Someone please convince me that age is catching up with me. Or that the only reason generations younger than my own irritate me is because of the ‘generation gap', the term widely used when older and younger people do not understand each other because of their different experiences, opinions, habits and behaviour.
Unfortunately though, my (supposedly biased) reservations about the behavioural trends of today's youth are confirmed by another popular term: ‘the entitled generation', or Generation Y. Born in the 1980s and 90s, they certainly exhibit traits different to the generations before them.
Many people think these young men and women, who carry on as if they have the universe in their pockets might be just the thing for our troubled world. They are idealistic to the point of being utopian, and determined to say — and do — what they believe in. Their chances of succeeding in what they set out to achieve are far better than those of anyone else. So I guess that means not everyone is chafed by their smart alec attitude, although personally, I don't see anyone who is too full of him or herself doing too well in life.
Last weekend, while attending a birthday party, I had a chance to interact with just these people — the 18-plus and 20-somethings generation.
I, for one, was taken back by the narcissism that prevails in them, no matter how productive that might be. People as young as 18 have reached the conclusion that ‘their' opinion on everything is what really matters. So whether the talk revolved around education, politics (both local and international), the environment or nationalisation in the UAE, everyone had something to say — something smart, let me add. Please don't start thinking that I am just using this platform to voice my resentment about never having the opportunity to speak my mind like they do. I have nothing against an astute youth with a mind of his or her own. In fact, that is the best thing that the new media revolution has brought into our houses.
Young people are now savvy enough to decode information quickly and accurately. Contrary to our worries, they are much better than we are in dealing with this new form of bullying that has evolved with the ‘online experience' — cyber-bullying. But in this new media era, it is also true that anyone can be intelligent with the tap of a button, or click of a mouse. Young people can download or buy all the definitions, essays and research papers that they need to shine in the classroom and beyond.
Armed with university degrees (and a whole lot of self-esteem), these 20-somethings then move on to expect high salaries, and lots of time off. And more often than not, they get away with getting both!
But is such presumptuous behaviour all that great — even for themselves? Their Emotional Intelligence quotient seems close to the zero mark (which means they tend not to care for the feelings of others). Yet, they are extremely sensitive to criticism themselves. While they are incapable of cheering the successes of others, they expect to be lauded, even when their work is sub-standard. Also, because they are incapable of learning from others, they refuse to listen to advice, and even ignore the dictates of common sense. Eventually, when they do fail, their sense of disappointment and depression is often extreme.
Perhaps it would be best if, as parents, teachers or mentors, we could back off on the ‘praise words' just a little. High on self-esteem, they appear quite over-dosed. It might be a bit too late, but if only we could explain to this generation that entitlement is great, but only when it comes with enlightenment — the kind that comes with experience.
Rabia Alavi is a Dubai-based writer. You can follow her at www.twitter.com/RabiaAlavi