We’re So Vain: How to See the Leaves

Obrien_HowtoseetheleavesNarcissus was the hottest guy in Greek life—ancient Greek life, that is. His chiseled features, blue eyes and toga showed just the right amount of thigh. Narcissus divided his time between hunting lions and being fanned by leaves. He also loved his Vineyard Vines…you know, the stems that held the grapes that his Grecian ladies fed to him.

Word of Narcissus’s escapades with women got around to Nemesis, Greek Mythology’s goddess of revenge. The goddess was unhappy with what she heard and took action. Nemesis lured the unknowing hunter to a pool of water. He looked down into the pool, and he saw the face of the most perfect man in the world: himself. Narcissus had finally found his soul mate. He stayed there day after day, staring at his love. He wished so badly he could act on his feelings, but he couldn’t. It was merely a reflection. Driven mad with longing, Narcissus died while gazing into his own eyes.


The word narcissism stems from the Narcissus’s name, meaning excessive interest in oneself and physical appearance. Now, why is it that the tale of Narcissus is centuries old, yet still manages to hit a nerve? Maybe we have more in common with the ancient Greeks than we think. I am referring to Generation Y (all of us aged 18-29). After extensive studying, science has agreed on one thing: we all love ourselves way too much.

The labels “Millennials” and “Generation Me” have also been coined for our age group. Parents, also known as Baby Boomers, have pushed this importance of having strong self-esteem from a young age.

You know you’re apart of Generation Me if you’ve ever said…
“Like, I need find myself and live my life. I can’t settle down right now.”

We just can’t be tied down. Blame it on our commitment phobia. Less and less of us feel the need to marry because we’re too focused on making our own lives first. Only 20 percent of today’s adults ages 18-29 are married, versus the 59 percent in 1960.

It’s the “You stop moving, you die” mentality. We’re always on to the next. Whether it’s the next relationship or the next job, Millennials stay at their jobs for an average of only two years.

 “I don’t really know what I’m gonna do yet. But I definitely think I’ll be successful in whatever I choose.”

When our commitment phobia combines with our inflated self-confidence, this is what you get. We can’t make an absolute decision about our futures, yet believe that it will all work out anyway. 96 percent of Millennials believe we’ll do something great in our lives. Our number one goal is to get rich (81 percent). Our number two goal is to become famous (51 percent).

While we all want fame, it’s just not possible for everyone. So we’ve dialed it down to a smaller scale: our online profiles. Social media is a breeding ground for narcissism. It is our way of projecting a self-image of our own making. In a world of Facebook profiles, tweets and selfies, is it possible that the pool of water is to Narcissus as the iPhone screen is to us?

The truth is we cannot define ourselves by the number of likes on a photo.

  • 40 percent of us check Facebook more than 10 times a day.
  • 76 percent of us spend more than one hour a day on Facebook.
  • 58 percent of us say we use Twitter “all of the time.”

After reading these stats, I couldn’t help but picture of all of us as grandmas and grandpas. Will we still be using Facebook? Probably. The average person spends two years of their life in the bathroom. The average person spends three years of their life at a stoplight. On our death beds, how many years of our lives will we have spent with our heads buried in our iPhones and laptops? I get it—it’s a nasty catch 22. We want to live a full life that doesn’t consist of being absorbed in social media. At the same time, however, not being involved in social media can make us feel as if we are missing out.

In truth, I don’t have any solution to this problem. I’m as guilty of all of the above as my fellow Millennials are. But what we should learn is to take a step back sometimes. Keep your phone in your pocket on the way to class, instead of playing Candy Crush while walking to avoid eye contact. Don’t check your emails for a couple of hours. And next time you look at the trees, think about it. Are you really seeing those beautiful changing leaves outside of Pattee Library? Or are you just seeing them as an opportunity to Instagram?

Photo by Alex O’Brien 


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