Are Millennials Actually More Egocentric Than Other Generations? + How Traveling Broadens My Worldview.
As I write this post I am currently perched in an Amtrak observation car while not surprisingly observing Redding’s stunningly snowy hills. And in favor of being transparent on my blog, I will admit that the previous sentence took far too long to compose due to my child-like intrigue with the snow. I can confidently say that my unfamiliarity with this stunning environment has to do with my total disdain for the cold, (picture sleeping with a space heater and countless blankets in sunny San Luis Obispo). All this to say, my eternally freezing self is relishing in the comfort of this enclosed car, Patagonia jacket, hot early grey tea and stunning view.
I wanted to contextualize where I am writing this post for two reasons:
- I am seriously enthralled by the snow I am looking at, &
- As you will read about shortly, my current circumstance inspired the topic of this post: millennials and egocentrism.
Every time I travel I am hit with a similar realization, namely that our world is overwhelmingly vast. I intrinsically know that I am one person in a world filled with 7 billion uniquely created individuals. Yet when I travel I am frequently astonished by my infinitesimal existence amidst the vast and diverse society I interact with.
And my current trip is no exception to the previous truth. Because here I sit: an eighteen year who takes herself far too seriously—humbled by how quickly one’s perspective on life can become limited to the scope of their surroundings.
The past six hours in this train have been extremely revealing as I continue to ask myself: how can it be? How can it be that in the midst of a single group, on a single train, in a single city, in a single country, in a single sphere of society, there are thousands of individual stories, relationships, trials, triumphs and perspectives buzzing around me?
Obviously this realization about my tiny role in society is not a new one, but I fail to acknowledge the depth of this realization without being taken out of my comfort zone and exposed firsthand to humankind’s spectacular diversity.
Young millennials such as myself who are pursuing their academics or careers often fall victim to increasing egocentrism as we arrange our days, resumes and social media platforms largely devoid of external considerations. And yes, I am over-generalizing yet again—but later in this post I will present actual research to support my generalization.
Traveling makes me realize that my egocentric mentality has blinded me from observing, and more importantly contributing to, a diverse humankind. I am ultimately to blame for my failure to counteract my egocentric mentality, but I don’t think I am alone in my failure to do so.
So, what’s the deal millennials?
There are countless explanations for our increasingly egocentric mentality, with the most simple being that we are a fallen humankind. But in the time I spent on the train this week examining this particular issue, research has lead me to believe that our egocentric mentality is influenced by what Psychologists call a “generation me” mindset.
What are the facts?
Psychologist Jean Twenge and author of Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic, has conducted the most notable research on this issue. And her research (some of which is outlined below), supports that the “generation me” mindset is most frequently present in millennials:
- Millennials are more narcissistic than previous generations (scoring higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory).
- Millennial pop culture is more focused on the self than previous generations.
- The rise of social media has lead millennials to view themselves more positively.
- Millennial’s focus on self is related to their upbringings (that have been focused on increasing self-esteem more so than earlier generations).
So yes, these are the facts, but guess what? These facts are only one side of the story.
While there may be research that supports that millennials battle a “generation me” mindset more so than previous generations, research also supports that we are attempting to challenge that mindset by advocating for social issues more so than previous generations.
For example, A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that “helping others in need” was the Millennial generation’s third most important priority, after being a good parent and having a good marriage.
Additionally, a 2011 survey by Walden University found that Millennials are willing to act on their desire to help others; in the year leading up to the survey, 81 percent of respondents had “[d]onated money, goods, or services,” and 68 percent had worked as volunteers.”
So, we have a contradiction do we not?
On the one hand millennials are more prone to egocentrism because of various social factors surrounding their upbringings. However on the other, more optimistic side, millennials are hailed for their being a generation inspired to make the world more just and equitable.
In conclusion, I am certainly no psychologist, but as an eighteen year old millennial I do want to leave you with my final thoughts on the millennial contradiction and how my trip this week has inspired me to view my role in society different.
- First, I think that anyone can fall victim to limiting their worldview to the scope of their surroundings, (not just millennials). And for that reason I think it important for every generation to continually put themselves in positions that enable them to step back from their often limited perspective and see the world through a larger lens. To be astonished by the diversity in society through exploring outside our surroundings, or to gain perspective through volunteering/helping others less fortunate than ourselves.
- And second, yo millennials-what if we hack the system? True, research shows that we may have a self-centered “generation me” mindset, but we research also shows that we are one of the most progressive generations in regards to social justice/political issues, so what if we continue to reallocate that progressive mindset towards helping others? What if instead of focusing solely on achieving our millennials goals, we focused more on the beautifully diverse society around us?
And yes, I know that I am describing a utopia society, but hey—these plush mountains are making me feel magical. ;)
That's all for now, but I would love to know your take on this issue--so be sure to comment down below your opinion, (it's okay if you think my suggestions are impractical-I don't judge:)