Why Generation 'Me' Will Change The World

by Paul Hudson

Generation-Y has once again made headlines — this time we grace the cover of Time magazine! The article, by Joel Stein, is titled: “The ME ME ME Generation.” In case you are having difficulty interpreting this alternative name for Generation-Y, Stein gives us a subtitle for explanation: Millenials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents…Why they’ll save us all.

This piece has gotten quite a bit of feedback from many publications and bloggers. Most of the responses that writers have come up with follow along the lines of: Stein is completely wrong and this is why…blah, blah, blah. I just ran out to the store and grabbed the magazine for myself so that I could get a clearer understanding of what all the fuss is about.

The article is divided into two sections; the first is allotted for the sole purpose of bashing Generation-Y. The second half of the piece, however, is set aside for giving reasons why our generation is heading in the right direction — as can be understood from the subtitle. I’d like to pick apart his arguments piece by piece — that’s what I do. In fact, even as Stein points out, this is what Generation-Yers do.

Firstly, I must give some attention to the fact most people are pointing out after reading this edition of Time magazine: every generation has been seen as the “Me” generation. Time magazine itself has been publishing these “generational stereotyping” articles since they first opened their doors. The baby booming generation was dubbed by Time magazine as the “Me Generation” and the generation prior to that as the “Me Decade” — so if anything, we ought to pat ourselves on the back for having another set of Me’s added to our title — and in all caps for that matter.

I wonder how many Me’s Generation-Z will be granted…only so many can fit on a page — or in this case, on a front cover. What society is actually seeing is not a single generation that is surpassing generations past. What we are experiencing is a trend, a movement towards a direction. Is this movement as narcissistic as Stein would have us believe? Absolutely not. Is Generation ME ME ME as self-centered and egotistical as Stein would suggest? Well… the man may have a point here.

The trouble I find with this article is that it does what we have been told not to do for the last couple of decades: stereotype. We have been shown the faults with arguing that an entire race or culture share the exact same characteristics, the same tendencies, the same way of thinking and the same faults. Yet, for some reason or another Stein feels that we can group together an entire age group — two decades worth of people to be exact.

He is not alone in this failing; this same impractical and illogical method of grouping and of drawing conclusions based on a single shared factor is practiced by the masses — with exceptions of course. If we can all now agree that it is silly to group together people and judge them on the basis of their race, we should undoubtedly agree that an entire age group cannot be judged as a whole.

This article in particular does not address Generation-Y as it stands in the United States. It attempts to tackle the entire generation, all over the world. The task itself is laughable, yet has been attempted. So let us go through Stein’s work together, giving it justice when it is due and ripping it a new asshole when so deserved — gently of course.

“I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof,” Stein starts his article.

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence provided, shall we? First up: the narcissistic behaviors of our generation. Stein points to a study by the National Institute of Health, which states that narcissistic personality disorders are three times as prominent in Generation-Y as they are in those that are now 65 years of age or older. So let me get this straight… 20 year olds are more obsessed with their looks than senior citizens? Now that, my friends, is a revelation.

Who would have ever thought that those way past their prime, past what most would consider the age of beauty, would be less concerned with their looks? Are wrinkles and loose skin not admired by those who have reached such an age as to have them? Narcissism will always be more prevalent in those that are younger.

Once Generation-Y hits such an age, I am sure our narcissistic tendencies will have been far-gone. I can agree that our generation may be more focused on our looks than previous generations when they were of similar age, but this is a result of our environment. The fact is that our lives are recorded and published on the Internet with or without our consent.

We are bound to appear in photos on Facebook no matter whether we take them ourselves or not — most often we will find ourselves tagged in the photos of our friends. If we know that others will be looking at us and judging us — as is human nature — then it only makes sense that we would take more care to look presentable.

Moving on, Stein presents us with a contradiction — not that he meant to, but he did. “[Generation-Yers] are so convinced of their own greatness…” he starts off and then goes on to explain his reason for thinking that all millennials suffer from a severe case of entitlement disorder or whatever have you. Prior to this opening statement, he explains that “three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a senator,” as well as, “four times as many would pick the assistant job over the CEO of a major corporation.”

First off, is it really such a surprise that our generation prefers to stay as far away from politics as possible? All the lies that are fed to us by government bodies and the media are now public knowledge. If we want to look into a once top-secret military operation we can via the Internet — we can also take a look at the lies that were told to us during the same time period, covering up the true reasons for wars and international tragedies. The same can be said for American corporations.

With all the corruption among such large businesses, how can we be blamed to want to stay far away from positions under such spotlight? This is not to say that we do not wish to run companies; we do. We would just prefer that it be a company that we started from the ground up, a company that we have groomed to ethical standards over years of our own hard work. But disregarding this fact, how can one state that Generation-Y is overly convinced with their greatness, and at the same time, point out that more would prefer positions of lesser grandeur? So we think ourselves so great that we want to be assistants? Interesting point there, Stein…

I honestly believe that the largest movement within Generation-Y is that of hardworking individuals doing what they can to make it on their own. We do hold ourselves in high regard, but unlike Stein, I believe that if not most, then many, have the drive to get to where they want to go. I say most to avoid trying to generalize the intentions of an entire generation. However, Stein for some reason believes that our entire generation is lazy — not just some of us, but all of us.

He writes, “Though they are cocky about their place in the world, millennials are also stunted, having prolonged a life stage between teenager and adult that this magazine once called twixters and will now use once again in an attempt to get that term to catch on.”

Keep the term to yourself, friend. More millennials than not are far from lazy. You may be right — more of us may be moving back in with our parents after college. I could go into the state of the economy, which the author’s generation has left in shambles, is in such a poor state that a college degree no longer guarantees anything other than financial debt — but I won’t. It should suffice to explain that most of us have come to the realization that moving out and being “on our own” makes reaching our goals much less likely.

Sure, we could find ourselves a position somewhere as a barista — which many do — but if necessity does not require us to support ourselves entirely from the get-go, then why should we? In order to prove to your generation that we can hold the same shitty jobs as they held in their youth? You may believe that we simply think ourselves “too good” for such grunt work.

The truth is that we are too smart to fall into the same trap that previous generations have succumbed to. We aren’t lazy; we understand that it is stupid to make life harder for ourselves. We may not all work 40 hours a week — although I have to point out that I cannot be alone having at one point worked 80 hours a week — but we work on ourselves, bettering our character and our habits in order to prepare ourselves for the positions that we actually wish to hold. Of course not all — because such stereotyping is silly to think factual — but I dare to say the majority.

We are a generation of “out-of-the-box” thinkers. Just as Stein himself points, we know how to brand ourselves — if we can brand ourselves, it stands to think that we can brand products and services that we will in the future use not only to fill our own pockets, but to help bring the global economy back to prosperity.

So how is it that Stein can believe that, “Not only do millennials lack the kind of empathy that allows them to feel concerned for others, but they also have trouble even intellectually understanding others’ points of view”? Isn’t the practice of branding just that? In order to sell a product, whether it be ourselves or other, we must understand what it is that other people want to see in said product. We must empathize with consumers and place ourselves into their shoes, consider how they would react to different methods of marketing. We must come to understand what it is that others need in order to be able to satisfy their needs.

The tech movement, pioneered in large part by Generation-Yers, is as successful as it is due to our ability to understand what it is that others want. “Millenials don’t need us,” writes Stein. “That’s why we’re scared of them.” You are correct — we don’t need you. But we are happy to sell you the products and services YOU need.

Stein does, however, make a few good points. For starters he is correct in saying that we embellish too much. “When everyone is telling you about their vacations, parties and promotions, you start to embellish your own life to keep up.” True. It’s only human nature that we wish to always beat and outdo others, but this will dissipate over time, with age — I hope.

But as I have said earlier in this article and as Stein himself emphasizes so eloquently, “millennials’ self involvement is more a continuation of trend than a revolutionary break from previous generations.” Such egocentric thinking is nothing novel, however it is more prevalent in these times than before — and thank goodness. In my opinion, too many figures in the past have tried to better the world in their own image. Hitler did believe that he was doing the world a favor, a justice.

Maybe in order to avoid such lunatics from shaping history, we should focus more on our own needs and our own personal problems. Instead of trying to fix or help the whole world, maybe we should fix and help ourselves first. If everyone were to do so, then we would all be better off with minimal effort. This is not to say that we shouldn’t do our best to help our neighbors and those less fortunate than ourselves all over the world — but the fact is that before we can help anyone else, we must help ourselves. It’s like those pre-flight safety messages teach: you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before moving on to helping others with theirs.

There is much more good to be said about Generation-Y than there is bad — but of course, this can only be said about each individual separately and ought to be avoided as a stereotype. Stein’s piece does point out something of great importance: “Because millennials don’t respect authority, they also don’t resent it.” This has transitioned into the closing of the gap between parents and their children. There is now an entirely new dynamic that embodies friendship more than it does hierarchy within a family.

Parents are now using the same social networking platforms (created by Generation-Y, mind you) that Generation-Yers are themselves using. They are being exposed to the same information, the same videos, the same music, the same memes and the same horrors of the world that so often become viral. The generational gap is quickly closing and all thanks to our generation. Our parents are now becoming our friends. We now have something that we can relate to and talk about — we have similar interests. This is all creating a positive energy that can be seen and felt.

Joel Stein’s conclusion that, “(Millennials) are cool and reserved and not all that passionate. They are informed but inactive,” is wrong. We simply have a different way of doing things. It is as Gary Stiteler, an Army recruiter for 15 years, who Stein himself quotes, says: “The generation that we enlisted when I first started recruiting was sort of do, do, do.

This generation is think, think about it before you do it.” It is not that we are inactive; we are simply in our first stages of planning our attack. Generation-X has put all their focus on action and action alone. This mistake of theirs is the reason why the world is in the state that it is today. I don’t want to bash our predecessors, but the fact is that if they put more time into planning and thinking, governmental institutions wouldn’t have gone through with half the actions they did go through with — the same may be said of large corporations. Generation-Y is not without flaws.

We are simply only the next step in the evolutionary chain of human beings. Those after us will be less flawed and more open-minded — all thanks to the actions that Generation-Y is taking today and will take in the next decade or so. On this note I would like to end this article with the conclusion from Stein’s piece:

“Whether you think millennials are the new greatest generation of optimistic entrepreneurs or a group of 80 million people about to implode in a dwarf star of tears when their expectations are unmet depends largely on how you view change. Me, I choose to believe in the children. God knows they do.”