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Generation Me’

Katie Palmitier | Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Remember back in grade school, during city-league soccer, how every team would get a trophy and a pizza party at the end of the season? Whether your team went undefeated or only scored two goals the entire season, each player went home with some hardware and a pat on the back from either your dad or your best friend’s dad, cleverly disguised as the team’s head coach. Or what about on elementary school exams? Remember how everyone received a sticker at the top of their paper, either for earning an A-plus or for a “good effort” when half the page was filled with red check marks? I don’t know about you, but I have boxes full of trophies stacked in my basement from my grade school days, and I wasn’t exactly the athletic type. But I was proud of those trophies, and my parents were proud of me for always “trying my best” and often told me I was the best player on the team. But back then, who wasn’t?

Unfortunately, a recent study now shows that all those trophies and inflated accolades are hurting my generation and causing our society to suffer. The study states that because we were surrounded by such exaggerated support and confidence during our adolescence, my generation now suffers from an extreme case of narcissism. The study projects this narcissistic generation – or “Generation Me” – will result in a society full of self-centered, temperamental individuals who are unable to build or keep strong relationships with others.

Being a part of the newly dubbed “Generation Me,” I cannot help but find truth in this new study. Throughout the country, high school and college students are constantly trying to build their resumes and make connections so that they may one day have the most lucrative jobs and luxurious lifestyles. Students are volunteering now more than ever and participating in community service activities on a regular basis. One cannot help but ask him or herself if the surge in volunteerism is a result of compassion or of competition.

As college students, we all know what it takes to get in to prestigious schools and how to secure those competitive internships. We understand that it takes hard work and more than just straight As to make it in today’s world. However, far too many of us have focused too much on “making it” and measuring success based on financial wealth and status instead of what we have contributed to the world.

While there are many students on this campus – as well as others throughout the country – that are genuinely concerned about the well-being of others and hope to one day use their talents and education for the betterment of society, the majority of my generation is focused on looking good on paper so that it may one day achieve personal success. Because my generation has been brought up with inflated positive self-esteem and a “you are the best” mentality, the focus of “Generation Me” lives has been skewed. Instead of cherishing relationships, caring about society, and enlightening and educating ourselves about the world and its inhabitants like previous generations, many members of my generation have devoted their lives to gaining financial success and an impressive job title, leaving their relationships with family and friends by the wayside.

But is never too late to change. One does not need to give up his or her goals or self-confidence to shed the “Generation Me” title, as long as we realize we are not always going to be the best. We can, and should, still strive to become successful in our careers, and it is not wrong to want a luxurious lifestyle. We just cannot ignore the people we meet along the way. The relationships we make on our journey to success should not be taken for granted. While members of “Generation Me” have been accused of taking advantage of people and using community service not as a means of serving the community but rather as a as a way to climb up the ladder of success, the rest of us must realize that we need to serve out of the goodness of our hearts and cherish the relationships we have with others and our community – for that is the true measurement of success.

While it is said that it can be lonely at the top, it doesn’t have to be. For many victims of “Generation Me,” that saying will prove to be true. For the rest of us, however, let’s prove these studies wrong and have a party at the top once we get there.

Katie Palmitier is a sophomore political science major. She can be contacted at kpalmiti@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.