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So. Are you simply a Millennial or are you just a narcissist?

Friday, May 31, 2013
posted by Douglas Keene

Me me me Time coverTime Magazine did it again recently and came out with a cover story on how Millennials are so much more narcissistic than any of the rest of us older and more mature people. Time deserves credit for knowing how to sell magazines and how to fan controversy.

This is a generation that would have made Walt Whitman wonder if maybe they should try singing a song of someone else.

Not surprisingly (especially with quotes like that one!) the Time article resulted in a lot of controversy and comments from readers like these over at jezebel.com. It also spawned multiple cover imitators like these. In short, it’s a viral sensation. Apt for an article on the Millennials.

What’s intriguing is that all the irritation and outrage over this article simply shows most people didn’t read the entire thing. About half-way through the article, the focus shifts from “data” on Millennials to realities, and the message is very different from what is presumed from reading the first few pages.

While every Millennial might seem like an oversharing Kardashian, posting vacation photos on Facebook is actually less obnoxious than 1960s couples trapping friends in their houses to watch their terrible vacation slide shows. Can you imagine if the boomers had YouTube, how narcissistic they would’ve seemed?

And then Stein cites a really good TEDx talk by Scott Hess titled Millennials: Who They Are and Why We Hate Them.

The article also cites the YouTube video “You are Not Special” commencement speech for Wellesley High School in 2012. As you can see, this article really isn’t a hate piece on Millennials. Instead, it’s an eye-opening exploration into how all that “data” is simply misleading. Millennials are not just like us [Baby Boomers or Gen Xers]. They are different. Maybe they are better and maybe we are jealous. Much like Hess in his TEDx talk–Stein wonders if we can’t begin to see evolutionary advances as including the changes we see in generation after generation of young people throughout time. It isn’t a bad thing. It’s just what happens as we evolve.

So, yes, we have all that data about narcissism and laziness and entitlement. But a generation’s greatness isn’t determined by data; it’s determined by how they react to the challenges that befall them. And, just as important, by how we react to them. Whether you think millennials are the new greatest generation of optimistic entrepreneurs or a group of 80 million people about to implode in a dwarf star of tears when their expectations are unmet depends largely on how you view change. Me, I choose to believe in the children. God knows they do.”

After reading the internet reactions, we were primed to chew up this new Time article. As parents and boomers with good memories, we recall the natural narcissism of the 15-30 years. We’ve written a lot about generations and so we went, as usual, to the original source and found something refreshing and kind and thoughtful. If, of course, you actually read the entire article!

As an aside, there is an amusing video (at least amusing to a Boomer) on the 41-year-old (Gen X) author Joel Stein “being a Millennial for a Day”. Fail.

The New Greatest Generation. By Joel Stein and Josh Sanburn. Time. 5/20/2013, Vol. 181 Issue 19, p26. 8p.

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