When Did This Generation Become So Entirely Obsessed With Itself?

by Lauren Martin

S-E-L-F-A-B-S-O-R-B-E-D. Spell it out because you are going to need to know how to write it down when your next job application asks for your most defining quality. That’s right; it’s not your great ability to listen nor your leadership skills. It’s not your winning personality and your ability to work under pressure. And it’s definitely not your patience. No, your most valuable and important trait is how self-absorbed you are.

Now, don’t be so hard on yourself, you should be impressed. No generation, mass majority or single citizen before you has ever achieved such a high level of narcissism. It’s a huge feat; you are a record holder, a champion, a leader! You are the most selfish and egotistical you've ever been since you were 2 and couldn’t understand the world that existed around you. You and your generation are like no other generation before you.

I’m not sure exactly when this all happened, but sometime, as if overnight, it became OK to love yourself. One indiscernible morning, we all woke up and decided that it was OK to post pictures of our face all over the Internet and have conversations while staring at our phones.

Somewhere between “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and Snapchat, we lost ourselves, or rather lost everything but ourselves. We silently and proudly developed a belief that we are indeed God’s gift to earth and nothing and no one matters more than ME.

But when exactly did this happen? Why did it happen? Where did it start?

I know, let’s blame the Internet. That’s an easy thing to do. Let’s just tell our parents and our kids that the reason we are so self-absorbed, so obnoxious and so attached to our own profiles is that we are the product of the Internet age. The Internet has made us this way and we had no choice but to turn into hard-drive zombies with glowing apples for souls and filters for eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, the Internet most definitely had something to do with it. But it’s not the Internet that changed us, it's our inability to restrain ourselves around it.

The Internet is the BigMac you shouldn’t have ordered, but couldn’t resist. You didn’t have to eat the whole thing, but you figured once you started, you may as well go all the way. You could have just ordered a McDouble or a Chicken Snack Wrap. But no, you ordered the big one. You asked for extra special sauce and some ranch on the side.

You made it a meal and took the large Coca Cola and fries because it was a good deal. You stuffed your face, willingly, and let the fat and sugar permeate your blood, your pores, the fibers of your very being. You became McDonald's, sitting there night after night, under the fluorescent lighting, knee deep in ranch sauce and ketchup. Engorging yourself on fake patties and soggy fries, and after a while, you just forgot how bad it all was for you.

So yes, we can blame Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. Maybe even throw some at Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. But they aren’t the ones making you eat the sh*tty food. They’re the ones putting it out there, and we’re the ones choosing to eat it. You can’t blame Ray Kroc for making you fat, only you can do that.

So, basically, we have the Internet, social media and every other app that can be created in a Silicon Valley lab and your local Starbucks. And then we have us, eating them up. But why are we so addicted to them? Why can’t we control our appetite? When did we lose all self-respect and start to attribute our self-worth to a screen?

I’ll tell you what I think happened. People like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and a slew of other increasingly plastic celebrities began finding some sort of comfort in the idea of likes. When they lost everything, their pride thrown to the wind years ago, they took to Instagram and became bottom feeders, dwelling, fishing for likes, comments and compliments wherever they could get them.

At first we thought it was weird. Why are all these people taking pictures of their faces? When did MySpace become only about girls in too much makeup and pushups bras imitating fish? Should I do this too?

Following suit with the celebrities, came the overly-confident popular girls in middle school. You remember, the ones in the Abercrombie jeans and juicy velour hoodies. They put on their Tiffany dog tags and started emulating the women they could only hope to be like.

Then you saw them on Facebook and they were still doing it. They were getting likes and attention and suddenly the Internet became this other place to gain notoriety. Suddenly, you could alter your face with some "black and white" or "matte" filters and look almost like the hot girl you always thought you were.

So the big question is: Would our parents have been like this? Had they grown up in the dawn of the Internet age, would they have succumbed to the obnoxious, indulgent behaviors we've grown into?

It’s easy to say yes. It’s easy to just assume that our tendencies toward the Internet age are physiologically and psychologically impossible to resist. But like with every scientific assumption, there are outliers that make it hard to prove with certainty that this observation can be placed as a law, or a rule.

Because there are some Millennials who aren’t like this. They are the old souls, the protestors, those weird kids who make all that eye contact. Believe it or not, there are some 20-somethings without Instagram and Twitter.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, you choose to eat that BigMac and to upload every plate of food you eat on Instagram. You choose to update your status every 23 minutes and trade pictures of your ass for likes.

You choose to ignore your real friends for the "friends" of social media. You choose to let the fake, algorithmic world of HTML and CSS define your worth. Like the girl no one paid attention to in high school, you are just so damn desperate for likes.

Photo via Instagram