By Katherine Holt
“Narcissistic,” “entitled” and “lazy” are all common terms that older people typically use to describe millennials and younger generations (including generations Y and Z).
Maybe they’re right. Maybe we take too many selfies and take too many of our opportunities for granted. Has the digital age truly created a monster of a generation — one that produces individuals solely focused on their own personal motives?
After spending so much of my life hearing adults speak negatively about my generation, I began to wonder if there truly was a remarkable amount of people my age giving us a bad reputation.
After traveling around the world (including Europe, Australia and North and South America) and attending college, I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of different people. I have always noticed that age really never has anything to do with any of our commonalities or differences.
I began to wonder whether generational labels are even real, or if are they just a social construct used to create division. This idea is supported by an article written on Leaderonomics, which states that “We have divided this large group of people who are alive at the same time into sections that degrade and condescend each other with statements like ‘they are narcissistic and lazy.’”
The fact is that just because our generation grew up in a time when constant change and innovation was taking place doesn’t mean that we have become as entitled or lazy, as older generations may like to believe.
In fact, according to a 2016 report by BNP Paribas in 5.6 billion American millennials under the age of 35 were surveyed, millennials were found to be “creating more companies, with higher headcount and greater profit ambitions. They show strong interest in the economy, but not exclusively!”
Millennials also had a higher average of businesses started than baby boomers who are over the age of 50, as well as a higher expected gross profit margin in 2015. So, who are they calling lazy?
Instead of looking at the differences between these socially constructed generations, I’d like to address how similar we all are. Regardless of our incessant use of social media, we are not the most “narcissistic generation.”
As a psychology major here at the College, I know firsthand that there are a plethora of studies that show that every generation has been the “me, me, me” generation. For example, Roberts, Brent W., et al. conducted a meta-analysis (a form of research that combines data from multiple studies) in 2010 that showed developmental changes are much more important than generational changes when it comes to narcissism.
For example, it was actually the baby boomers who coined the phrase, “but enough about me, what do you think about me?” in the 1970s.
I believe that it is not our generation that is narcissistic, it is simply just the fact that our generation consists mostly of individuals in their teens and 20s right now, which is a stage of life in which almost every human being needs to focus on themselves in order to build a brighter future. I bet that if just about anyone were to ask their parents what they were doing at age 23, they would have been involved in a lot of things that were solely benefiting themselves, too.
How did our generation get the bad reputation? Maybe it’s because so many parts of our lives, more than any other generation ever, are exposed online. Our inner thoughts, mistakes and lessons learned are shown to the world via social media. It only makes sense for us to receive the criticism and judgement from older generations who have already grown and matured.
Our generation has made remarkable strides toward positive change. We have been able to create our own success in many different fields and inspire others to follow in our footsteps through sharing our journeys. We have told so many incredible stories, picked ourselves back up from failures and helped so many people suffering in silence — whether it be by attending a march for LGBTQ+ rights or encouraging conversations about sexual assault and suicide.
We listen with open-minds and take a stand to protect and support each other, as seen by the National School Walkout protesting against gun violence in March 2018.
We have done all of this in the spotlight, and we’re only just getting started. I think the answer is simple — we are not the worst generation, we are just the most exposed.
Students share opinions around campus
“Is our generation inferior to others’?”
“No. Every generation gets a bad rep. Change happens and people hate change.”
“Yes. I think that we take the value out of important things.”