The “selfie generation” is the generation that was brought up surrounded by digital technology and mass media, and are very well-connected on the Internet. There are several things that we, as the selfie generation, often come under fire for. We are called narcissistic because we enjoy taking photos of ourselves, and exhibitionistic when we update social media sites like Twitter or Instagram. We are accused of being spoilt and entitled, and said to have short attention spans. The adults of Generation X or even the Boomer population are quick to judge and criticise us, but they fail to see that these traits could well be unfounded stereotypes or could in fact correlate with positive attributes.
‘Exhibitionistic’ and ‘narcissistic’ are some descriptors that have been used a lot recently, in reaction to the trend of selfie-taking and our constant need to document our daily lives on social media. Such activities are said to be frivolous and pointless, providing no real value or benefit to our lives. But I beg to differ. When we upload selfies and tweet, we are indeed broadcasting our lives, but not solely for the express purpose of receiving validation and approval from our peers, but rather because it is the easiest and most efficient way of keeping in touch with friends. In our increasingly hectic and stressful school lives, it is unrealistic to aim at meeting up and catching up with our friends on a regular basis. Hence, social media sites allow for us to still be updated on what is going on in our friends’ lives and interact with them without having to meet face-to-face. We may even learn more about our friends through social media than we would through real life interaction.
The accusation of selfies being a narcissistic outlet is another thing I would like to refute. As a generation that grew up surrounded by mass media, we have been constantly bombarded by unrealistic images of models and celebrities. The recent selfie, however, is proof that many of us have not let these unhealthy body expectations get to us. The fact that more teenagers feel confident enough to take photos that make them feel positive about their own physical image should be an encouraging sight, rather than something to shame us for.
Being spoilt, lazy and entitled are more stereotypes that are constantly reiterated by adults about our generation. We are said to be overly-dependent and riding on the hard work of our parents, and that our lives are too easy. Many a times, I have had to endure listening to adults give me the infamous “when I was your age” speech, telling me about how they had more difficulty achieving certain things than we do now, as if it is my fault that the world has modernised and become more efficient, and hence easier to live in.
It is also not entirely true that teenagers have easier lives. Our academic curriculum has become more in-depth and complicated than our predecessors and companies are looking beyond academic achievements when considering a potential employee. In the past, having a degree almost always guaranteed you a decent, well-paying job, but nowadays, the bar is set so much higher and so much more is expected of us. We are also expected to juggle our academic pursuits with leadership duties and have a spirit of volunteerism, and we end up having a lot on our plates. However, because of this, many of us are also becoming more ambitious and driven, single-mindedly working towards our goals armed with knowledge and skills. In short, we know what we want and we know how to get it.
There is so much talk by the older generation about how dysfunctional our generation is, but just because they do not understand the motivations of our generation does not make our lives wrong or unfulfilling. The world is changing and technology is even more prevalent in our lives than ever before. We are no longer limited by physical barriers and space and we can easily communicate and interact with our friends without having to be in the same room as them. Access to the near limitless resources on the Internet has also allowed us to be more informed and educated in matters that are not taught in school or in the communities that we have direct contact with, giving us so many more opportunities to learn and to grow. Adults are constantly finding reasons to scrutinise, judge, and shame the way we live and use the Internet, but what they sometimes fail to realise is that times are changing, and we are simply adapting.
Of course, I am neither alone nor the first in defending our generation. The debate on Millennials have been going on for about as long as we have been alive, and many others have contributed in many creative ways to defend this generation. In a comic, Matt Bors summarises and disproves several negative Millennial stereotypes. Last but not least, here is a music playlist that celebrates our generation, because when adults started bringing us down, we wrote love songs to ourselves. Enjoy 🙂