In May 2013, TIME magazine published a front page article on The Me Generation which caused some controversy. One main thing it points out is that the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder has escalated exponentially over the years. In Psychology Today, reference was made to the Narcissism Epidemic, where traits of narcissism have increased.
Are we living in a ‘Me, Myself and I’ culture? Are we raising a generation of narcissists? Let’s explore.
- Unrealistic expectations & self-focus
This is a visible fact in the current generation. With Friends list on Facebook, now there are “Follower” tallies that serve as a popularity index. People post their mood through the day, what they wear in the fitting room, what they eat for three meals, their vacations on the go. With Instagram and Twitter, an active online life can create a microcelebrity out of your youngster.
Self-focus can be a good thing if done with the appropriate boundaries. As parents, it is up to us to nurture our kids to think for themselves and be empowered, yet not at the detriment of others. I have seen kids who make a beeline for what they want, disregarding the queue for the ride, the slide etc and yes, at times their parents were present and did nothing. Even as children are loved and esteemed as princes and princesses (you hear a lot of these terms at birthdays and first months) in their homes, it is important to cultivate in our children respect and consideration for others as well.
- Lack of presence with others
Nowadays children are not as “present” as before. Take for example some visitors come to visit, but the children are invisible hidden away in their rooms. Either they are squeezed for time due to competitiveness in school or they are engrossed with some online game. The same can be observed at Chinese New Years or Christmases, social dinners and the like. Such encounters are not uncommon and many parents seem to have become accustomed to it.
There are different sides to this coin. The generation of kids nowadays is more focused on what is necessary rather than what is socially appropriate. It is more efficient this way and they do get their own things done. However, it is also important to be involved in a bigger social context and not just socialise with people that the kids choose. It is also a good place for the adults to model good social skills.
- Sense of entitlement
These are challenging times where our children grow up being bombarded with commercials and advertising everywhere. It was said that this sense of entitlement is not a result of being overprotected but an adjustment to a world of abundance. When our children are seeped in a world where there are so many options and things readily available, it may be tough to teach our children how to wait for something, to decline them something or to save up for something.
- Narrower gap between parents and children
Especially evident between adolescents and their parents, the gap between them has seemingly closed. Parents are not the authoritative figures they were before, but more peer-ish. There is a higher degree of negotiation and mutual discussion. The traditional hierarchy has somewhat faded and parents are now on social, Whatsapping or following what their children are trending. There is more common ground between the two with the technology in this generation.
So, there are many general stereotypes of the ‘Me’ Generation. These are just general observations out there; ultimately everything boils down to boundaries and to the individual. The narcissistic generation will emerge if the sense of individuality and empowerment is not tempered with a sense of empathy.
In thinking of themselves, children who think for others as well will always be more balanced. Valuing their own rights and uniqueness but knowing that they are not above others. The ‘Me’ Generation may not be that narcissistic if they are taught to think about the ‘You’ in others.
By Som Yew Ya
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine