By Dylan Lemert
I remember reading a specific issue of Time magazine a few months ago. I remember Joel Stein’s cover story catching some flack – an article entitled “The Me Me Me Generation” with a caption that read, in part, “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”
This “millennial” generation Stein was referencing is that wave of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s (a ballpark definition that shifts depending on who you ask). I belong to this group, and likely so do you. We are the “echo boomers,” the kids of the baby boomers of the 1950s and 60s. And, according to Stein, we have issues.
He claims narcissistic personality disorder is three times higher for folks in their 20s than in people over the age of 65.
Whether that’s an accurate statistic or not, if you’re reading this right now and are between the ages of about 15 and 30, then congratulations; you’re frontrunner for one of the most controversial generations in recent decades.
For the record, being myself a millennial and having to share classrooms and bars and the Internet with millions of others, I think Stein’s accusations are partly true. It’s certainly no secret iPhones and Twitter and TiVo have made some of us a bit lazy. As one who struggles on a daily basis with finding the right technological balance, I’m aware of both the joys and trappings of the modern age.
However, though Mr. Stein may be partially correct in his claim that my peers and I are indeed “entitled, lazy narcissists” (yes, I realize there’s massive amounts of generalization involved here, and yes, I would have worded it differently), I also believe it’s this “narcissism” that will ultimately act as a catalyst for progress.
For instance, I truly believe it will be a millennial who one day plays a central role in discovering the cure for cancer and resurrecting the woolly mammoth from extinction and sending the first humans to Mars; modern science is on the cusp of these ingenuities already. But it’s a millennial’s uniquely type-A drive that will lead us to discover more about our world (and possibly worlds beyond) in the next 50 years than in the last 10,000 put together.
And while I’m incredibly hopeful that the signs are pointing toward my generation to carry this torch, I know ultimately what we want is simply to leave a legacy, to leave our permanent mark on this world. To have our discoveries and inventions forever change not only how the current generation goes about daily life, but also how the lives of future generations will be different, more productive, better. How those future generations may one day literally reach the stars.
After all, apart from all the negative titles, assumptions, and associations about millennialism, I feel it’s important to note there’s another nickname for us, one I believe proves truer and truer all the time: The Next Great Generation.
There’s a reason that name has stuck.