Yesterday, thousands in the social media industry got upset when a post called “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” In my opinion, the post was not well-written, nor was it supported with facts – two qualities that I find offensive as a reader who wants to take blogging seriously. Earlier today, I wrote my own response to this post on the NMX blog, where I talk about how important it is to develop a conversation around this topic and acknowledge generational differences.
But I also wanted to publish a post here, on my own blog about another topic that arose from the flames of this debate – arrogance and a sense of entitlement.
Many of the comments on the original post were from people 40+ years old. They called the writer childish and were extremely patronizing and defensive. The running theme, I found, was that commenters pointed to this post as an example of just how arrogant and entitled the younger generation – my generation, Generation Y – really is.
A sampling of the comments:
“Meh, a forgettable article written by an arrogant and clueless youth.” – Carolyn Bahm
“There’s that sense of entitlement we’ve come to love from this generation.” – Joe Sickles
“Ah the arrogance of youth and the total lack of understanding the comes with it. I grew up in the Television age, the computer age, the space age. I don’t run a TV company, I don’t own Apple and I’m not an astronaut. I keep aspirin in my medicine cupboard doesn’t make me a pharmacist either!…” - Simon Salt
“There’s that obnoxious sense of entitlement and self-importance I keep running into…! Well said, Lisa.” – Mia Malm
“I am only 31 and still find a huge gap in work ethic and sense of entitlement I see with those new employees, early to mid 20′s especially, that come in the door where I work. It’s amazing how many people feel entitled to their job, even when they are not doing it! If you want to keep your job, you have to work your ass off, prove you can do it and keep doing it even after that. Keeping up with the new ways to reach out to your audience is something ANY professional should/could do, regardless of age…” – Kate Seymour
Make no mistake – arrogance and entitlement are too different things. But I think, in this case, the sense of entitlement comes from the arrogance. In other words, it’s a mindset of, “I’m entitled to this job because I’m better than you.”
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of arrogant is “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride” or “having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability, etc; conceited; overbearingly proud.” You’re confident to the point of being cocky, and you have (or at least give off) the impression that you’re much better than you actually are. Arrogance is typically seen as a negative quality.
Yet, is it truly negative to be arrogant?
If you look at some of the most successful people in the past 20 years, you’ll notice a whole lot of arrogance going on. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have all be called arrogant. Think of the successful people in your own life. Chances are, you consider many of them to be arrogant as well.
Of course, in this case, we’re defining success as rich, famous, and well respected, and many people (myself included) would argue that it takes much more to live a successful life. But undoubtedly success in your career is part of living a successful life, especially when it means you have the means for the pursuit of happiness, philanthropy, and meaningful relationships.
But I digress. The point is that many successful people in the world – if not most successful people in the world – are arrogant. And now, we have an entire generation of “kids” who are “arrogant.”
Arrogance gets stuff done. You’ve heard the saying, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” haven’t you? It’s important to be humble, but it’s also important to believe that you’re better than you really are. That’s how you push yourself to places you never thought you could go. There’s a really great study mentioned on Gigom about how many entrepreneurs are arrogant – and this contributes to their success.
Arrogance gets your voice heard. I feel like one of the main reasons older generation workers are losing jobs to younger workers is that younger workers are willing to shout. It doesn’t matter if you have great ideas, if they are never heard. When you passionately believe in your own abilities and ideas, you may run the risk of being called arrogant, but when you second-guess yourself and hold back, you don’t bring anything to the table.
Arrogance leads to innovation. The “I got this” attitude doesn’t always pan out, but even in failing, an arrogant person learns something new, and this can lead to some awesome innovation. The importance of failure isn’t lost on the arrogant. Our generation is just more likely to internalize these failures. Arrogance has actually been linked to creativity as well – something important to note if you’re going to consider arrogance a purely negative trait.
Arrogance gives you opportunities. If a job ad says that you have to have ten years of experience to apply, and you’re fresh out of college but think you could do the job, you have two options: be arrogant and apply anyway or simply go to the next ad. I’ve been hired more than once for jobs that I “wasn’t qualified for” because I simply said, “I don’t care what the ad says. I know I can do this job.”
Arrogance necessitates hard work. Someone who is arrogant has to constantly prove him- or herself, so they’re going to work harder. It’s a common misconception that someone who is arrogant is lazy. It’s lazier, in my opinion, to say, “I’m still learning,” because it gives you an excuse to not do a beyond amazing job. Studies show that the more arrogant you are, the less often you naturally use the part of your brain involved in reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving (the frontal lobe). So if you want to be on par with those who do, you have to work harder at it.
With arrogance, you of course need some humility. It’s important to understand your own short-comings and continually educate yourself. But I for one am glad that I’m part of an extremely arrogant generation of entrepreneurs who think highly of themselves. Our culture is one of success and progress, so count me in.
This post is not meant to assume there are no bad aspects to being arrogant, but rather to point out that being arrogant isn’t all bad either.
- Will being big on Twitter get you a job? (bbc.co.uk)
- On Being Over 40 and Working in Social Media (blogworld.com)
- Why Age Does Matter in Social Media (farrahhaidar.com)