“A… a S’mores Pop Tart! Yes! That’s obviously the best kind of Pop Tart!” Satisfied with my result, I scroll from “What Pop Tart Matches Your Zodiac Sign” to “Which One of Zayn Malik’s Tattoos Are You”. It doesn’t matter that I barely know anything about Zayn Malik, let alone his body art, I answer the questions quickly in a frenzied thirst for the moment of gratification: I’m the boom box tattoo that I didn’t know existed. But technicalities are unimportant for the few seconds of reward I get, eyes drinking up the short blurb under my results, written to flatter me. As the words that have been displayed to hundreds of thousands of people flash on to my screen, a smile crosses my face. For these few moments, the vaguest compliments allow me to identify good qualities in myself. Mass production feels so personal when it’s stroking my ego. I scroll to the next quiz.
       I am hardly alone among my generation in a fervent search for external validation. While we might take BuzzFeed quizzes just to pass the time, run a photo blog just to keep a record, or only stay on Facebook for new pictures of our baby cousins, there will always be a reminder that you are catering to an audience.I’m not writing to condemn social media; that’s not a new idea and at this point it is frankly overdone, if not bland and crotchety. Those who do choose to ridicule the ‘iGeneration’ often focus on the idea of self-obsession: young people truly believing that others are interested in what they think, do, and eat for breakfast. In reality, the critics are overlooking the most obvious truth. Far from self-obsession, we have grown up needing other people’s permission to admire ourselves. We are not allowed to independently step up and say – “I look wonderful today” – “I’m really smart” – “I’m good at this specific thing” – because at a certain point, we became ashamed of our capacity for self-love, terrified that it would slip into the narcissism that is apparently so typical of our ‘iGeneration’. But – if you just post that selfie, that test score, that new piece – among other people you can find an outpouring of love. People giving you the compliment you are not allowed to give yourself. We sift through other people’s words, hoping to find proof that they can see the good in us – whether or not we can already see it in ourselves.
      It’s not surprising that we’re scared of self-love. It’s the golden age of advertising, a billion dollars is spent a year to ensure we know that you are less cool, less beautiful, less interesting, less worthwhile, Less Than – that is until you buy this new product. We’re growing up in a stuffed-to-the-gills job market where rampant capitalism has quickly turned towards social Darwinism. What can you do, create, complete – it doesn’t matter. Better to ask yourself if that will make you money. Consider your creative value as a dollar figure. We’ve spent our lifetimes watching movies about the beautiful, sad, young protagonist, who cannot see the good in themselves – and that’s the only reason one other person can see the good in them. Their romantic love interest considers everything they do poetry, looks deep into their eyes, and tells them they’re in love – oh how they wish their love could see their own value. And so we wait – we wait to buy that new product, to take a money-making job, to snag a romantic partner who can love you the way you are not allowed to love yourself. But in the meantime, we can take online quizzes. We can post selfies. We can wait for those around us to pitch in to our self-esteem.

“Which Disney Channel Show Are You?”

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