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Raising Narcissus

Tamara Miller
Vail CO, Colorado

We’re bringing up brats, people.

Tiny little Paris Hiltons who want nothing more than to make lots of money, drive fancy cars, have their names appear in print, on the television and on the Web.

We tell our kids they’re special, and demand that everyone around them reward them for it.

We’re so concerned about not hurting a child’s self-esteem that everyone gets a ribbon or a medal just for participating. That way, no one’s a loser.

Researchers from San Diego State University studied the responses of nearly 17,000 college students, who completed a survey called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. The conclusion? College students today are more narcissistic and self-centered than the generations before them.

Earlier this year, a study out of UCLA showed that more young people than ever expect to make lots of money when they graduate, and believe it’s important to be well-off financially.

The fact that young people ” who are living the most selfish time of their lives, after all ” in America ” which has an economy that runs on the idea that having more stuff will make us happy ” feel more entitled than ever before shouldn’t come as any surprise.

I’d guess that every generation thinks the one that followed them is more self-absorbed and money-hungry than their own.

It’s classic generational warfare, the kind of stuff that will propel heated discussions between youngsters and their parents, and their parents and grandparents.

But as much as I cringe when I hear the over-50 set babble on and on about how much more politically aware their generation was, they have a point when the chastise those of us younger than them for being so incredibly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve a celebrity or ourselves. (Even if, as our parents, they should probably share some of the blame.)

And I worry about our country if the only way we can get our citizens to pay attention to the world around them is to find a way to link Anna Nicole Smith’s death to the war in Iraq, or the fate of Social Security or some other actually relevant and important news.

This reality is already hitting us media types pretty hard. Faced with foreboding futures of declining circulation and falling revenues, media companies are falling all over ourselves to get you to read our papers, either in print or online. Network TV is trying desperately to get young people to turn on the tube and watch the nightly news.

It’s not all bad, though. This push for reader-centric news helped bring the advent of stuff like citzen journalism ” where we publish the photos, stories and video you submit ” blog sand You Tube.

And even when we bring you stories about things that really are important, we try to find a way to personalize it ” by interviewing everyday people, by explaining how a change in taxes or a new policy will affect you. That’s how, we hope, we get you to read the boring story in the first place.

Telling stories in a way that readers can connect with is good journalism. Getting more of our community into our community paper only makes sense. In many ways, it is the job of a paper, a TV station, to mirror the community it covers.

And yeah, if all this gets you to pick up the paper, when you otherwise might not have, it also makes good business sense.

But there is a cynical side of this, though, that I sometimes battle. If we only bring you the news you want to hear ” and all you want to hear about is yourself ” then you miss getting the news you need to hear.

By indulging this new, burgeoning “Me Generation” we risk making them even more disinterested in the world around them than they already are.

And in turn, our country misses the informed, educated electorate it so desperately needs to continue to be a successful democracy.

Opinion/Projects Editor Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.


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