A Narcissistic World

This is the final word of a six word blog series that describes the world our kids are growing up in. Whether they’ve entered college, still in high school, middle school, or elementary school, these words explain why they end up the way they do as young adults. Let me know your thoughts and what’s happening in your part of the world…

Their world is narcissistic. Typically, Generation iY has been raised to be consumers, and many have not matured to become contributors. By overemphasizing self-esteem and not emphasizing such qualities as unselfishness and responsibility, adults have created a narcissistic world that makes it easy for them to be consumed with self.

Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the book, Generation Me, writes:  In the years after 1980, there was a pervasive, society-wide effort to increase children’s self-esteem. The Boomers who now filled the ranks of parents apparently decided that children should always feel good about themselves. Research on programs to boost self-esteem blossomed in the 1980s, and the number of psychology and education journal articles devoted to self-esteem doubled between the 1970s and the 1980s. These journal articles increased another 52% in the 1990s, and the number of books on self-esteem doubled over that same time.

Accordingly to social scientists, Howe and Strauss, this generation tends to be truly “self-conscious” — intensely aware of themselves. More than 90% feel “very good” about themselves. But even those who don’t like themselves are still hyperaware of (and often consumed with) their social standing — what their friends think of them, how they look in their Facebook photos, and so on.

One could argue, of course, that teens have always been self-absorbed. Perhaps this is true for the last three generations, but it is not true historically. We will discuss later how adults have permitted adolescents to be narcissistic far longer than they did one hundred years ago. But just one simple piece of information will show the increase in generational self-consciousness.

In the early 1950s, only 12 percent of teens aged fourteen to sixteen agreed with the statement: “I am an important person.” By the late 1980s, an incredible 80% claimed they were important. That’s seven times as many! Such numbers have led Dr. Twenge and her researchers to conclude that this is the most narcissistic generation in history.

Charles Sykes wrote an op-ed piece that’s been quoted several times. In it, he lays out eleven rules that students from Generation iY do not typically learn in high school or college. He argues that our feel-good, politically correct teachings have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality, kids who are set up for failure in the real world. You might be interested in his list — which effectively pinpoints the kind of cultural shift that has created Generation iY:

Rules for the Real World

Rule 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it.
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will not make forty thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: Think your teacher is tough? Wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try “delousing” the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

OK. So it’s a little humor. But, sometimes the message is necessary. Your thoughts?


A Narcissistic World