After the Me Generation, what comes next? According to Time magazine's latest issue and its predictably viral cover, it's the Me Me Me Generation.
The cover shows a young adult woman lying one the ground, Narcissus-like, while gazing in self-admiration into her smartphone. The title "The Me Me Me Generation" is splashed across the photo, along with the subtitle "Millennials are lazy, self-entitled narcissists who still live with their parents."
Magazine headline convention requires that a daring gambit like that is followed by another equally bold statement that evokes a more hopeful scenario, the line in this case being, "Why they'll save us all."
The cover and the still mostly unread (it is currently only available online to Time subscribers) trend piece it is selling has generated the usual amount of viral infamy, which no doubt comes as a complete shock to Time magazine editors. (Joked one person on Twitter: "Missing sub-hed that says 'please, please buy our magazine, we're begging now.' "
Still, the piece struck a nerve. "We are the lazy, entitled narcissists that are going to have to clean up the mess left to us by our parents and grandparents (i.e., fixing the economy, providing health care for all, reducing or affording education, patching world ties, and ending left over discrimination)," one millennial found the energy to type on Facebook.
Others noted that trend pieces on millennials tend to swing between tired attacks on the generation's Internet-fed self-obsession and stories about how they face an extremely tough job market brought about by the constant technological change they've grown up with, while also being burdened by huge student debt and high housing costs.
Maybe the only original thing about Joel Stein's article is that the author is hyper-aware that he has joined the multitudes who came before him to bitch about them young folks, and yet he thinks he is somehow different. "I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow," he writes. "But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof."
Tom Wolfe would probably disagree that he was making an uncorroborated claim when he called the youth of the 1970s, with their discotheques and fancy haircuts and gestalt therapies and sexual freedoms, the Me generation.
Here's a tip for millennials: If you want to be different from and better than your parents' generation, don't start moaning about your children's 10 years from now.