Epidemic adj.: Spreading rapidly and extensively by infection and affecting many individuals in an area or a population at the same time.
Narcissism n.: A psychological condition characterized by self pre-occupation, lack of empathy and unconscious defecits in self esteem.
A couple of weeks ago Jeff Zaslow of the WSJ wrote a column entitled “Blame It On Mr. Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled” (subscription required). For the next few days, every time I looked at the “Most Popular” list of articles at WSJ.com that article was #1. And in a new column today on the same subject (“The Entitlement Epidemic: Who’s Really to Blame?” (subscription required)) Zaslow says that he received more than 1,000 e-mails in response to that article. It seems to have really struck a chord.
Fortune recently ran a cover story “‘Manage’ Us? Puh-leeze!” on the subject of 20-somethings in the work place.
Marketers seem to have caught on. Consider Burger King’s “Have It Your Way”, HP’s “The Computer is Personal Again” and Raymond James “Individual solutions from Independent Advisors” targeted at Baby Boomers.
You see it in the decline in manners such as the decline in the use of phrases like “Thank You”, “You’re Welcome” and “Excuse Me” or in the aggressive and rude driving so common today.
You see it in the explosion of blogs and ubiquity of MySpace in which seemingly every person under 30 in the country posts their every thought, mood and daily activity plus photos, results from their personality tests, tests on their sexual tastes and, of course, their latest favorite song. The proper response among people over 40 and anybody with a somewhat expanded out look on life being: WHO CARES??!!
(Sacramento News & Review had an interesting commentary on the kids and their obsession with MySpace recently: “Phony friends, pimped out profiles and double lives: Welcome to MySpace, gateway drug for the next generation”, March 1, 2007.)
(Newsweek ran a cover story on “The MySpace Generation” about 18 months ago that I never got around to reading.)
In today’s article he lists three causes: indulgent parenting, consumer culture and the self esteem movement.
Christopher Lasch famously addressed the subject in his 1979 “The Culture of Narcissism”.
A Marin, CA based psychologist recently addressed the subject and its effects on kids in an interesting book I read: “The Price of Privelege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating A Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids”.
Another recent book on the subject, by a University of San Diego psychologist, is: “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Entitled, Assertive, Entitled – And More Miserable Than Ever”.