Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Selfie Esteem

In the pilot episode of HBO's Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin, pontificating through his curmudgeonly protagonist, calls Millennials (those of us in our late teens or twenties) the "worst. generation. ever." In his own tirade on the woes of our culture Louis C. K. joins in on the fun, calling us "the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots." Geeze guys, tell us how you really feel.

Is that fair though? Do we really suck so terribly as that?

Critics of the Millennial generation often site our laziness and entitlement as reasons why we're the worst, which... I don't know, maybe that's fair. I certainly don't have much ground to argue we aren't self-obsessed or work-averse. We are, in fact, the "selfie" generation, infamous for compulsively sharing every thought, shoe, food item and hairstyle for the wide internet audience. It's as if each of us assumes the world would be worse off without our unilaterally compelling subtweets and reblogs. We're in it for the fame, no doubt about it.


Mark me down "not immune."

Does that justify such harsh judgment though? Granted, we are a little curved-inward but that doesn't mean we're the worst ever. And I wonder if those pointing the finger are willing to cop up to the shortcomings of their own generations. For my part I suspect we Millennials learned many of our self-centered tendencies from the generations that preceded us. We're so often accused of being materialistic and selfish, but we are certainly not the first to equate economic prosperity with success, or to prioritize autonomy over community. With the advent of social media came an added propensity for fame-seeking grandeur, but it's hard to imagine our parents handling the same opportunities and technologies differently when they were our age. We are the fallout you might expect from the nuclear collision of iPhones, twitters, tumblrs and a decaying American dream.

Oh glob no, not the duckface!
In point of fact, the Millennial impulse may even come with some glimmers of hope for our national (and global) future. Most studies, for example, note our heightened concerns for social justice and economic equality compared to those who came before us. We are also generally more creative (if less focused) and more spiritual (if less "religious"). It's a mixed bag, sure, but one full of promise and potential. In the Millennial Pandora's Box, buried under the bulk of undisciplined id is a light plenty bright enough to warrant hope.

Now please notice I'm not condoning the less noble instincts of my peers (or myself for that matter). I suspect some time down the line most of us will realize how tragically void of meaning the whole fame game is. It pains me to think we'll waste years trying to find ourselves in the approval of strangers only to emerge on the other side wishing we'd done something worthwhile with all that time and effort.

I sincerely believe redemption for my generation will hinge on its ability to focus its creative energy and passion toward something meaningful, which to my reckoning could only be one thing: service. What better to effectively utilize our gifts (creativity) while redeeming our faults (self-centeredness) than the intentional, focused service of our brothers and sisters, neighbors and enemies? Such is the nature of the Kingdom of God, after all. As C. S. Lewis once said, "all that is not eternal is eternally useless," and I [tentatively] agree with the caveat that our efforts here on earth to love and serve God's children are investments in the eternal.

Our naysayers believe us to be haughty, full of ourselves. And that may well be true. But I've noticed the self-aggrandizement of those with inflated egos is often just posturing to cover up deep insecurities. So the solution to pick on Millennials until they learn humility (as demonstrated by Mr. Sorkin and Mr... C. K.?) may be futile at best and abusive at worst. What my peers and I really need is a healthier perspective on what it means to be human. Once we see ourselves as we truly are, as children made in the image of an Almighty God called to experience life abundant, our frenzied desire to prove ourselves worthy will wane. Anyway that's what I'm counting on. Genuine mission trumps hollow aspiration any day.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

~Matthew 5:14-16

3 comments:

  1. Believe me; it's gonna be hard for us to top the Baby Boomers in sheer self-centeredness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4IjTUxZORE

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  2. I like this Jordan. Instead of lashing back at the critics, you recognized your generation's skill set and wish to apply it to the world. Service can change the world (and those Baby Boomers are sure going to need all of our service soon).

    I'll quit harping on you guys.

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    Replies
    1. Naw, we still gotta learn. Keep us humble.

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