The “me-me-me” generation is defined by vanity, laziness and a constant need for external affirmation. We fear rejection and scorn those who attempt to reject our ideas of what defines humor or success and how to measure self-worth. Most frequently, we are characterized by our obsession with technology, be it social media or those omnipresent phones, whether smart or dumb. What all of those older generations don’t realize when they look down from their advanced years to our lowly standing on the totem pole is that our obsession isn’t with showing ourselves off to others; rather, it’s with the “other.” While technology provides us with the perfect platform from which to broadcast to the world our many social graces, hilariously awkward anecdotes and “unpopular” views on society, the backbone of our constant need for phone in hand is our desire to be connected. My generation doesn’t just see a friend count, we see a touchpoint and a reminder of a particular place and time in our life. We scroll through friendships past and present, relationships scorned and fostered, acquaintances first-hand or second-hand. Through our phones and computers, we connect to each other and the world.
Other generations don’t understand. They’ll never get that feeling in the pit of their stomach or the slight catch of their breath when their phone connects with someone else. You see your phone light up with the promise of someone there. You hear the chipper tune of your phone letting you know that someone has reached out. You see that fucking red number one hovering there and daring you to look. Who’s there? You can’t help yourself from filling in the time from “message received” to “message read” with the expectation of something monumental. “I love you, I hate you, I need space, I need you here, I have something to tell you, I need you, I can’t do this” all tear through your mind with the force of a potentially life-changing call to arms. In these moments, your insecurities and fears war with your hopes and desires and make it impossible for you not to reach out and put an end to the questions. There is such promise in those unread messages. It could be anything or anyone and all you have to do is look and reach out. Our generation thrives in this moment and, because of that, it’s hard to understand the scorn and derision we receive from our elders. It is so easy for them to begin their story with “back in my day” and chalk up our glazed-over eyes and vacant expressions to our inexperience with life and “what really matters.” We really know, though. Our vacant stares and vapid attitudes are rooted in our frustration in their inability to truly get it. Our phones aren’t just about selfies and check-ins. In our phones, we hold innumerable relationships and memories that are more precious to us than merely seeing ourselves affirmed in our beauty or wit. In reality, we are our truest selves when we connect with others. We define and shape ourselves based on our interactions as we grow into understanding who we are and what we value. It has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with connections, friendships and love. And that’s something that every generation should understand.