Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tayler Gray as a Symptom of the "Selfies"

In a news cycle starved for any hint of controversy, an Allentown, PA's high-school student's tacky and disrespectful middle finger to her peers grabbed headlines. Tayler Gray, graduating senior, has been lauded by the media and thousands of social media supporters for her courageous act-- to receive her diploma and then walk right out of the auditorium.

"I got mine, so long suckas"

The sad news about such widespread attention is that her 15 seconds of fame will inevitably lead to an unsatisfying lifetime of hardship. 

When we can witness such cold narcissism in action, it tells us a lot about the person, her parents, and the values she holds.  Apparently she is an aspiring ultrasound technician.  I would not let her perform any medical procedure on me. The last thing I need as a patient is a procedure conducted by someone that believes she's more important than the rest of us.

If I was the principal, I'd ask for the diploma back until she apologized to her class.  If I was her parent, I would demand that she apologize to her class publicly, then spend the summer conducting community service. My guess is that her parent(s) applaud her bravado. 

Tayler is a snapshot of a sad population within the Millennials that I like to call the "selfies".  While I'm inspired by so many high school and college students that seem to have a fresh genuine concern about people and planet, there is a sub-population that has an enormous sense of self-entitlement, narcissistic focus, and worse, are proud to give a big F-U to the rest of us. 

In my workplace we thrive as a team.  We care for each other, celebrate each others' success, and solve problems by leveraging our strengths.  Tayler would never be welcome on that team.  

Graduations are not about you.  Graduations are about us.  I already have a high school degree and three college degrees, but as a professor I still show up at graduation to celebrate the successes of my students and to honor the institution that provided the mechanism of their minting. 

I do it for my students, I do it for the school, but I also do it for me.

See Tayler, it is possible to derive enormous satisfaction from the joy of others, from service, from being part of something much bigger than ourselves.  I know you were in a hurry to leave, beat the traffic, maybe grab lunch with your family.  Think about how little those events are in the big scheme of things.

Congratulations on being a hero to those with the blinders that only allow them to see the mirror.  You are a snapshot of what is wrong with people today, and a poster child for something we desperately need to change. 

Graduations are referred to as Commencements, an initiation or a start, a seemingly strange term for a convocation at the end of an academic endeavor.  But it fits perfectly because it is a new beginning-- this is the start of your life.

In your first steps into life, you demonstrated your conceit to the world.  Maybe it is a good time to check that ego, think outside yourself, and experience the satisfaction that comes when we put others and our togetherness ahead of ourselves. 

A Response to Carey Gillam