Posts Tagged student loan debt

Narcissistic mirages

Really America, leave the Millennials alone.

The idea that this country’s youth are shiftless and self-absorbed has become somewhat of a meme among intellectuals. One person has even made a career out of it.

It was so much fun to read about Dr. Jean M. Twenge who, according to the New York Times, “is constantly on the lookout for signs of a narcissism crisis in America.” Naturally, that crisis seems to center around young people.

Dr. Twenge believes that the prevalent culture of self-esteem, including the infamous awarding of trophies to everyone who plays Little League, including the kids that suck, has turned America’s next generation of leaders into narcissists.

It’s nothing I haven’t heard before, but that doesn’t mean it was any more pleasant to read for the ump-teenth time. However, it was nice to see a quote from Jeffrey Arnett, a professor at my alma mater, Clark University, defending my generation.

“I think she is vastly misinterpreting or over-interpreting the data, and I think it’s destructive,” Arnett told the Times, “She is inviting ridicule for a group of people about which there are already negative stereotypes.”

Indeed, not all of our generation’s problems are our fault. Between the crushing student loan debt and faltering economy, the generations that proceeded us have done a great job keeping the country in shape, just for us to ruin it with our selfishness.

As several experts pointed out in the Times article, it’s also easy to confuse self-confidence and self-advocacy with narcissism. It’s not an academic difference, either.

Anyone who has been to college knows that, aside from the staff cooking and cleaning, students are basically on their own.

Authorities say this is important, because it teaches responsibility, but it’s actually very unfair when a student is left hanging by advisors who have the knowledge necessary to plan out a major, find an internship, or navigate the school’s bureaucracy, but choose not to share it.

In addition to making life unnecessarily difficult, it makes students have to advocate for themselves. Apparently wanting to have enough credits to graduate makes you a narcissist.

It doesn’t end with graduation either: because no one seems that interested in fixing the economy, workers of this generation often have trouble finding stable employment. They have to think of themselves as freelancers or entrepreneurs, not employees of a larger organization.

So yes, Millennials seem to spend a lot more time curating their own lives than their parents. It’s just how we do what needs to be done. Don’t judge us.


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The ridiculed generation

Time fake cover 1I’m sure you’ve seen the Time magazine cover “The Me Me Me Generation,” and that many responses are already circulating around the Internet (and that Time appreciates the publicity). Something like this deserves a vigorous response, because young people need to stick up for themselves.

Saying that recent college graduates have no jobs and live with their parents purely out of laziness and narcissism ignores the obvious fact that there are no jobs to be had. The most frustrating thing about Joel Stein’s article might be that it’s forcing me to talk about the “Great Recession.”

Remember that? The media talks about it incessantly, except in this case.

It’s still going on, sort of. At the very least, employers are still using it as an excuse not to hire people, or to tinker with the definition of “employment.”

Many entry-level positions are being replaced with internships, or being occupied by temps and people displaced from higher positions. The desperation of workers young and old also makes it easier for employers to cut full-time positions down to part-time, throwing benefits out the window in the process.

I guess wanting a job instead of occasional work makes a person narcissistic.

It also means recent college graduates are competing with people who will work for free (isn’t that slavery?) on the one hand, and people who out-qualify them on the other.

But hey, this isn’t the Great Depression, right? Many young people are employed, so why don’t they move the hell out of their parents’ basements?

Well, unlike the people who get to write Time cover stories, today’s youth are saddled with student loan debt. In fact, with so many people spending so much of their (theoretical) income on loan repayment, I honestly can’t see how society will function when the Baby Boomers finally retire.

Some might view this as excuse-making; past generations have been worse off than this one, after all. Or have they?

Growing up in New York City in the 1970s, my dad had a much harder life than me, but he did get to go to college for free. He was also allowed to feel frustrated about his job prospects without being called lazy and narcissistic.

This generation isn’t the first to come of age during lean economic times, but it is the first to be ridiculed by the same generation that raised it.

Our parents told us to go to college, because getting an education is important. They tell us to enjoy our youth, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. How does following their advice make us bad people?Time fake cover 2

“Millennials” aren’t perfect, but they have nothing to apologize for when compared to the Baby Boomers.

The Boomers drank, smoked, and partied as much as anyone and, it’s hard to describe the hippie movement and other introspective fads of the 1960s as anything but selfish.

“Millennials” certainly don’t protest like them, but it’s important to remember that ‘60s anti-war and civil rights protests only involved a small minority of college students, who had a big incentive in the form of a military draft. Also, their parents thought this civil disobedience was narcissistic.

Those adults were wrong, of course, and so are today’s. It;s easy to peg young people as lazy or narcissistic, because that would shift responsibility away from the people who have made their lives so challenging. Sometimes, I am genuinely embarrassed by my generation, but that doesn’t mean we deserve to be scapegoated.

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