If you're going to write about how self-involved Millennials are, you'd better be prepared for that generation to complain about you on all forms of social media. Or you might have asked for the piece to be written because you're a totally brilliant editor who enjoys traffic trolling. At least, that's what many people pointed out Thursday – fittingly on Twitter – after the release of Joel Stein's Time magazine article about the growing narcissism of Millennials.
Stein starts off with bold claims – ones that were swiftly called into question by The Atlantic Wire, among others – like the following:
"The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58 percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982."
At the Atlantic Wire, Elspeth Reeve rejected Stein's claims based off of other data (there's always other data), but also outlined about "a century or so of culture writers declaring the youth to be self-obsessed little monsters", through articles published by her own publication, as well as New York magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek, etc. Over at the Daily Intel, Joe Coscarelli compared the piece to Tom Wolfe's "The Me Decade" from 1976. And there's also a video featuring Stein (which is not behind a paywall like the main piece is) of which Logan Sachon at The Billfold wrote, "Oh, but this video. I just can’t with this video."
At least Stein hedged this backlash off at the pass by acknowledging that he's just the latest in a legacy of writers tackling a topic bound to get hate. He starts his piece off by explaining, "I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow." As Marmee always said in Little Women, "Repetition is the mother of invention." (No, she didn't, she said "necessity." But whatever.)
The cover – which features a girl taking a selfie with her iPhone – wasn't spared any heat either; Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress chastised the art design for its implication that it's women who are "self-absorbed, or entitled, or dependent." She also said:
"Dependence, interiority, and the careful construction of fantasy lives aren’t solely the provenance of girls and women of course, but they’re traits that are coded as feminine. And technology and economics have made those traits much more visible when men and women display them."
This cover might be all those things, but it's spawned some of the best spoofs (Edit: perhaps jump-started by Kotaku's Chris Person) since Time magazine's last big cover debacle, forever known as Hot Mom Breastfeeding a Grown Child. This is the future, folks, wherein the best part of a controversial piece isn't the actual writing, but rather the audience's meme-y response. Like this personal favorite: