We love ourselves?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 30, 2008 Ed Cartoon

Recent research conducted at Western aims to dispel the myths many older people have about the younger generation, coined “Generation Me.”

The study suggests teens and young adults are no more narcissistic or self-aggrandizing today than they were three decades ago. A better question, perhaps, is why do older citizens have these perceptions?

A big reason is probably the extended period of prosperity North America has seen. Today’s kids have been raised in an age where parents have provided more material goods and more opportunities.

As a result, kids are spoiled and they might lack the drive and assertiveness that characterized older generations. Older adults may correlate this laziness with a tendency for younger folks to turn inward and expect to be given things rather than earn them.

Today’s parents have provided a very comfortable life for their kids, which is a natural parental goal. We cannot blame our parents for providing us with every opportunity, even if it has led to more selfishness and decreased ambition among youngsters.

Parents also started their career and family-oriented lifestyles much earlier than today’s youth. Many twenty-somethings these days are still in school, traveling or working part-time jobs, while older generations often had begun their careers and families. Older people see the slowing of one’s development to travel, party and pursue more qualifications as selfish.

Also, technology plays a role in the perception of today’s youth. Social networks like Facebook make young people more concerned with self-image than ever. Computer networks have allowed the young generation to provide information and pictures that manufacture an image of themselves.

Many older people are not in tune with current social networks like today’s youth, the ones that have adjusted to new technology likely identify with youngsters better than those pining for the days of letter-writing and radio broadcasts.

As the study suggests, it is hardly just young people that have a problem with narcissism. Parents transfer their large egos and narcissism to their kids, like in the phenomenon of the “helicopter parent”: a parent that constantly hovers over their kids to ensure their success. Many parents live vicariously through their kids and use their kids’ achievements as a means to stroke their own ego.

Parents might push their offspring into a particular sport or hobby at a young age and put a lot of pressure on them to succeed. Whether it is hockey, golf or piano lessons, parents boast to their friends about Johnny or Janey’s many accomplishments.

Although there are some different technological and societal preconditions these days, narcissism is a character flaw that afflicts people of all ages; if older people happen to notice it more in today’s generation, it is because older folks can lose sight of what it was like to be young.

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