Too Much "Me"


A more personal blog from me today as founder of the Humanity Project – but on a topic that very much involves our organization’s mission. For some long while now, I’ve been noticing something new in our society. I can sum it up in one word: “Me.” 

Our culture always has rewarded a me-first attitude, of course. Children are encouraged to compete against others and win rather than to compete against themselves and improve. Adults are encouraged to go for the bigger title and more pay whether or not that’s fulfilling for them and helpful to others. There’s nothing new about this habit in Western society, especially the United States: “Look at my new hat, look at my new car, look at my new shoes, look at my new haircut, look at my prestigious award or my exotic vacation or my gorgeous spouse.” And social media only has intensified this trend. Now we have selfies of … everything. All me, only me, all the time, me me me. You get to see my breakfast eggs and my Happy Hour and my dog’s Halloween outfit. “Hey, look at me!”

But now all this “me” appears to have a new outlet. Our language. And this is my point. If you listen closely to people talking, many folks nowadays use the word “me” in a way that I find different and disturbing. Because the word “me” often precedes every other name in a sentence. I hear this all the time. I hear it from famous celebrities and actors and talk show hosts. I hear it from politicians. I hear it from everyday people. It may be a sentence of the grossly ungrammatical variety: “Me and Jim went to the ballgame.” Or it may be simply a revealing reversal of the standard wording taught in schools and in educated families during decades past: “The ballgame was a fun day for me and Jim.”

I’d always learned the opposite. The other person’s name comes first, as in “The ballgame was a fun day for Jim and me.” Or if expressing the idea in the first example above: “Jim and I went to the ballgame.”

In some ways, obviously, this is a very small thing. But again, I find it revealing. And yes, troubling. To me, it suggests that more and more people are becoming more and more obsessed with “me” at a very deep psychological level. Me first, always – even in the way we speak our casual thoughts. And here’s where all this ties in with the Humanity Project’s mission. We are a nonprofit that helps kids to help kids, children teaching their peers through collaboration that strengthens feelings of self-value for everyone touched by our programs: the kids who create and teach the programs, the kids who learn the programs’ lessons. We firmly believe that the only way to live a truly fulfilling life is to focus our talents and experience on helping other people in meaningful ways. It’s not about self-obsession, it’s about rising above self. Our programs show young people how to lift themselves in the process of helping to lift others. And this requires teamwork. It requires “us,” not “me.”

So I offer this minor observation today about a new social trend in hopes of getting more of us to think. To think about the role of “me” in our own lives. And more importantly, to think as often as possible about “us.”