To answer the question, has cultural changes caused our generation to become more narcissistic than the previous generations? In this paper, I will be exploring the increasingly popular trend to dub these individuals as narcissistic or entitled, calling the newer generations “Generation Me.” The intended audience for this paper is targeted for the older generations, such as “Baby Boomers” born between 1945 and 1964. It is essential to understand the science and data behind why newer generations are more “self-centered” than the earlier ones and the causes rather than targeting them with a repeated rhetoric. While evidence has been shown that yes, the newer generation is becoming more narcissistic, it is also because of cultural factors, such as the rise of social media and being born into an era of the “self-esteem” movement.
Roberts, Brent W., et al. “It Is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me: Developmental Changes Are More Important than Generational Changes in Narcissism—Commentary on Trzesniewski & Donnellan (2010).” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 5, no. 1, 2010, pp. 97–102., doi:10.1177/1745691609357019.
Published in 2011, this article by college professors examines two points about ongoing debate focusing on the increase in narcissistic tendencies in college students over the last 30 years. Based on the article, “Rethinking “Generation Me”: A Study of Cohort Effects From 1976-2006,” written in 2008. First, they reanalyze new data on narcissism, combining it with the preexisting data, to conclude that there is no increase in narcissism in college students over the last few decades. Then, contrast these findings by determining if age changes in narcissism are comparatively large in comparison to generational changes in narcissism. Formulating their conclusion that; younger cohorts are not suffering from an increasing epidemic of narcissism, despite what the original study states. Although this article is not as recent, it shows that; even if the original finding did show a minor increase in narcissism over the last few decades, the effect of age and age-graded roles are far more important than the effect of generation. Every generation is Generation Me, as every generation of younger people is more narcissistic than their elders.
Deka, Maheswar, et al. “Are We More Self-Absorbed than Previous Generations, or Just More Self-Aware?” The Berkeley Blog, 26 June 2014, blogs.berkeley.edu/2014/06/26/are-we-more-self-absorbed-than-previous-generations-or-more-self-aware/.
Professor Fischer’s 2014 paper analysis two texts —Thomas Jefferson’s first Annual Message in 1801 and George W. Bush’s first State of the Union Address in 2002— to examine the issue that content and style and vocabulary changed from independent of self to other-centeredness. By analyzing these two texts from different eras, and even though it is true that over the last couple of hundred years or so, more Americans attended more to their “selves.” Merely reflecting the broadening scope of individual autonomy. Due to the increasing popularity of development and popularization of psychology in the last century, Americans increasingly accepted the idea that everyone ought to think independently, for themselves, and not simply succumb to authority, tradition, or group opinion. Fischer’s questions researchers that describe the increasing attention to the self in negative terms such as “self-absorption,” “self-interest,” “selfishness” and positive terms as “self-exploration,” “self-esteem,” “self-development” and proposes the idea that maybe it is all of the above instead of one or the other.
Twenge, Jean M. “The Evidence for Generation Me and Against Generation We.” Emerging Adulthood, vol. 1, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2013, doi:10.1177/2167696812466548.
American psychologist, Twenge’s research article argues that today’s emerging adults are more “Generation Me” than “Generation We” when compared to previous generations. By using five data sets showing a generational increase in narcissism, she claims that although high school students increasingly embrace other overly positive self-views, some high school samples show no change, In contrast, college and child samples do show an increase in self-esteem over the generations. She attributes these findings due to the shift toward extrinsic (money, fame, and image) concerns and away from intrinsic (community, affiliation) concerns. Stating that almost all of the evidence demonstrates a rise in self-focus among American young people, including narcissism, high expectations, self-esteem, thinking one is above average, and focusing on personal (vs. global) fears. Twenge is one of the main researchers who state that evidence clearly supports the view that, compared to previous generations, today’s young generation is more Generation Me than Generation We.
Kitt, Jessica. Kids These Days: An Analysis of the Rhetoric Against Youth Across Five Generations. Adele Richardson’s Spring 2013 ENC 1102.
Kitt’s 2013 paper attempts to prove that every youth generation in the past one hundred years has been the target of the same rhetoric by their elders, as being narcissistic, lazy, self-entitled, and having unrealistic expectations about life, among other unfortunate characteristics. By examining the continuity between five generations, she compares the similarities and differences between the rhetoric against youth is in the medium of news articles, online and in print. The purpose of Kitt’s paper is to prove that Generation Y is no worse than previous generations. Discussing that while it may be true that today’s young adults are more self-entitled because they have been handed trophies for everything they do, it is also evident that every generation has had their defining negative characteristics, not just our generation. The future is undefined, and the next generation could very well prove to be narcissistic. Generational stereotypes can be helpful when trying to paint an image for history, but not useful when used to insult and belittle people.
Leung, Louis. “Generational Differences in Content Generation in Social Media: The Roles of the Gratifications Sought and of Narcissism.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 29, no. 3, 2013, pp. 997–1006., doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.12.028.
This 2013 study examines the roles of the gratifications looked for, of narcissism in social media content, and explores the generational differences in motivations and narcissistic personalities when predicting the usage of various social media platforms. Data gathered from a probability sample of social media users through telephone surveys, showed that content generation using social media was satisfying five socio-psychological needs: showing affection, venting negative feelings, gaining recognition, getting entertainment, and fulfilling cognitive needs. People who used social media to meet their social needs and their need for affection tended to use these platforms. Results also showed that individuals who used social media to show affection, express their negative feelings, and achieve recognition. This study shows that there are no generational differences in using social media to satisfy social needs or the need for affection. Since the differences in patterns of social media usage were found among Baby Boomers with different narcissistic personalities, it shows that social media is also an enabler to narcissism.
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