Sunday, June 9, 2013

Song of the #selfie

published June 8, 2013 MST
It not just “me”; it’s “ME ME ME”.
Time’s Joel Stein, in the May 20 issue of the magazine, says millennials—those belonging to Generation Y, born between 1980 and 2000—are lazy, entitled narcissists.
The cover shows a young woman lying on her stomach taking a picture of herself with her cell phone.  Such self-taken photos, uploaded in any of the social media sites, are known as selfies.
Stein begins his article by saying that narcissistic personality disorder is much more common among this age group, that they are obsessed with fame, that they are lazy because they grew up not having to do math on their own, and that they are this way as an unintended consequence of their parents’ desire to boost their self-esteem to increase the likelihood of their success.
The typical behavior of millennials— oversharing Kardashians, he says at one points—is how rich kids have always been. They have an acronym for everything and are afflicted with a massive FOMO, or fear of missing out.
Stein, a 41-year-old Gen Xer, attempts to tone down his sweeping generalizations in the latter part of the article by lists the more positive traits of the millennials. They are nice. They get along with their parents – they don’t respect authority but also don’t resent it. They are earnest and optimistic. They are pragmatic idealists. “Why they will save us all,” indeed. (But the toning down fails.)
In the end, Stein adds, a generation’s greatness is defined by how they react to the challenges that befall them.
The story has generated varying degrees of reaction on the Internet. Some agree that today’s kids have the tendency to get self-absorbed. But who do not have that tendency, ask others.
Some say Stein as writer behaves in a manner typical of the older generation – dismissing the younger ones as self-involved. Every generation says the next generation is less awesome than the one before it.
Other reactions defend millennials, and fiercely.  Emily Crockett, in a piece in Campus Progress later reprinted by www.thenation.com, says “LOL, Joel Stein” and calls him an offline troll, which she defines as “a journalist who riles up readers by smearing an entire generation as lazy—only to turn around and completely undermine his own half-baked shock-bait with the latter half of his article.”
Millennials are, after all, the ones who managed to cut the teenage pregnancy rate by 42 percent since 1990, according to a blog on slate.com. Amanda Marcotte says Stein is the real narcissist.
Yet another Slate article points out that young adults are generally narcissistic, then mellow down as they age. It just happens that it’s the millennials’ turn to be the narcissists in 2013.
***
That a generation has traits different and distinct from the traits of the one before or after it is a given.  A paper available online from the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, called “Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (and Generation Z) Working Together” (http://www.un.org/staffdevelopment/pdf/Designing%20Recruitment,%20Selection%20&%20Talent%20Management%20Model%20tailored%20to%20meet%20UNJSPF%27s%20Business%20Development%20Needs.pdf ), is supposedly for staff development, meant to address generational communicational gap in the workplace.
According to the paper, traditionalists (born 1925-1945) are team players and indirect communicators. They are loyal to the organization, put duty before pleasure and value dedication and sacrifice.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) see the big picture, bring fresh perspective, and value personal growth. They are uncomfortable with conflict.
Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) are impatient, goal-oriented, self-reliant and able to multi-task.
Millennials are sociable, confident, street smart; they possess a heroic spirit.
That today’s young people are too involved in their own affairs is not necessarily a bad thing, either. Who does not have a streak of narcissism in them, anyway? Why do we choose the best photos to share on Facebook and feel happy when people like whatever we post?  Consequently, why do we feel insecure when nobody likes or comments – and then review our settings to make sure it’s not restricted to “Just Me”?
Why do we create blogs and put forth our musings, our ideas, our opinions and periodically check our stats to see who’s out there reading our stuff?
Stein might say, it’s that need for constant feedback and validation. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just how we act today as a function of the means and tools and challenges placed in front of us. How else are we supposed to act?
If nobody felt self-important, how can we feel bold enough to do something of consequence?
As to feeding that monster of self-absorption, this environment also has a way of self-regulation. Instant feedback—or a gross absence of such—will make sure that an individual, to whatever generation he or she may belong, is made aware that he or she has crossed the line.
Think of all the writers you have stopped reading, blogs or Twitter accounts you have unfollowed, the Facebook names you have unfriended —or the people you have actually stopped talking to.
adellechua@gmail.com

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