I was talking with team members on our sales team yesterday, considerably younger than I am but at that point in life where they are increasingly self-aware and conscious of the world around them. We were talking about Instagram and the tendency for people to share even the most mundane moments in their life, to which I replied with unbridled amazement asking why anyone think that someone else would care about such things as you brushing your teeth.
Then, rather coincidentally I read this article today about the rise of narcissism in social media and, apparently, I am not alone in my critique.
We are in an interesting generational transformation in the workplace where people under people under age 34, which incidentally is at the top end of the average Instagram user base, is more prominent and empowered in their place of work. The Cupcake Generation, also known as Millenials, is often credited with initiating shifts in how we communicate, online and otherwise, but like most things in technology the successes of the present are built on the shoulders of those that came before us. It is a mistake to call this generation “more social” because such a description really lacks any objective peer group benchmark to measure against. perhaps it is more accurate to call this generation more un-filtered and less private.
The bigger challenge that Generation Cupcake presents is that of entitlement and self-interest, as evidenced by the generous stoking of narcissism on social sites like Instagram. Adversity and challenge breeds character and attributes like fortitude but when you get a medal for showing up and generous compliment and encouragement, it is not unimaginable to see how that leads to self-entitlement. We have gone from generations that broadly lacked self-esteem to ones that operate with an over-supply of self-esteem.
This generational dynamic factors significantly in the “future of work” meme that many companies are contributing to. We are in a dangerous place when the compliment becomes more important than the construction, and tools like Rypple are heavy on the superficial and fun, light on the meaningful and enduring. The question that remains is how companies make professionals in a manner that brings out their individual best while also contributing to the success of the whole?
Over time these things will sort out, however not always to a happy medium. Witness the Baby Boomers, which are arguably the most selfish generation of modern times and the consequences for this are dire as they grow older and hold expectations about what they will be provided, they may be better described as “Generation Have My Cake and Eat It Too”.