Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

We seem to have an uncontrollable urge to emote, to share, to treat life as an Oprah -esque talk show.
We seem to have an uncontrollable urge to emote, to share, to treat life as an Oprah -esque talk show.

Life: Sarah Hampson

The Me Decade Add to ...

My fingers are cold. This chair is uncomfortable. And the concentration here in the newsroom is so intense, you'd think we were assembling nuclear devices, not sentences.

Sorry - I had to assume that any situation-of-the-moment has some value, because that's the kind of decade we have lived through: the apotheosis of the personal, whether you care to know it or not.

Novelist Tom Wolfe put his finger on what was then a nascent trend, a new preoccupation with self-awareness, way back in the seventies, which he called the "Me Decade."

And now? Well, think of what we are now leaving as the Me-Me-Me Decade.

The retreat from the collective to a celebration of the individual is not all bad, of course, not when you consider the joy of self-selected entertainment and convenient product modification. Who doesn't like a self-edited world? Those Apple folk fully understood the giddy rise of solipsism by putting our favourite pronoun - i - as the prefix on every product, smack dab at the centre of our world as a consumer.

But the savvy attention to the needs of Me - we hired life coaches and professional shoppers, expected personal trainers to transform our bodies - has somehow led the individual to make an annoying assumption: The world is paying him specialized attention, ergo, the world wants to know what he's doing now, how he feels, and whether his kid barfed up his breakfast. We seem to have an uncontrollable urge to emote, to share, to treat life as an Oprah-esque talk show.

It's as if humanity - the Western part of it, anyway - is in a collective teenage moment. We are anxious to individuate, a tendency manifested in our obsession with social media, our relentless blogging about nothing. We want to be heard and seen.

Yet we also make it easy for everyone to be the same. Everyone can have style, courtesy of mall-store versions of brand-name designers. Every home can have a bit of Martha. Everyone has access to the same information. Everyone sips from the same cup. It's only natural that people would want to make clear how they are different and use their individual experience as a tiny protest against the mass embrace of values and products.

Well, maybe as we tip into 2010, we're experiencing the crest of the Me wave. We can only hope. To put it in perspective, let me remind Net Gen types out there that while they may think that all their tech wizardry is revolutionizing the world (which, granted, it is), they are simply continuing a trend begun by that most annoyingly self-reverential generation, the Boomers. So, come on, think up something completely new, will ya?

I could be wrong, of course. You may love how the world has evolved. This tirade could just be about me.

Sarah Hampson

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @Hampsonwrites

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular