I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than oneself lazy, arrogant, entitled, selfish and egoistic. Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have examples and proof. Here’s the cold, hard data. The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generations that are now much older, according to experts.
If The Old Mc. Donald nursery rhyme were to be written all over again, it’d also say, “Here an Ego, there an ego, everywhere an Ego”.
Ego – Thy BirthRight??
In our kind of a collectivist culture and country, where family was always more important than an individual, the Internet, urbanization and the ‘few kids’ policy have created a generation as overconfident and self-involved as the Western one. We have witnessed a gradual shift in the set of values. The baby boom generation changed their parents’ values – modesty, patience, soberness, and a sense of duty – for individualism, freedom and arrogance. And these aren’t just rich-kid problems, the middle class have even higher rates of narcissism, materialism and technology addiction in their ghetto-fabulous lives.
People of Gen-Z, or should we say Gen-E (Where E is for Ego) are on never-ending, extensive ego trips. The youngsters of the new ’Selfish Generation’ are materialistic thrill seekers who have a declining interest in real society at large. The virtual world and being popular there via likes and followers is all that is important. I actually heard a child tell his mother the other day, “Only you have a problem with my habits and lifestyle. For the same habits and lifestyle, I get innumerable likes on facebook”. Ahem!
School going kids, College going youngsters, everyone has huge expectations of themselves, their lives and most of all, expectations from those everyone around them. Where teachers once upon a time could scold and reprimand, the norm now is to use sugar honey coated words lest thin skins be abraded. Where earlier the teacher’s word was the final word, kids now do not shy away from replying back to the teachers just to have an upper hand. Sitting in the class is not so much about gaining knowledge, but about proving the teacher wrong. Now we got cheap thrills about that once in a while too, but this generation has a serious and acute “I’m right, means you are wrong” issue. Respecting authority is hard, taking feedback even harder, and listening to some sane piece of advice can be totally disastrous. The numerous parent teacher’s meetings that I’ve attended at my 12 year old’s school have had me interact with teachers marinated in tubs of honey! And hearing tales of arrogance, acute misbehaviour, disrespect, high headedness, i don’t quite blame them. “Feedback, however objective and earnest it be, is not taken by parents, leave aside students”, I’m told.
In the workplace, in friendships, even in motherhood, the pervading culture seems to have become one of competitiveness, superiority and one-upmanship. We have trouble accepting criticism and extending empathy because we are so preoccupied with ourselves, and so sure of the fact that “we know it all”.
The Job Hopping Generation
The ‘know it all’ bandwagon feels that no one does it better than them. At office too, they think they know everything. Every idea they have is brilliant in their eyes, and they should be paid more because of it. There is less work done, lesser tolerance for feedback, and ofcourse, they feel they are being paid far ‘less’ than their due! This narcissistic attitude is ever prevalent among our culture. Inflated egos are the reason more and more youngsters switch jobs so easily, quit jobs at the drop of a hat. Attitude is what they wear mostly and impulsivity is their second skin. Add to that peer group influence, and the package becomes all the more lethal! Freshers from college join jobs and the minute they are checked on lax of work or questioned on something, they kiss you goodbye. It’s a generation that likes to be listened to. Heck, they all even write their own blogs for that purpose! Ok ok, No Brickbats!
What Is Driving This Trend?
No generation has ever grown up with so much freedom and independence. School offers young people less and less structure. And exerting authority has become taboo for parents. The youth is thin skinned and their egos get abraded very easily. We grew to be self-centered even before we even knew how to boost our own egos. As kids, we grew up in an environment full of excess praise. At school and at home, we were rewarded for our efforts, not our results. Fifth place in the spell check? We still got a trophy. We are always made to feel special. So in situations where we are checked or corrected on our behavior, we have a problem.
From their younger years, they were raised on the frequent use of the Internet, until it became like second skin. When they didn’t know something, Google became their best friend. Instead of checking with moms, dads, grand moms, grand dads, we looked everything up on Google! Voila, Google became the inseparable buddy, agony aunt, ‘go-to’ person, while real people became distant!
In the process, they got used to instant gratification, instant access to information and instant feedback from peers. Take million kids who think they’re special, give them the Internet, and you’ve created this monster of self-centered youth!
And before I crush some more egos here, I’d end on a safe note.
“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” George Orwell. Amen to that!
So I’ll stop lamenting about today’s generation. It can certainly take care of itself. It’s Self Centered afterall, Ouch!