The "Me" generation is a term referring to Baby Boomers in the United States and the self-involved qualities that some people associate with this generation. The 1970s was dubbed the "Me decade" by writer Tom Wolfe; Christopher Lasch wrote about the rise of a culture of narcissism among younger Baby Boomers. The phrase became popular at a time when "self-realization" and "self-fulfillment" were becoming cultural aspirations to which young people supposedly ascribed higher importance than social responsibility.
The cultural change in the United States during the 1970s that was experienced by the Baby Boomers, upon when the majority of them became of age, is complex. The 1960s are remembered as a time of political protests, and radical experimentation with new cultural experiences (the Sexual Revolution, happenings, mainstream awareness of Eastern religions), which were practiced by older Boomers. The Civil Rights Movement, gave rebellious young people serious goals. Cultural experimentation was justified as being directed toward spiritual or intellectual enlightenment. The mid to late 1970s, in contrast, was a time of increased economic crisis and disillusionment with idealistic politics among the young, particularly after the resignation of Richard Nixon and the end of the Vietnam War. Unapologetic hedonism became acceptable among the young.
The new introspectiveness announced the demise of an established set of traditional faiths centred on work and the postponement of gratification, and the emergence of a consumption-oriented lifestyle ethic centred on lived experience and the immediacy of daily lifestyle choices.
The development of a youth culture focusing so heavily on self-fulfillment was also perhaps a reaction against the traits that characterized the older Silent Generationers, which had grown up during the Great Depression and became of age in the 1950s from when the Civil Rights Movement had begun. That generation had learned values associated with self-sacrifice. The deprivations of the Depression had taught that generation to work hard, frugally save money, and to cherish family and community ties. Loyalty to institutions, traditional religious faiths, and other common bonds were what that generation considered to be the cultural foundations of their country. Generation Xers, upon maturing in the 1990s, gradually abandoned those values in large numbers, a development that was entrenched during the 1970s.
Health and exercise fads, New Age spirituality such as Scientology, hot tub parties, self-help programs such as EST (Erhard Seminars Training), and the growth of the self-help book industry became identified with the Baby Boomers during 1970s. Human potential, emotional honesty, "finding yourself", and new therapies became signatures of the culture. The marketing of lifestyle products, eagerly consumed by Baby Boomers with disposable income during the 1970s, became an inescapable part of the culture. Revlon's marketing staff did research into young women's cultural values during the 1970s, revealing that young women were striving to compete with men in the workplace and to express themselves as independent individuals. Revlon launched the "lifestyle" perfume Charlie, with marketing aimed at glamorizing the values of the new 1970s woman, and it became the world's best-selling perfume.
The introspection of the Baby Boomers and their focus on self-fulfillment has been examined in a serious light in pop culture. Films such as An Unmarried Woman (1978), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Ordinary People (1980) and The Big Chill (1983) brought the inner struggles of Baby Boomers to a wide audience. The self-absorbed side of 1970s life was given a sharp and sometimes poignant satirization in Manhattan (1979). More acerbic lampooning came in Shampoo (1975) and Private Benjamin (1980). The Me generation has also been satirized in retrospect, as the generation called "Baby Boomers" reached adulthood, for example, in Parenthood (1989). Forrest Gump (1994) summed up the decade with Gump's cross-country jogging quest for meaning during the 1970s, complete with a tracksuit, which was worn as much as a fashion statement as an athletic necessity during the era.
The satirization of the Me generation's "me first" attitude was the focus of the television sitcom Seinfeld, which does not include conscious moral development for its Boomer characters, but rather the opposite. Its plots do not have teaching lessons for its audience and its creators explicitly held that it was a "show about nothing".
Persistence of the label
The term "Me generation" has persisted over the decades and is connected to Baby Boomers. Some writers, however, have also named the Millennials, upon maturing in the 2010s, as "The Me Generation" or "Generation Me", and Elspeth Reeve in The Atlantic noted that narcissism is a symptom of youth in most generations. Presumably, this even includes the Greatest Generationers, upon maturing in the 1930s. The 1970s was also an era of rising unemployment among the young, continuing erosion of faith in conventional social institutions, and political and ideological aimlessness. This was the environment that popularized Punk rock among America's disaffected youth. By 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, Baby Boomers increasingly adopted conservative political and cultural priorities.
As Eastern religions and rituals such as yoga grew during the 1970s, at least one writer observed a New Age corruption of the popular understanding of "realization" taught by Neo-Vedantic practitioners, away from spiritual realization and toward "self-realization". The leading edge of the Baby Boomers, who were counter-culture "hippies" and political activists during the 1960s, have been referred to sympathetically as the "Now generation", in contrast to the Me generation.
- Generation Jones
- OK boomer
- The "Me" Decade and the Third Great Awakening
- The Culture of Narcissism
- Snowflake (Derogatory)
- Us Festival
- Henderson, Amy (15 October 2014). "When It Comes To the Baby Boomers, It Is Still All About "Me"". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
- "Tom Wolfe on the 'Me' Decade in America -- New York Magazine".
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- Patterson, James T. (1997). Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974. Oxford University Press. pp. 315, 328–9. ISBN 978-0-19-511797-4.
- Mccleary, John Bassett (22 May 2013). Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s. Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. ISBN 9780307814333 – via Google Books.
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me generation 1970s.
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- Bristow, Jennie (2015). Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict. Macmillan Publishers.
- "Are Millennials really the 'Me' generation?". USA Today.
- Reeve, Elspeth. "Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation". The Atlantic.
- De Michelis, Elizabeth (2005). A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-8264-8772-8.
- McCleary, John Bassett & Joan Jeffers McCleary (2004). The Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia (And Phraseicon) of the 1960s and 1970s. Random House Digital Inc. p. 337. ISBN 978-1-58008-547-2.