The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial

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The popular media just doesn’t understand anything about narcissism–or Millennials. It continues to trot out the “Millennials are narcissists” stereotype because they’re more likely than other generations to take selfies and are more likely to be living with their parents into their late 20s and even early 30s (even though the lack of good jobs and disastrous economy has a lot to do with this and has nothing to do with their being entitled or spoiled). If Millennials take more selfies than older people, that really doesn’t have anything to do with narcissism. It may have to do with vanity (which isn’t narcissism per se) or the fact “everyone else is doing it” and the technology happens to be available. Someone on another blog even pointed out that taking a selfie is actually a vulnerable act and a real narcissist won’t be taking selfies because they’ll want you to believe they are someone other than who they really are and a selfie shows you as you really are.

This article’s about a year old but is still relevant because the “all Millennials are selfie-taking narcissists” meme hasn’t gone away. It’s time to set the record straight. We also have short memories–every generation since the Boomers (and maybe earlier than that) has been similarly vilified during their late teen and young adult years.

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial
By Brooke Lea Foster for TheAtlantic.com, November 19 2014

People are still lobbing the same accusations at Millennials, even though evidence shows they’re not any more self-absorbed than their predecessors.

A few months ago, the news went viral that the American Psychiatric Association had classified “taking selfies” as a sign of a mental disorder. It lit up Facebook and Twitter until it was revealed that the article was a hoax.

But still, I doubt I’m the only one that has felt at least a tiny sense of self-loathing after, say, posting a photo of myself on Facebook. Deep down, taking a “selfie” doesn’t just feel like capturing a moment—it also feels like capturing myself at my most vain.

In his pop-psychology book “The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed—in Your World”, published in September, author and Time editor at large Jeffrey Kluger argues that the popularity of the “selfie” is just one way that our culture is becoming more narcissistic. In fact, he says, narcissistic behaviors today aren’t just more accepted; they’re celebrated. “We’ve become accustomed to preeners and posers who don’t have anything to offer except themselves and their need to be on the public stage,” he says. The egocentric antics of figures like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian, for example, make our own narcissistic proclivities seem more palatable by comparison, and social media only instigates the desire for attention. Facebook, to a narcissist, can be like an open bar to a drunk.

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But Kluger also devotes a chunk of his book to what’s become a tired argument: The idea that Millennials—the generation that came of age with selfies and Facebook and the Kardashians—are the most self-absorbed generation of all. “Plenty of people are narcissistic in our society,” Kluger says, “but Millennials are doing these things on a pandemic level.”

Of course they are. They’re young and full of themselves, like every other generation that’s come before them was at some point. But are Millennials any more narcissistic than, say, the Baby Boomers, who were once considered the most self-obsessed cohort of their time? Consider the 1976 cover story of New York Magazine, in which Tom Wolfe declared the ‘70s “The Me Decade.” One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes.

Read the rest of this article here.

Further reading: Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?

 

5 thoughts on “The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial

  1. I’m a high school teacher and I do think that this generation is more narcissistic, but the whole selfie thing is just a symptom. They are products of the 80’s self-esteem movement and test-driven education, so many of them really do tend to value points over learning and actual life skills. And many really do believe that their grades should be A’s if they show up and “play the game.” I also think that the high divorce rate and number of single parent homes has created a situation in which many parents have more of a friendship than a parental relationship with their children and they have a difficult time setting and enforcing boundaries. Many families no longer attend a church, temple, or mosque and morals have become more relative. Kids THINK they know a lot because of the variety of things that they are exposed to on the internet and the “chummy” relationships they have with many of the adults in their lives. But they don’t understand the value of life experience, failure, criticism, and maturity. There are few things they have done on their own. They don’t know how to really play creatively because they grew up with videos, video games, and play dates. They didn’t learn interpersonal skills and conflict management interacting one on one with their peers because they were protected, entertained, and supervised constantly. Many of them are confident, knowledgeable, and talented but they lack some of the most basic life skills that one needs to survive as an adult and they don’t even realize it. We are only beginning to see the repercussions of this lack of skills. Consider recent events at the University of Missouri and the 18 year old girl on the east coast who sued her parents for her private school and college tuition even though she no longer wanted to live at home. Consider the number of college students who have “solved” their relational issues with violence.

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  2. Everyone has fluctuations in regards to Narcissism. There are times when we feel higher levels of confidence and times when our confidence levels feel low…and our surroundings have so much impact on how we think and feel.

    When it becomes a Malignant disorder thats where that 4% of Narcissists exist. Although it seems like it should be more like 6% to 8% these days, but who knows.

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