“When they’re little it seems cute to tell them they’re special or a princess or a rock star or whatever their T-shirt says.
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Each country’s millennials are different, but because of globalization, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change, millennials worldwide are more similar to one another than to older generations within their nations. Millennials have come of age in the era of the quantified self, recording their daily steps on Fit Bit, their whereabouts every hour of every day on Place Me and their genetic data on 23 and Me.
Even in China, where family history is more important than any individual, the Internet, urbanization and the one-child policy have created a generation as overconfident and self-involved as the Western one. They have less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group.
And these aren’t just rich-kid problems: poor millennials have even higher rates of narcissism, materialism and technology addiction in their ghetto-fabulous lives. This is a generation that would have made Walt Whitman wonder if maybe they should try singing a song of someone else.
They are the most threatening and exciting generation since the baby boomers brought about social revolution, not because they’re trying to take over the Establishment but because they’re growing up without one. They got this way partly because, in the 1970s, people wanted to improve kids’ chances of success by instilling self-esteem.
The Industrial Revolution made individuals far more powerful–they could move to a city, start a business, read and form organizations. It turns out that self-esteem is great for getting a job or hooking up at a bar but not so great for keeping a job or a relationship.