'You're special' - don't let it go to your head

College students are more narcissistic and self-centered than in years past, according to a new study. As a recent college graduate, and member of Generation Y (also known, aptly, as the Me Generation) I have one comment: duh.

The narcissistic youth had their choice of electronic gadgets, and we see the result of that: Internet social clubs that promote self-worship, otherwise known as Facebook.com, MySpace.com and a new one called CollegeHotList.com.

Still, narcissistic is a pretty strong word. This personality is characterized by extreme selfishness with a grandiose view of oneself. It's a characteristic of serial killers. Creepy.

As I read the Associated Press report this week I couldn't help but be impressed by all the work invested to determine the depth of the college student's ego.

Five psychologists examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

According to the AP story, scores on this narcissism inventory have risen steadily since 1982. In 2006, two-thirds had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982. That's a test you wouldn't want to "pass."

I argue that those in their teens to 20s, whether in 2006, 1906 or 1806 are the most selfish creatures alive. That's the whole point of being 20. You are trying to figure out who you are; you're obsessed with pleasing people, finding pleasure and determining your identity.

I think teens and 20-somethings are just being more honest. And wouldn't we rather have them aware of their narcissism than happily obtuse or indifferent to it?

But, I'm not excusing them. Having weathered this self-focused period of my life (I think I started early) I still feel a sense of duty in belittling them. As any of my friends under 21 know.

The assessment found that today's college students are often in and out of short-lived relationships, which is one characteristic of narcissistic behavior.

While listening to National Public Radio this week I heard one college senior comment on this revelation:

"That's not true, I recently got out of a four-year relationship!"

I laughed. She had no clue that she was affirming the study.

But I'm not worried. Most of them will change.

Some will find identity or security in material things - then they may turn out just like their parents and grandparents and give it away.

The number of individual donations of $100 million or more hit a record in 2006, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Warren Buffett's $43.5 billion stock gift to several groups, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was the largest, but the philanthropy of the country's 60 most generous givers hit a record $7 billion in 2006.

Your Generation Y child probably won't be a billionaire, but I bet they'll give a lot away. At least, those who plan well and follow a monthly budget, will. Start encouraging them now.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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