Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? The millennial standing in front of it, apparently. Millennials – that 80 million strong group of citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 in America – have long since been described as the most self-involved generation of all time. And, recent research has declared it so.
For the children of the baby boomers, it seems that it’s not about ‘we.’ It’s about ‘me’. And, though they may not be toxic narcissists – in the truest sense of the word – millennials themselves do admit to being narcissists (they just don’t want you to call them that). Yes, millennial narcissism is officially a thing. And, if it hasn’t already, it’s coming to a home near you soon.
But why? How did we end up with all this millennial narcissism in the first place? In this article, we’re taking a closer look.
1. The Self-Esteem Movement
To see why there’s been a rise in millennial narcissism, the first place to look is towards the culture that inhabits those young people. American culture has slowly become more and more individualistic from one generation to another.
The rise of secularism, increased urbanization and changes in the economy all have a dramatic effect on the culture, and, as a by-product, on the people existing in that culture. As any culture sweeps forward, it sometimes relies on its previous values less and less and other values become more important.
In America today, there’s been a huge shift towards boosting the self-esteem of young people. This began almost as a movement in the 1980s and it’s been doing its unconscious damage ever since. Kids with high self-esteem do better in school and perform well in the real world, right?
Perhaps. But, what if those efforts have been taken too far? Today, millennials have been spoon fed a constant diet of praise. And, being constantly told how magnificent you are at everything eventually becomes counter-productive. It seems that boosting their sense of self has also boosted the average millennial’s propensity for narcissism.
2. The Push to Achieve
With all the encouragement that the self-esteem movement brought, it seems that some parents may have needed an ego boost themselves. Enter the increasing pressure placed on millennials to achieve.
“No, it doesn’t matter if you’re in kindergarten playing with a toy, you can be the best toy player in the class. Maybe even the whole world too”. Beating others in competitions of all kinds seems to be a pervasive facet of modern life.
It seems to be really important to get the best grades, to get into the best college, to be on the best sports team, to be the best player. And on and on it goes. And there’s nothing wrong with success, right? Nothing wrong at all.
But, here’s something to consider. Empathy is the antidote to narcissism. When success means defeating others as all costs, we have a problem. And, when other human beings are seen as obstacles in the way, then the entire notion of empathy gets swept away in the process.
It’s little wonder that millennials increasingly focus on themselves. And that may be the whole narcissistic ballgame right there.
3. The Rise of Individualism
An interesting study on American culture was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012.
In that study, it was found that certain values that previous generations held in the highest regard are now considered to be much less important.
Those two values are:
- High levels of obedience in children
- The importance of social contribution
As we have downgraded these values with recent generations, we have witnessed the rise of individualism. Individualism, though, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As the generations have changed, our focus has changed too.
In this culture, ‘finding yourself’ and pursuing your passions before you settle down are largely encouraged. This, of course, is not bad advice. On the contrary. But, when considered in conjunction with other cultural changes, it feeds into an individualistic culture.
And, individualism is one of the birthplaces of millennial narcissism.
4. Millennials Consume Media Like Never Before
Millennials inhabit the same world as their older counterparts, but they see that world much differently. This is because millennials look at the world through a different lens: their smartphone. There’s little doubt that social media has changed the world. It has certainly changed the world of millennials.
Today in America, the average millennial spends a staggering 17.8 hours a day engaged with different types media. Of this, they spend about 5.4 hours on social media and they check their smartphones more than 157 times a day!
Entire phrases have become mainstream because of this phenomenon. ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) has even made its way into the Oxford Dictionary.
Yes, millennials are constantly engaging, connecting and sharing with others. But, it all comes at a cost. They may be interacting all day long but those interactions are taking place through a screen. We’ve all seen this in action when a group of millennials is nearby.
They’re they all are sitting next to each other. But, communicate with the person sitting across from you? Heck no! That screen seems like a much better option.
And there they’ll sit furiously scrolling or texting. And, if they’re feeling particularly beautiful, they’ll even pose for a selfie to share with their friends – the ones not lucky enough to enjoy this delightful phantom get-together.
Wish you were here?
Millennial narcissism in full flight. Technology, it’s all your fault!
Millennial Narcissism – A Product of Its Culture
So, how exactly did we end up here? By and large, a generation is the product of its culture. And, parts of the culture we have today is a breeding ground for narcissism. Technology, parents mollycoddling their kids, individualism, and the rise of the selfie can all be pointed to.
But, is there any way to stop it? Can narcissists actually change? The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that we have one. Millennial narcissism is really a thing. Our millennials have the potential to solve almost any problem. And, don’t they just know it.
Got any questions or need some advice? Reach out and talk to us. That’s what we’re here for.