According to Jean Twenge’s 2006 book “Generation Me,” we show signs of increasing narcissism and a sense of entitlement. She attributes confidence and tolerance to my generation, as well.
We are the Boomerang generation, the ones who returned home to Mom and Dad for a couple years of free rent, following college. (We had to go somewhere to lick our wounds inflicted by the dastardly student loan sharks.)
As Millenials, we were the first generation to grow up with home computers. We eagerly awaited MP3 players before switching allegiance to an evolution of iPods from the original in 2001 to the latest shuffle and nano of today.
(Lest I be mauled by the Apple Counter Culture, and for the sake of unbiased reporting, other devices include the Samsung Galaxy Player, Samsung Walkman Z or even the Philips GoGear Connect 3.)
While the current iGeneration has fully embraced these devices, the Millenials grew up with them first. Copies of worn-out hardback Britannica Encyclopedias were traded in for software with the same information. Later, high school students everywhere heralded Wikipedia as a gift sent from the gods of procrastination.
I sent my first text message when I was 15. My family and I were living in Germany and I used a mobile phone called a Handy. Texting on my Handy was the equivalent of typing on the old monochrome monitor. Since then, emoticons, emoji, swipe keyboards and the ability to send pictures, voice recordings and videos have altered the texting playing field.
Today’s iGeneration interacts with technology on a daily basis. Teenagers keep in touch constantly via phone and tablet applications while kids are being introduced to technology in the classroom. Parents use smartphones and tablets to keep the squabbling masses distracted while in line or at a restaurant. A celebrity can make pancakes and a horde of fans will know five minutes later thanks to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Milennials grew up with information surrounding them, but the iGeneration has grown up with a constant flow of the significant to the ludicrous.
If Generations Y and Z show signs of entitlement, it is only because of the times we were born into.
Just think about it for a minute. Commercials have targeted children for years. Corporations vie for the attention of the young masses. Online, radio and TV advertisements have declared for years this particular product will make you stand out. Or, this toy will make you the envy of the cul-de-sac.
Youth are constantly reinforced with the idea they need to be special — the attention needs, or should be, on them. It doesn’t matter the same message is being blasted to every other child watching, listening or reading the same ad.
Another spectrum reinforcing the power of “I” is all of the social media platforms. Facebook constantly encourages users to alert their friends as to what they are doing. Instagram allows users to send their photos to millions of others at the touch of a button. Twitter presents an arena for people to bring their best to gain the most followers.
However, to say every social media and technology user of Generation Y and Z suffers from a sense of entitlement would be a gross misstatement.
Some do, but hasn’t a sense of entitlement always been a condition suffered by some humans (and those around them)?
Culture has always had an impact on the psyche of society’s today-generation. One only has to look at major shifts (i.e. the Great Depression, various international wars, or the Flower Power days) in our country’s history to see the changes reflected in the respective generation’s mindset.
However, there is another affecting voice which can be far more powerful than the prattle of society and technology.
Would you like a moment to guess?
One ...Two ...Three ... OK, time is up.
The voice, if you are still with me, belongs to the prior generations. And yes, I am talking about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older cousins, but I also mean to highlight coaches, teachers or just mentors. People who have experience under their belt and wish to relay what they have learned to a younger generation. These voices are probably the only ones which can truly cut through the noise of a youth’s daily life.
Are you aware there are quite a few generations coexisting in America, today? In fact, we have six: the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y and Z. By my count, there are four generations who can speak into the lives of what some believe are an increasingly entitled American youth.
This is the point in the column where I assure you I am not going to go all Kanye West on you guys. There is nothing in me wanting to announce myself the ‘Voice of This Generation.’
I am merely a voice in this generation. Just as you are voices in your generations — unless you are from the Silent Generation, in which case, a nod will suffice.
(I know, I know, bad generational humor, right?)
In spite of being a part of a negatively labeled generation, the Millennials are determined to have a positive impact on this world.
A study by Walden University in 2011 indicated 81 percent of the Millenials had donated money, goods or services within the previous 12 months.
In addition, thousands upon thousands of Millenials served, and sometimes gave their lives, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Finally — a third point and I will give no more — the popular nonprofit Invisible Children was started by three Millennial filmmakers. Their documentary of war-ravaged Uganda reverberated in their peers and sparked change.
What these acts tell me is in spite of all the other messages being sent to the Millenials and iGeneration, there is an underlying note affecting us. A note describing what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. This note is authored by anyone who has spoken positively into another’s life or had the bravery to break through the other voices to the mind impacted.
One last thought and then I will send this column to the copy editor.
John Donne once said, “... No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main ... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
We are all connected, regardless of your feelings on the matter. If you see something amiss in today’s world then raise your voice, or at the very least jump on Facebook and make some ripples.
Why not share your opinion for something good instead of labeling a generation entitled (and this is said to everyone from the Silent Generation to the iGeneration) and leaving them to their own devices?