Joel Stein has written a cover story for the May 20 issue of Time magazine titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” The story quotes many of the same statistics we’ve recounted in our Youth Culture Updates: That selfish and narcissistic behavior among young adults seems to be on the rise. “The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health,” Stein writes, adding, “58 percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.”
Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic doesn’t buy it. In her story, “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation,” Reeve says that news publications are, and forever have been, concerned that the age’s youngsters are spoiled brats, and she trots out 100 years worth of magazine covers to prove it. Reeve says that rises in narcissistic attitudes can be explained when taken in conjunction with other studies. A trio of scientists wrote a paper explaining away any increases in narcissism: College-age youth and young adults are, and always have been, pretty self-focused. “Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists,” writes Reeve, “it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It’s like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are ‘Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.'” (Time, The Atlantic)
Paul Asay has covered religion for The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Beliefnet.com and The (Colorado Springs) Gazette. He writes about culture for Plugged In and wrote the Batman book God on the Streets of Gotham (Tyndale). He lives in Colorado Springs with wife, Wendy, and two children. Follow him on Twitter.