All Millennials (Except Me) Are Selfish

One day, someone said to himself, “You know what the Internet needs? Memes of strange, clever little compliments on a pastel template.” And so Daily Odd Compliment was born (at least, this is how it happened in my mind). Thousands of people like and share these memes Facebook, tagging various friends, significant others, and secret crushes to award the compliment to them.

I found a ton templates for these. Apparently it's a thing.

I found a ton templates for these. Apparently it’s a thing.

The idea is wonderful. Some of the compliments are quite funny. But I’ve noticed recently that they’ve gotten a bit…similar. As I was reading recently, I wondered who the speaker was complimenting: the other person . . . or himself?

I decided to do a little research. By which I mean I went through the 30 most recent Daily Odd Compliments and counted pronouns, comparing the occurrences of you/your/yours to I/me/mine/my.

Final Score: 49 “you”s to 80 “me”s.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that a little off-balance for a site that’s supposed to be about complimenting others.

But anyone who knows anything about statistics will tell you that this isn’t always an accurate way to measure things. So here are some examples of “me”-centered compliments.

Selfish5

Selfish2

Selfish1

Selfish4

 

SELFISH

But, you say, there are hundreds of these on the site. You probably just picked the worst ones to post here.

Nope. These were from the 20 most recent posts when I wrote this blog. And I didn’t show you another 5 of these that I also classified as blatantly selfish from that same set. So 50% of the compliments were more focused on me than you.

Yes, they’re supposed to be funny. I write satire blog posts occasionally, and know what it’s like to have some serious person not get the joke. But, come on. 50% of compliments like this? How often do I have to drag my own virtues, even jokingly, into something posing as a compliment before you start to wonder who this compliment is really all about?

At first, I was extremely annoyed by this and wanted to go off on a rant about how the generation that invented the “selfie” is so narcissistic that even compliments become self-focused. I probably would have blamed it on social media and stupid pop singers and a culture that elevates fame and success above intelligence and actual contribution to society because of Photoshop and Hollywood and good grief, people, stop taking Buzzfeed quizzes, write someone an actual letter about the real, non-TV things you’re doing in your life, and eat something that doesn’t come out of a box!

Then I thought about my last 30 lunchtime conversations. What if someone had counted up the number of times I used I/me/my/mine compared to you/your/yours?

I have a feeling the percentage would be just as bad, if not worse.

It’s easy for me to talk about me and tell stories about me and direct the conversation toward things I find interesting.

This was the motto on my class T-shirt senior year. I didn't have a chance.

This was the motto on my class T-shirt senior year of high school. I didn’t have a chance.

But talking about you means I have to actually remember stuff about you from past conversations and let you do most of the contributing and risk the fact that I might not care about what you’re saying. Who wants to do that? Not me.

Probably the worst of it is, as a Christian, this is what I’m called to do: to put others before myself. (Stupid greatest commandments.)

It’s hard to rant against this generation when you realize you’re a member of it, part of the problem.

Hypocrisy. Gets me every time.

Sometime, stop and do a word count on yourself. How many words do you use to encourage others and get to know them compared to the words you spend making people see you in a certain way or talking about yourself?

There is a time and place for a rant. But sometimes a resolution is a better choice.

Now, go stop taking Buzzfeed quizzes, write someone a letter, and eat something that doesn’t come out of a box.

4 comments

  1. All of the this! Reminds me of Art of Manliness’s post about conversational narcissism, in which the unconscious goal is to steer the conversation toward oneself: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/05/01/the-art-of-conversation-how-to-avoid-conversational-narcissism/

    However, ALSO reminds me, weirdly, of contemporary worship music. I haven’t done any research on this; I just notice that some songs, ostensibly about God, have lyrics that read like a Daily Odd Compliment.

    1. Love that article. There’s a cartoon I have taped to my desk about people who wait to talk instead of listening. And I do that.

      And my instinct is to agree with you on the contemporary worship songs…but I don’t know if there are a higher percentage of “me” worship songs or if that’s just my perception. Maybe there were a bunch of shallow, selfish hymns too, and it’s just that the well-written and theologically deep ones had staying power while the others didn’t. (Let’s hope that happens with all Christian art.)

  2. While I would certainly never argue that our generation, including myself, and the human race as a whole tends towards narcissism in a plethora of different ways, I’m not entirely sure I agree with your assessment of the DOC memes you referenced. Well, not entirely at least.

    For one thing I think there’s a sense in which, in certain contexts, being self-congratulatory can be self-deprecating. This happens when the narcissism that comes out of one’s mouth juxtaposes the reality of the situation. If I were to compliment a guy on how great of shape he’s in by saying “No really, you look great, but just think if you put a little extra effort into it you could have all this *gestures to self*.” it would be obvious to anyone with eyes that I’m drawing attention to how not in shape I am by comparison. As I see it it’s just a means of subverting the conversational expectations to drive the point home more forcefully.

    Also, there’s a way in which it’s hard to talk about the way someone is a good friend to /me/ without referencing the way that that person acts towards /me/ makes /me/ feel, which could account for some of the disparity in pronouns. Now, could you do a DOC from a more third person stand point? I suppose so, but that might be a little less personal.

    Anyway, that’s my $0.02. 🙂

    – Jake

    1. Hmm, good point, Jake. When I think about the compliments that have been most meaningful to me, many of them have been about the impact I had on the other person’s life…meaning they talked about themselves as much if not more than they did about me. You’re right that there’s nothing wrong with first-person-driven compliments. “I can always trust you to understand what I’m saying and not judge me” is probably more meaningful than “Your outfit looks good,” even though the first one uses three times as many “me” pronouns.

      However, I’d still say that most of the DOC “me-focused” compliments I listed aren’t all that deep. And, on an even more basic level that I didn’t bring up, almost all the recent DOCs are about what the two people have in common–how you are similar to me, and how I appreciate that. (These are the new ones; the old ones are much less like this.) Hardly any of them are about how you are different from me or challenge me to change or make me think about things in a new way or how I look up to you and want to be more like you. Maybe I notice this more because that’s what I most appreciate in the people I want to compliment.

      But yes, third-person DOCs would be awful.

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