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Are We Living In An Age Of Selfishness?

By Features Desk

Thursday, July 6, 2017.

It’s part of the cultural landscape now, the Twitter feeds, the Instagram accounts, and the endless Facebook updates, so it begs the question, are we living in an age of selfishness? And the common selfie is one small part of the equation, we are accustomed to putting our entire lives online in the hope of getting likes and some screen approval. But as the younger generations are now growing up in an age where smartphones, selfies, and updates are part of the social norm, are we not just living in a culture of selfishness, but are we actively encouraging it?


The average lifespan of a person amounts to 27,375 days, and the amount of selfies taken during the course of Generation Z’s lifetime is 25,700, that isn’t too far off one to two selfies a day. Now Sourcing and Frames Direct conducted a study on the amount of time the average millennial will spend on a selfie, and in total it’s an hour a week, that includes taking the picture, as well as retaking (and retaking) it, and editing it before uploading. The selfie is only one side of the story, and as people are uploading their lives online for all to see, this has its positive and negative effects on everyone who are witness to it. The benefits of social media from a freelancer and promotion perspective are great, and for those people who are self-employed, social media is a massive part of their promotion technique.

People will use social media to advertise products and bloggers and vloggers rely on these methods of communication to have an audience. The notion of communicating what we have to say via this small screen is commonplace, and it has its positives and negatives.

The Age Of Entitlement?

So is being “selfish” just a generational thing? It appears that as time wears on, and there are more and more issues that crop up that encourage people to look after their own, such as the economy, it’s not really surprising that everyone is selfish to an extent. We live in an age of instability, and wherever you may come from, the fact is that there are quite a few people less inclined to help, and it, unfortunately, takes something as severe as a national tragedy to see any tales of selflessness. But looking at the UK, where healthcare is becoming a privilege rather than a right, and in the US, where healthcare has been something so many have to pay for, it becomes a sorry state of circumstances when you have to prioritize yourself above someone else. And like any epidemic, it only takes the right carrier for it to spread like wildfire. In this respect, the healthcare situation is the perfect metaphor, especially with the amount of healthcare startups in the US popping up because entrepreneurs are noticing the fact that people are in dire need of more help nowadays.    

Where Does All This Stem From?

The age of reality TV has shown that people can aspire to fame and fortune without really having to work for it. And as a message to the older generation, this is quite an insult, but while there are plenty of people who have now come out the other side of the reality fame machine, they have ended up working back in normal jobs and have continually warned others against the price of fame. Looking at something like reality TV, it stemmed from a way to inject drama into television for a cheap cost and appealing to our own tendency to eavesdrop.

And with there being so many variations of reality television, the younger generations who grew up with it dominating their TV screens, being exposed to lifestyles of the rich and famous, it’s not surprising that this has filtered into their minds. Couple this with heavy use of social media and how everyone else is having a better time than you, FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, kicks in. It’s been a consistent argument by the generation before that the young people are being raised as sub-intelligent species, but does this mean that they are actually “selfish?” Arguably, as they have access to more information than any other generation prior, millennials are more considerate of other people’s cultures and races now because of overexposure to different art forms, music, and TV, and this is all thanks to the internet.

The internet can be to blame for a lot of things, but it can't be to blame for a lack of diversity in the world. The internet and social media are used as tools for hate a lot of the time, but as a tool for love, it’s just as popular. A number of celebrities who quit Twitter because of a torrent of abuse were quick to point out that there were as many messages of support. But, as it’s human nature to take something so biting personally, one comment can ruin your whole day. Selfishness, by this definition, is purely about being protective, and who can blame someone if they’ve got so many messages of hate?


What Factors Encourage Selfishness Now?

The value of money has deteriorated too, and not just in terms of interest, but as the younger generations struggle to buy a home because they're not able to afford it, the fact is that everyone who isn’t born into money is inclined to tighten their purse strings. It’s hardly surprising that there are people who are dying to keep their money to themselves because they have so little of it. In this respect, you can't blame someone for holding onto what little money they have. And while being thrifty is a lifelong habit for so many of us, the other end of the spectrum can cause issues too. You read about people who win the lottery jackpots spending their winnings on everything they can get their hands on, and so it becomes too much to handle. By being so careful about every penny to be able to buy anything you want often results in those people seemingly well off filing for bankruptcy or ending up going back to their old job. Finances are a massive part of being “selfish,” but rather than term it like that, being “careful” might be a better choice of word.

What's The Solution?

While it’s somewhat impossible to get a solution to selfishness, the selfie generation has spawned a sub-generation where the opposite is more important. We live in the age of environmental concern and sustainability, and this is nothing new. But the younger generations are firmly being split into two camps: those that are looking after their best interests, and the other camp is the person with the not for profit mindset. If you look around the world, there are plenty of not for profit (NFP) organizations doing the rounds. And while the standard view of the entrepreneur is someone who values the green of money, it is the entrepreneur with foresight who values the other green, the one that is key to future generations. The grassroots method of clubbing together to make the world better has been evident in crowd funding for NFPs, as well as the 2017 General Election in the UK, where the Labour Party gathered more than their expected share of votes due to appealing to the youth of Britain. It could be argued that the state of helping thy brother has never been in ruder health!

What's The Future Of Selfishness?

You can look back on generations before and learn from their mistakes. But as now the Generation Z is somewhat of a blank canvas, because of tech making such a giant leap forward, it’s impossible to tell what the future will bring. Humanity is evolving at such a rapid rate, that maybe the selfie or the social media trends will become redundant, and we’ll realize how pointless it is to take pictures of our meals? Maybe, but while society is being squeezed so tightly that it has no choice but to look after itself, it means that this trend of looking after your own interests won't die down anytime soon.

But if each and every one of us can start to look inward for the right things to communicate to everyone instead of selfies and empty status updates, then maybe the message can carry better. Gratitude and mindfulness are two big buzzwords you hear a lot now, and this is because we probably need them now more than ever. You can practice gratitude every day, and you can continue to be mindful in a world that is ever-changing because it’s good for you. And like the grassroots campaigns of old, the irony being is that we can't solve the problem of selfishness until we look right there, into ourselves. If we are to solve any problem, that’s the best place to start. It’s a bitter irony that to find out what's inherently selfish about each and every one of us, but if we all began to do this, we can find out the root cause and finally start to improve how we interact with our brother or sister.     

Are We Living In An Age Of Selfishness?

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