Are our kids the ‘me me me generation’?

By Katherine Hynes.

A new film depicts young people as obsessed with social media, and a recent Time magazine cover declared them the ‘Me Me Me Generation’. The Millennials are taking hits from all sides at the moment.

Sofia Coppola’s new film The Bling Ring is based on the true story of a gang of Los Angeles teenagers who allegedly stole millions from celebrities in the noughties. The kids were big Facebook users, and desperately desired the celebrity life of those they followed.

Scene from The Bling Ring, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Emma Watson

Scene from The Bling Ring, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Emma Watson

To help research the film, Coppola says she hung out with Hollywood teens and witnessed the constant phone and social media use. “Everyone was texting, taking pictures, and I tried to put as much of that in the film as possible. It was almost sci-fi, this idea that living does not count unless you are documenting it.”

“It was almost sci-fi, this idea that living does not count unless you are documenting it”

The Time Magazine article cites hard data: “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”.

Cover Credit: Photograph by Andrew B. Myers for TIME; Styling by Joelle Litt

Cover Credit: Photograph by Andrew B. Myers for TIME; Styling by Joelle Litt

I keep thinking about comments made by film director Sofia Coppola on how Facebook (and we can add to that more recent social media platforms such as Instagram) help fuel young people’s obsession with themselves and the celebrity world.

The teenagers in Coppola’s film are now in their 20s. Is it any different for teenagers today?

In my own pocket of teenage land, I get the unsettling suspicion that when planning social events some teens place considerable importance on how ‘photo worthy’ (ie social media worthy) the event will be, rather than just enjoying a good night out with friends. Coppola is right about the efforts teens put into documenting life. At a party for example, there are the getting-ready photos, driving-in-the-car photos, at-the-party photos and perhaps the party-aftermath photos. All pics are shared, commented on, and monitored for ‘likes’.

“There are the getting-ready photos, driving-in-the-car photos, at-the-party photos and perhaps the party-aftermath photos. All pics are shared, commented on, and monitored for ‘likes'”

Coppola says the Facebook generation has lost touch with reality. Living in their virtual world, teens are missing out on real life happening around them. There are times when I would have to agree with her. For example, I recently attended a 15-year-old girl’s restaurant dinner party. I was shocked to see most of the teens constantly on their phones scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. Every so often, one would exclaim something like “OMG, check out this photo of so-and-so’s party. I soooo I wish I was there”. Other guests agreed with her. I noticed that the faux pas was lost on the offender and phone-focused guests, but not on the birthday girl and her family. When it was time to take photos of the girl’s party they were actually attending, suddenly the guests snapped on their “we’re-having-a-great-time” party faces to pose for photos that would in just seconds be uploaded to social media.

Do you think when our teens plan and dress for an event, they’re a little more concerned about the ‘photo opportunity’ than the event itself?

Do you ever feel like they’re missing out on real world experiences happening around them when they’re in the virtual world checking ‘likes’ ?

The Bling Ring exposes teenagers' obession with social mediaThe Bling Ring opens in Australian cinemas 25 July 2013.

View trailer on YouTube.

 

Comments

  1. I don’t think it is just teens that are guilty of it , mothers everywhere are doing the same things .
    It is quite alarming .
    Trish MLDB recently posted..How do you measure a year ~ Breast CancerMy Profile

    • 'Angry' of Mayfair says:

      Spot on. I was at kids’ swimming lessons the other day and looked along the side of the pool. EVERY one of the 15 or so mums was bowed over her phone.

      • In the days before I owned a smart phone or used social media all that much I always carried a book with me to my kids after school activities. I find it hard to get worked up over parents using that time in whatever way they see fit.

        • On that aspect, I used to always read books at any spare moment, even reading while walking to work. The difference with the smartphone is the preoccupation we have with mostly inane and useless status updates and pretty pictures, not a whole story I could get lost in. Also, I’m not really sure anyone but the snapper is interested in looking at selfies.
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  2. It’s scary. That story about the 15 year old’s birthday is just sad, on so many levels.
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  3. Melanie @ mummyandtheminis says:

    I don’t have teenagers but I have younger sisters who are in their early 20s and its pretty much as you described. What I find most offensive is how my sisters and other people (in all age groups) will not be fully present when spending time with you – their smart phones are never far from reach, ready at any given moment to view the latest Facebook updates & Instagram pics. People are addicted and they don’t even know it.

    • 'Angry' of Mayfair says:

      And as a university lecturer I have to deal with it in class too. People who cannot go for more than a minute or so without checking their phone and texting. When I rant at them they look at me, with their slightly open mouths and vacant gazes, as if I have criticised them for something as innocuous as breathing.

  4. It’s definitely not just teenagers. Technology addiction is rife and wreaking havoc on relationships and homes everywhere. Some digital detox is definitely in order.

  5. I agree with what Trish MLDB – it’s not just teens, it’s adults too. But that is really sad about the 15 year old birthday party. I’m dying to see “The Bling Ring” Is it out in the cinemas yet?
    Grace recently posted..FYBF – The Sloth EditionMy Profile

    • Hi Grace, thanks so much for commenting on the story. I’m pretty keen to see The Bling Ring too (My daughter told me about it a month ago and pleaded with me to go – had no problems agreeing to that one! ). The Bling Ring opens in Australian cinemas on July 25. Start counting down how many sleeps 🙂
      Katherine Hynes recently posted..Are our kids the ‘me me me generation’?My Profile

  6. Yes. It’s both teens and adults alike. This movie sounds very interesting and unfortunately, I think it’s spot on. I see it in my classrooms. They live ‘online’ a little too much. I agree that they’re missing out on real life experiences as well. Will look out for this movie.
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  7. At my daughter’s 14th birthday ice-skating party last year there was one guest who kept disappearing from the rink to get a better signal on her phone. So my daughter confiscated the phone, gave it to me and dragged her friend back onto the ice. Meanwhile my husband and I drank coffee, watched, skated a little, talked to the kids as they came off the ice for breaks to rest sore feet, and posted pics and tweets and facebook updates to keep ourselves amused.

    I’m uncomfortable with condemnation of how teens choose to enjoy their social time and I think the distinction between “real life” and “online” is increasingly blurry, but I’m all in favour of good manners, and phones or other electronic distractions in classrooms, lecture halls and non-tweeting/facebooking company are right out. (But I can’t help remembering it being perfectly ok for me as a teen to sit on the floor in the lounge room at my Grandma’s place and read while the adults talked, or for various adult family members to read the newspaper or leaf through coffee table art books at large family gatherings.)

    It’s all still a bit theoretical for me on the parenting front at the moment though, my teens have so far shown no inclination to document their lives online at all. That’s my job apparently.

  8. Sometimes I feel like we are all part of giant “Truman Show” style social experiment. Will someone please just yell “cut” and go “ok folks thanks for that we’ve got the research we need now, back to the way you were”. We have absolutely no idea how this is going to turn out because we have never lived this way before. I’m not anti online or technology, I blog, I Facebook, I kinda Tweet, I Instagram. I’m very aware of great things that can come about because of the internet but I am also aware of how addictive it can be – even for me an sensible adult and the bad behaviour it can generate. I hope it all works out for our wi-fi generations but I still think we need lots of parental responsibility (and that’s hard work). That birthday party story is just so bloody sad – and does make you question what our society will look like as these children become adults – will rudeness just be the way we operate???
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  9. I totally agree with what’s been said. What I don’t like is people being something they’re not behind a blog/FB account/SMS message. They rant/love/show remorse/look happy/look like they’re having a fabulous time, when all along they’re just this ordinary person who can’t look you in the eye or have a conversation with you in real life. That’s what scares me about this type of person. We’re still human and will need human interaction. I’m not sure people will know how to do that.
    Anne @ Domesblissity recently posted..Lime & Coconut ChickenMy Profile

  10. I think that life is totally different for teenagers today (yes – and mums) – because of that immediate feedback that social media provides. We are obsessed with making our lives public, and the ensuing commentary by others on it. What are the long-term repercussions for self-esteem and self-worth? I’m not sure, but we’re in it, and I think parents need to teach their kids to value themselves outside of the social media sphere, as well as in it.
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  11. Sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment on the story. I’m glad it’s generated conversation. It’s been so interesting reading your perspectives. Much appreciated.
    Katherine Hynes recently posted..Are our kids the ‘me me me generation’?My Profile

  12. Emma Toomey says:

    Loved the article Katherine and completely agree with the feedback. As much as the internet and social media provide wonderful forums and platforms for all manner of fantastic things, the challenge we face both as individuals and parents is to maintain basic good manners. The story you shared about the teenager’s party is so unsettling on many levels, but also because it’s just so darn rude. It’s our responsibility as parents to teach our kids good manners, but sadly many adults are the worst offenders.
    Are we completely losing touch with the concept of living in the moment and replacing it with a ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. I hate to think that our kids are gauging their happiness and self worth on the number of ‘likes’ they receive. We’re in unchartered waters here – strong moral compass required.

    • Thanks for the kind words Emma 🙂 I agree that as parents we have to monitor and teach kids good manners when it comes to using technology in the company of others. I would say the less use the better, or better still no use at all.
      There is also a need to counterbalance this new ‘number of likes mentality’. We’re in serious danger of it determining a teen’s self worth. As you rightly said, these are indeed ‘unchartered waters’.
      Katherine Hynes recently posted..Talking to teenagers about drugs and alcohol – ‘The Other Talk’My Profile

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