Shinay McNeill, a third year Visual Media major,
admits that the job market does not look good.
According to McNeill, even professors have
commented on the current job market for photographers,
“More than half of us will not have
photo jobs when we graduate.” Many will be
forced to edit and do other behind-the-scenes
jobs and never get to shoot. “Even if there is
that risk out there that you are not going to be
making billions of dollars, you still want to do
it,” said McNeill. Emily McKean, a second year
Photojournalism major, is also undeterred: “If I
want it, I will do it.”
Sculpting Our Own Future
Nowadays, students have more freedom
in what they decide to take in college.
Children no longer have to aspire to be lawyers,
doctors, and bankers. They can choose whatever
makes them happy, and even if a college doesn’t
have your dream major, you can now build it.
Many colleges have a multidisciplinary studies
program which allows students to take a variety
of classes and concentrate in a certain area.
While in some cases this works for students who
have changed their majors or will be furthering
their degrees anyway, that cannot outweigh the
sneaking suspicion that it is a way to avoid the
effort to earn a more specified degree.
One Major Pitfall
Even though we have become so confident with
ourselves and have become so driven to succeed,
there is still at least one major drawback.
When all our lives we are made to believe that
we can do anything, we develop higher expectations.
We feel that we are entitled to and
deserve so much more; and when we don’t get
what we want, sometimes we don’t know how
to deal with it.
In the 1999 film Fight Club, Tyler Durden was
frighteningly accurate when he said, “We were
raised on television to believe that we’d all be
millionaires, movie gods, rock stars, but we
won’t. And we’re starting to figure that out.
And we’re very, very pissed off.” At times, it
seems that we were given false hope that just
because we try hard enough for something,
it will come. Although being rich and famous is
not impossible, we fail to see how difficult the
journey itself could really be.