Not every generational researcher agrees on the definition of Generation Me. Most commonly, Generation Me is simply another name for Generation Y, which includes everyone born between the early 1980s and the turn of the century. However, some sociologists extend Generation Me back into the 70s to include a portion of Generation X, because many of the cultural factors that created Generation Me were taking effect at that time. Also, note that the term "the Me Generation" is sometimes applied to Baby Boomers to contrast them with the self-sacrificing Greatest Generation that came before them. If that sounds awfully similar to the way we describe Generation Me, then it may be true that the older generation always thinks the younger one is self-serving and spoiled. To make things more confusing, sometimes "the Me Generation" and "Generation Me" are used interchangeably.
On the other hand, if you've met a lot of Generation Me people, or happen to be one, it's hard to deny an element of truth in the Gen Me identity.
What traits are associated with Generation Me?
- They reject tradition. From wearing informal clothes to work to sexual orientation, Generation Me is less interested in how it's been done in the past, and more interested in what works best for them.
- They believe in themselves. Members of Generation Me not only want to be wealthy and famous, they feel they deserve it.
- They went to college, and some of them stayed there. Generation Me had the importance of higher education drilled into them from an early age, so a large proportion of them went to college, and quite a few continued to grad school and other lengthy educational programs.
- They're unfiltered. A member of Generation Me is more likely to tell you exactly what he or she thinks of you, and is also likely to share every detail of his or her life with you, whether you're interested or not.
- They appear to shun hard work. There's a sense of entitlement that says, "I deserve a great job with a good salary, but I'm not sacrificing my personal life to do it, and I won't be subservient to my boss either."
- They want to be seen as individuals. Whether they're getting tattoos and piercings, wearing unusual clothing or hairstyles, or constantly seeking novel forms of entertainment, Gen Me members put a lot of effort into standing out from the crowd.
Those traits present a simplified view of Generation Me. Of course, not every member possesses all of those traits. While some research has shown such traits to be valid, other research contradicts the view of Generation Me as being any more self-centered than any other young generation. Data shows that each generation throughout the 20th century was seen as being foolish and averse to hard work by the preceding generation. Furthermore, other studies reveal that Generation Me has a greater tendency than prior generations to do charity work or have long-term goals other than material prosperity.
What factors made these self-centered attitudes so prevalent in an entire generation? We'll talk about that next.