My generation, known as the millennial generation, is in general a very egoistic and narcissistic generation compared to the preceding ones. And this evident narcissism was established before the very idea of social networking was even born.
We probably can be said to be the first actual generation to arise after the start of this inevitable process of globalization. We were those children who were taught to believe in ourselves, to be competitive, to express ourselves, and most significantly, to think about ourselves first and then others; by our guardians or teachers or the entertainment industries and later reinforced by the world wide web.
We were born during the advent of the turning point, where nation-state warfare was becoming less common and a morally unjustifiable idea, in both theory and practice, in favor of small skirmishes and espionage instead of mass mobilization of troops; ideologically leaning towards a non-aggressive Utopian dream.
It’s a world where a few global powers are competing for control of the inevitable and foreseeable future of world governance which paradoxically, but obviously is a contingent issue. We do not know how that outcome can come about without adversely affecting some communities. But again we know that it will.
Social media, has undoubtedly amplified our narcissism and ego. Most of us (including myself) have become victims of the Facebook-twitter-effect (which I like to call the Fwitter-effect) at one point in our lives. We think that it’s all about us. We create a bubble of our worldview inside which we like to live, gather attention, and hope to get ourselves heard in the process that involves other billions of people in the same platform doing the same thing as us, only their styles or content being different.
Some of us like to share with the innumerable and unseen faces in our friends list, the places we go to by checking in or signing in, or to share a Selfie or two if we go to destinations where we’d like to assume no one else have been to. Or we’d like to upload a random portrait of ourselves and wait in front of the bluish screen for red notification popups to appear, and the anticipations of gathered attention that tails them.
We voice our opinions, we talk about politics, we share videos with genuine motives or intent, we genuinely give importance to a simple website feature such as a ‘like’ and we also tend to compare it many times to non-sequitur such as ‘love or prayers’ . Much like how we think sending ‘love and prayers’ to individuals in need will help them, in place of doing some actual altruistic work, unbeknownst to their ineffectiveness in reality.
We try to spread the values, virtues, beliefs which we adhere to, which we assume may apply to all. I myself am quite guilty for that, and I think this blog piece is also a result of my inherent narcissism, urging me to get myself heard, even if in reality, the effort may prove to be futile or perhaps void. But it’s an effort in which I think I am trying to balance my narcissism with self-criticism followed then, by criticism of my entire zeitgeist. And regardless of what I just said, I will certainly and paradoxically share this blog through social media, WordPress itself being a platform for the same purpose. I am trying to express myself just like all the others. As Yuval Noah Harari has emphasized in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, that we are constantly telling stories to ourselves and each other from the very beginning of our species; stories such as Economy, Human Rights, Equality, Justice, Education, Religion, Secularism, Ethics, Morality and so on.
The important thing to realize is that we, in general, do not necessarily escape the sentiments of the core characteristics of our generation, be it with the baby boomers or the generation X (given that other factors like child abuse, food security, culture and safety are kept in constant). Similarly, most millennials have not been able to, and may not possibly escape this stereotype. Some have, and some may, but most have not and will not. The previous generation and their collective actions (war, hippy culture, music, pop-culture, art, fashion, ideas, philosophy, revolutions, inventions, businesses and so on) have had a profound effect over ours, and since our parents in general belong to the preceding generation, our bringing up and conditioning has had a major role in our apparent collective personalities or characteristics.
However, what is obvious is the notion that narcissism is neither bad nor good. I think a better way to look at this generational stereotype is by applying it on an individual as well as a cohort basis. To study it’s effect in a case by case basis, and not merely on anecdotes or sentiments. This is because vague generalizations and false dilemma (black and white logic) more than often, do not explain what the reality of any situation is.
The first example is this blog itself. I have dedicated this piece to talk about the stereotype of my generation, which is a vague generalization and doesn’t explain the significant occurrences of millennials in reality, who do not fall under this stereotype. A good case for exceptions maybe millennials in Eastern European nations such as Macedonia or Romania or the religiously inclined conservative millennials in the American Amish community or in rural India or Nepal, who seldom display the mainstream characteristics of this generation and still carry sentiments of the baby boomers or the generation X. Simply speaking, any generation cannot be entirely homogeneous.
Like I mentioned above. Narcissism cannot be called good nor bad in much the same way that Charisma cannot be called good or bad. These are merely characteristics, which never are justifiable in terms of any dichotomous understanding. They include a spectrum of effects, merits and demerits which vary from situation to situation. For example, narcissism may benefit an individual to compete with others in this ultra-competitive era of global economy, but it may falter when it comes to establishing trustworthy relationships with other people. Narcissism can help an individual enjoy their own company, especially an introvert like myself (which is not a mutually exclusive personality type), but such complex is the subject matter, that unlike our expectations, an extrovert may also be narcissistic. This is probably one reason why the word Narcissism does not have an agreeable antonym even in language, although suggestions are plenty in the form of altruism or empathy, which I think are insufficient in the first place to antagonize the term in it’s entirety.
So it’s an interesting subject to ponder about. What we think as being “everything wrong with this generation”, as so often is the cliché directed towards people born during the nineties and beyond, may not apply to this one, consistently, let alone the generation that follows. Because our collective actions and culture, is going to shape the next generation, whether we like it or not, and it isn’t expected from all of us to fully understand the phenomenon. The only reasonable plea, I think, as an amateur thinker myself, could be to not fall victim to the two misleading fallacies: Vague generalization or False Dilemma a.k.a False Dichotomy. Only then can we begin, I think, to understand the actual sense of any human generation from the past, present or the future.