Self-Centered Gen Y Will Self-Destruct — or Old Complainers Will Go the Way of the Fax Machine

Gen Y hater rage has again reared its ugly head as columnist  for TheTrumpet.com, Ron Fraser, rails against the newest generation of American workers in “The Ugly Transition From Gen X to Gen Y

Among Armageddon-esque predictions that the only cure for the hopeless Gen Y is a dire crisis, Fraser rails that, “The outcome of the new creed, ‘When do we want it? We want it NOW,’ is an ugly, unkempt, sloppy, self-indulgent, greedy, grasping, demanding generation of greatly ballooned egos.

He continues his rant saying: “Generation Y has been raised by Generation X with not even a beginning concept of the self-sacrificing demeanor of the pioneering generations that built their lands into powerful nations, who sacrificed in blood to protect their freedoms and their kith and kin back home as they fought foreign enemies on far-away foreign soil.”

And concludes: “It will simply take the divine intervention of the Creator Himself to change this very narcissistic, self-indulgent nature of man.”

Wow. If I believed him, I’d just jump off a bridge with all my self-centered Gen Y brethren, and have it over with. Good thing I was reared as an independent-minded, discerning media consumer, able to distinguish between valuable analysis and simple, brainless blather. My preference would be to throw this mid-60’s crabby Brit off aforementioned (figurative) bridge myself.

First, Mr. Fraser, I’d like to remind you the majority of American soldiers (an those from other nations) serving on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are in their late teens through 20’s.

Young soldiers face imminent danger with the same staunch patriotism as every generation before.

Young soldiers face imminent danger with the same staunch patriotism as every generation before.

Their service is the true definition of “sacrificing in blood,” in every possible interpretation of the phrase.  If returning, many come home with emotional, mental and physical scars that will define a new generation of families and leaders. As this conflict drags on, few Gen  Y’ers are exempt from personally knowing a friend or family member who has served our country valiantly. (Prayers for my friends Tyler, Nick and Ebert, past and present servants of our country.)

Secondly, I can see Fraser hates how this generation’s terrible manners prevent them from listening to his opinions because of those ever-present iPod headphones, but that cross-generational misunderstanding doesn’t seem new, either. Just look up any long-haired, disrespectful hippie activist or research some of those lewd and brazen flapper girls – young voices and lifestyles are always offensive to some.

Fraser focuses on the “extreme narcissism” of Gen Y, which reminded me of a recent study addressed by one of my favorite commentators, Joel Stein, of TIME magazine.  In “Why Joel Stein Is Not a Narcissist,” the author focuses on the work of Dr. Drew Pinsky, author of The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America, focusing on the so-called Narcissism Personality Inventory, a 40-question test long used by psychologists.

Stein penned an excellent conclusion to why this so-called narcissism, even if somewhat true, is not a legit worry for the future of Gen Y.

“There’s a reason we tell our kids they’re special and can do anything they want. A monolithic culture that puts a ceiling on personal expectations isn’t very interesting. One that celebrates differences and self-expression tolerates not only diversity but also the opportunity for individual greatness. Sure, that means some selfishness and entitlement and a few Tila Tequilas, but it also means greater freedom.”

Not to mention, in an age of increased online networking, your personal site isn’t looking-glass vanity, it’s a real tool for personal expression and community connection. Ok, sure, we’ve all un-tagged unflattering photos from time to time. And there are plenty of self-proclaimed goddesses out there showing off her attractiveness. We’re all human. But hotness aside, for each self-centered wannabe model, there’s an activist who is raising money for a good cause, a class president connecting friends for a high school reunion, and an entrepreneur launching their own business.

The only redeeming value from Fraser’s piece is a quote from Marian Salzman in Christian Science Monitor that’s touched on before rambling back to his central thesis of shape-up-and-shut-up-or-die.

“The senior vice president of the global advertising agency jwt, Marian Salzman, said back in 2007, ‘Gen Y is the most difficult workforce I’ve ever encountered, because part of them are greatest-generation great and the other part are so self-indulgent as to be genuinely offensive to know, let alone supervise’ (March 2, 2007).

Greatest-generation great, hmmmm. Not a bad description. I feel like I keep defending those of my peers who deserve that description. Salzman may have stumbled on a key dividing line for Gen Y. For every primping, Zoolander Blue Steel-expression-wearing guy, there’s someone I want to get behind. Not every generation has demonstrated the kind of fearless openness that it takes to plastering yourself in front of the world, bangs, braces, acne and all. But every generation inevitably grows up sometime.

So for now, I’ll ignore your poorly-staged “candid” Prom pics from 1999 if you’re making an impact on something that really matters now. Poor Ron Fraser won’t have time to see what good you’re doing – he’s too busy stockpiling printed newspapers and fax machines in his fallout shelter, in preparation for mass Gen Y meltdown. How useful.

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One response to “Self-Centered Gen Y Will Self-Destruct — or Old Complainers Will Go the Way of the Fax Machine”

  1. hedp2065 says :

    Interesting blog, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, The Associated Press’ annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009.

    GenJones is particularily relevant to this blog, since the majority of GenYers are the offspring of GenJones parents.

    It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down this way:

    DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
    Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
    Generation Jones: 1954-1965
    Generation X: 1966-1978

    Here is a recent op-ed about GenJones as the new generation of leadership in USA TODAY:
    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090127/column27_st.art.htm

    Here’s a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones:
    http://generationjones.com/2009latest.html

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