The "Which Me" Generation

Enough about me, what do you think of me? Self-absorption in young people is annoying, but they grow out of in the school of hard knocks known as life.It is common to deplore the "Me Generation," but it is hard to discern which "Me Generation" you mean.

Elders have turned the byways of Millennials into cocktail jokes. Time magazine featured them as the "Me Me Me Generation." 

Yet, today's generation isn't all that different than the "Me Generation" responsible for the "Me Decade" in the 1970s. Yes, the gadgets are spiffier, but the self-absorption is old school. 

Some claim the emerging generation of Americans is hyper-narcissistic and unable to escape a life wedgie that traps them in their parents' house and a low-paying job, if they are employed at all.

Those who have persevered and obtained a college education, even a graduate degree, are floundering in a restructuring economy with specific needs and little patience for indulgent behavior.

But The Atlantic suggests many post-war generations have displayed eccentricities, bordering on neurosis. Woody Allen, after all, is a symbol of his generation's disquieting anxieties.

Instead of caricaturing or stereotyping a generation, it might make sense to talk with its members to see what worries young people. Those who have bothered have learned young people fear a future with less promise than their parents. Like many older adults, they are confused and disoriented about the rapid changes swirling around them, even as they enjoy the fruits of cool new technology.

Young people today have grown up in a world where digital media and mobile devices seem the norm, not the latest, coolest thing. The Great Depression, the advent of indoor plumbing and the dawning of the television age sound like fantasies, not history.

And the Internet has introduced a new placenta of ambivalence. Advertising, disinformation and blather intermingle with credible information, verified reporting and serious conversation, not always with obvious cues to which is which. It is easy not to trust any source of information and instead turn your focus on yourself. At least you can look in the mirror and see your own zits, your own flaws.

The newest adult generation undoubtedly has its own unique characteristics, which will set it apart. But it is an evolutionary difference from the preceding generation, influenced by events and inventions, much like the preceding generation differed from the one before it.

Young people are self-absorbed. As irritating and annoying as it is, they grow out of it and respond to the challenges of their times. We should avoid falling into the trap of becoming obsessed with their narcissism and encourage them to take that leap into community adulthood, the leap that ultimately defines a generation for all time.