Narcissism and altruism are two different terms that define an individual’s inordinate fascination with oneself and unselfishness respectively. While the former defines egocentrism of an individual, the latter denotes the practice or principle of concern inhibited by somebody towards the welfare of others. As argued by various scholars such as Larry Gordon and Louis Sahagun in their article “Gen Y’s Ego Trip,” today’s college students tend to be more self-centered as opposed to their predecessors. This is attributed to personal responsibility of today’s college students in making the world better place than their previous generations. More significant is the article “Premature Pragmatism” by Barbara Ehrenreich, which offers this insightful generational change. Based on the above articles, today’s college students are more narcissistic than altruistic. Therefore, the main objective of this paper is to analyze the arguments presented in all the three articles that illustrate the above thesis.
Narcissism of College Students
Gordon and Sahagun, staff writers of the Los Angeles Times, depict today’s college students, which have increased narcissistic attitudes as opposed to the previous generation. They point out that the effort rendered to boost children’s self-esteem seem to have backfired, thereby leading to the production of more narcissistic generation of college students than their predecessors. They note that the emergence of Internet services and social websites, such as MySpace and YouTube among others, have created this self-blossom, which tends to cause personal and social problems in today’s millennial generation, Gen Y. In their memoirs, egocentrism that characterizes the Gen Y population denotes our society as heading “to where people are going to treat each other badly, either on the street or in relationships.”
As pointed out by Gordon and Sahagun, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory research, conducted on students’ reaction to the statement,” If I ruled the world, it would be a better place, I think I am a special person and I like to be center of attention,” had positive results. They note that two-thirds of college students had above average narcissism scores, while more than thirty percent showed elevated narcissism. According to them, the narcissistic attitudes among today’s college students are contributed by the incorporation of self-esteem educational programs, increased materialism, and fascination with celebrities and reality TV shows that are beyond the allowed traditional culture.
However, more narcissistic attitudes inhibited by the Gen Y population tend to negate the meaningfulness of the philosophy of life. Gordon and Sahagun note that the growing trend of more civic-minded students in participating in volunteer activities is more self-focused on educational attainment than on social responsibility. Moreover, the “me-first” attitude tends to be the most direct route to the bottom line, for which the current college student would succeed in life. In doing so, the current generation tend to devote their studies on tangible payoff careers after graduation, thereby limiting their time for personal growth, value formation and service to the society.
Additionally, Gordon and Sahagun point out that the new college model is significantly different from the old one, where students sought knowledge for knowledge sake. He notes that the current educational model is based on “I paid money; give me my grade and degree”, which raises concerns on the eligibility of educational programs in creating self-esteem and confidence for personal growth, value formation and services to the society. According to the authors, narcissistic attitudes inhibited by the current generation offer less value to the meaning of philosophy of life as opposed to altruistic attitudes of the past generations.
Narcissistic Attitudes of the Current Generations
According to Ehrenreich, the more narcissistic attitudes of the current generations are founded on the basis of appropriateness of idealism. In her connotations, idealism was regarded by the past generations, Gen X, as an ordinary, respectable profession essential for human services. However, for the present Gen Y, it has been overcome by realism, which agitates for financial capitalism. This has formed the mindset, for which the current students seek colleges and envisage their intellectual agendas. The writer, who is a biochemist, narrates how this mindset formed the basis of her turning to be a novelist.
Ehrenreich notes that, “I had gone to college with an intellectual agenda that included solving the mind-body problem, discovering the source of human evil, and getting a tentative reading on the purpose of life. But within a few months, I had dropped all that and become Chemistry major” (1). According to her, studying the sense of life and the beginning of evil did not have insightful financial rewards that would sustain her in today’s world. Thus, she opted to major in chemistry for financial gain.
As pointed out by Ehrenreich, the narcissistic attitude inhibited by the current generation has resulted into no definite occupation among the Gen Y. She exemplifies herself, who twenty years later was an ex-science major with no definite occupation and is still obsessed with expanding her career for financial gains but less idealistic. She notes that the current generations tend to major in business related careers with venturing in philosophy or literature studies vanishing or dropping below 1 percent.
According to Ehrenreich (2), the pollster conducted in 1968, projected approximately 85 percent of college students to link education with the development of philosophy of their life. However, this figure has changed drastically over the years. She notes that twenty years down the line, majority of students expected education to enable them “earn a lot of money.” In this respect, there has been a “50 percent decline in idealism with 100 percent increase in venality.” Probably, this has affected the basis, of which the current generation depicts the philosophy of life (Ehrenreich, 2).
While the current rough economic times seem to be the reason behind this generation’s change, a very significant thing is how self-centeredness would result into collapse of human civilization due to unprepared midlife career destinations. “As overdue bills and carburetor problems take centre stage of our live, the current generation tends to lose the heroic dreams at the youth thereby developing immortal souls which are neither just or peaceful” (Ehrenreich, 3). She adds that, “more and more young people who are forced to choose between their ideals and economic security, will opt for a career in social change.” This denotes that the current narcissistic attitude among the Gen Y population deprived them of essential career destinations, which affect their social wellbeing.
On the other hand, narcissistic attitude among the Gen Y has enabled them to become socially conscious people. Moreover, this is illustrated by the growing body of civic-minded and socially conscious academic and market researchers, who are in their mid-20s and younger. She states that, “thanks to the Internet, this generation is much more aware of the world. And because of national tragedies such as 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, these young people are creating their won brand of social consciousness” (142).
For instance, Senior Kirsten Reed, a political science majorat the Oregon University, denotes his desire to work for federal government in order to help in national security. He said, “I want to do something for the defense of the country” (144). Significantly, Wells wants to major in “international or humanitarian aid or environmental sciences” for the purpose of doing something positive. In this essence, narcissistic attitude among today’s college students is attributed to better the world we emulate and wish to live in.
In conclusion, the Gen Y population should not deploy egocentrism in learning for educational attainment, but rather to influence their social responsibility. Additionally, the current students should ensure that premature pragmatism does not overwhelm their educational idealism for financial gains. Moreover, if narcissism is effectively engaged as opposed to altruism, it will result into more social conscious among the current Gen Y population.