Monday, August 27, 2007

The Vanity Generation

By Courtney Reed

So you may have heard that my Generation Y or Me or Next or whatever is the most narcissistic generation ever – worse than the Neros, Antoinettes, Monroes, or Bushes throughout history – and that we are probably going to destroy the world because we only care about ourselves, according to another generational study.

We—I’ll call us Generation Awesome – range in age from 18 to 25. We are characterized by excessive self-admiration, vanity, lack of empathy and meaningful relationships, materialism, binge-drinking, self-centeredness and sense of entitlement, according to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a study by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University.

Twenge and her colleagues drew these conclusions using an inspired questionnaire that asked students to affirm or reject statements like:

I think I am a special person.

If I ruled the world, it would be a better place.

I have a natural talent for influencing people.

I can live my life the way I want to.

Twenge, author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” finds through anecdotal evidence and loaded questions that advances in technology, Web sites like MySpace and YouTube and self-esteem programs in schools are major sources of our increased narcissism.

I don’t know about you, but I text-message myself at least seven times a day, have a live stream on YouTube so I can make sure my hair hasn’t gone flat while updating my Facebook profile, and am currently pursuing my dream of becoming the first female juggler/astrophysicist/synchronized-swimmer/psychic/wrestler, because I believe I can be anything I want to be.

You know who I don’t blame? Our Baby Boomer parents and Greatest Generation grandparents (and they call us narcissistic).

My grandmother constantly told me I would make a perfect housewife – and nothing more. She still believes I’m only in college to find a husband.

My parents, whose coming-of-age during the 1970s included sex with anonymous partners and massive experimentation with illegal substances, which I’m constantly reminded of through popular culture and stolen diaries, had little if any influence over my choices as an adult. And to think that I considered the cocaine-induced greed of the ‘80s to be the most narcissistic period in recent history! I mean, why would 81 percent of us want to maintain our standard of living by getting rich? Don’t even get me started on the increase in divorce rates, because if you try to tell me that the inability to have stable, meaningful relationships stems from our society’s lack nuclear families, I’m going to have to blog about my contemptuous feelings.

But for a moment, let’s put aside the fact that RainmakerThinking, Inc., an organization dedicated to researching the changing generation in the workplace, reported in December 2006 that we are the “most socially conscious generation since the sixties.” Disregard the survey by Pew Research Center in January 2006 that found us “the most tolerant of any generation on social issues such as immigration, race and homosexuality” (must be because red ribbons are so hot right now…). I myself will forgo deciding if I should spend the afternoon spitting on homeless people or attending an Amnesty International meeting.

Instead, let us imagine what life will be like for our children, who we’ll probably call Generation Z (what I lack in originality I make up for in popularity). And I feel I’m qualified to do this because I’m special.

Anyway, there will only be 13,479 members of Generation Z because most of us never managed, or cared, to solicit meaningful relationships, let alone nurture offspring. In fact, the 13,479 children are only products of the exceptionally narcissistic, who wanted their bloodline and image to live forever.

Instead of these children learning to follow their dreams, they’ll be assigned professions and wages at birth, because we have selfishly applied our college educations to obtain the most desirable employment, which we’ll refuse to relinquish.

In response to Generation Awesome’s narcissism, respecting yourself will become a crime, rebellious teens will stop using drugs, all mirrors will be shattered and the shards of glass used to mangle each other’s faces, so everyone will be equally heinous.

But why listen to the hypothetical ramblings of a girl who has spent the past 48-hours falling in love with her reflection in a pool of room-temperature Evian?