Not too long ago, I saw a Facebook comment on a George Takei post. A man from the Baby Boomer generation was going on a rant about the Narcissistic Generation & Millennials and how they were useless, lazy, didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t have real jobs, didn’t buy houses and more. It was quite a list of sins.
One particular thing which stuck out to me was his vehement claim of narcissism. This online stranger claims that millennials are selfish, self-absorbed narcissists.
Narcissistic Generation or a Value-Shift?
I don’t normally engage with random people on the web; however, his passionate rant rubbed me the wrong way. I ended up pointing out a few things. I think it’s important to note that millennials:
- work very hard in an economy that is very different than when he was coming up, largely influenced by the decisions of his generation.
- are focused on being happy, not just making money.
- develop new ways of running businesses with the modern day startup, which is often bootstrapped (done with very little money) and innovating the way past services are provided.
- pave the way in every tech, medical and educational industry around the world.
- are more likely to travel, speak multiple languages and be globally connected.
- are building the web platform he wrote his little rant on and pretty much every social network ever developed.
Needless to say, he was not happy about this argument, though the hundreds who came to defend me were. Millennials have undeservedly received a bad rep as a narcissistic generation.
The Selfie Generation
Many people unfairly claim “selfie-obsessed”, narcissistic, and reckless traits exist in all millennials. Certainly the challenge culture of dangerous videos on YouTube and the existence of all other multimedia sharing sites reinforces this idea.
Though if you sit down with any person of an older generation, they will be full of stories of stupid things they have done, delivered with a laugh over a beer. If they go through their storage, they could likely pull out thousands of photos of them, their friends, their families, old pets. Likely, every disgruntle Baby Boomer has enough to put them on par with the average Millennial.
It seems to be more access to technology and ability to share that is the difference, not the impulse. One interesting study found that Millennials are likely less narcissistic and more thoughtful than previous generations. Given a wider world perspective and connections to so many who are different than us yet face the same struggles, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
In the end, it seems pointless to try and peg Millennials down into such an offensive stereotype. This is a generation of innovators. They are creatives. They are socially conscious caregivers. They are leaders. Many view this era of progress, kindness, and empathy as negative for some reason. How can someone see that as narcissism?
What a sad worldview that I am happy to say I do not share.