The Selfie Generation Learns to Lead (or Not)

My four children who are now in their twenties and early thirties belong to the last generation who grew up without owning or being surrounded by cellphones until they were in late high school or even college. They, like the generations before them, did not spend hours in high school checking their social media to see who was having more fun than they were, and who might be having a party to which they were not invited.

Today’s children are growing up surrounded by people for whom cell phone (now Smartphone) use is a daily, or even hourly event: parents who document their children’s every move and development by taking and posting pictures online; teachers who send home to parents pictures of their offspring engaged in some fun/educational/ amazing activity; grandparents, who instead of actually watching the soccer game or the dance recital, are instead, staring through the lens of a smartphone or i-gadget to record the event.

This generation of children knows just how to pose for the photos or video recording. They can make cute fishy faces or stand with hand on hip in a pseudo sorority girl stance. They take for granted that they are often the center of attention. They are learning about their own importance, not in the way Mr. Rogers or a character on Sesame Street might have explained it, but instead in a way that could easily give them a falsely inflated sense of their own importance. Then, once these oft-photographed children get their own Smartphones (which is happening at a younger and younger age), they move on to documenting their own life by taking selfies and posting them online.

I worry about this current generation as they grow and develop into young adults. Are they being set up to think of themselves only as leaders, not followers? Ninety-one percent of teens have posted a selfie. Each of those may have hundreds of followers. If you have “followers,” then, by definition, you must be a leader. Right?

In Piece about millenials written for Slate magazine, James Rosebush writes,

“The Selfie phenomenon might have us becoming so mesmerized by our own images that we may actually think that we are our own leaders — our own individual startup enterprise — and that we don’t need to listen to anyone else for guidance, adhere to orders, or to ever be subordinate to anyone.”

Rosebush recounts a story of seeing a sign in Trader Joe’s which read “Leaders wanted.” What they actually wanted was stockers for the frozen fish department. In this world where every person in the center of his own universe who will be a follower? Who will want to help and support the true leaders. Leaders need followers and vice versa.

An article in Slate calls the selfie, when taken by a girl or woman, “A tiny burst of girl-pride.” But is it more self-absorbtion than self-esteem? When a person constantly puts herself front and center, something about her feeling of herself in the world changes.

When the focus is on the self there can be no common goals. When self comes first, self -confidence gives way to something that does not allow for an ethical and thoughtful group effort. Energy spent on promoting oneself, is energy not used in making the world a better place. Is the current generation of children being raised to see themselves as deserving to be always front and center, always the funniest, the best, the smartest…the Leader. If so, what do we do about that?

selfieReferences:

(2014, March 11). Why Companies Must Discourage ‘Selfies’ Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2014/03/11/why-companies-must=discourage-selfies/

Rosebush, J. (2014, September 30). Why Selfies Are Degrading Leadership. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-selfies-and-leadership-2014-9

Simmons, R. (2013, November 20). In Defense of the Selfie as a Tiny Burst of Girl Pride. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/11/selfies_on_instagram_and_facebook_are_tiny_bursts_of_girl_pride.html

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