November 18, 2012
In Generation Me, a comprehensive look into the current generation’s attitude towards the self, the differences from previous generations, and the overall effects of current social forces on the individual, Jean Twenge makes many observations on controversial topics. Though making many wild claims, we can only agree with the staggering amount of research and evidence she presents.
Twenge begins her book with a chapter titled “You Don’t Need Their Approval: The Decline of Social Rules”. In this chapter, she explores the idea that the society of Generation Me, quantified as individuals born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, is becoming ...view middle of the document...
Twenge deduces that these attitudes are a result of the manner of social interaction in modern society and the sanctions given in response.
Twenge argues that this change was implanted into our generation through institutions. A child going through the process of education now is not met with challenge and structure, but with an encouraging attitude towards efforts of any extent. This means that instead of being influenced to strive towards success, students are met with an acceptance of mediocrity and affirmation that one’s “personal best” will always be more than enough. This is also seen in the way Generation Me treats experts and authority. The belief in the individual has been taken too far; Instead of presenting respect and curiosity, our generation has learned to question authority. Formality, mannerly conduct, and general concern for others have extremely decreased in society’s concerns. The stress within classrooms on self-esteem has lead not towards healthy individualism but a self-centered perspective on how the world works.
Pondering this, we must beg the question of “what brought about this change?” Twenge notes that this change started in the Baby Boomer era. Youthful exploration began in the 1970s, as an immense counter-culture emerged. Individuals began exploring different ways of thinking (partially influenced by experimentation in drugs) and self-examination. Even so, there are huge differences in the two generations that can only be explained by the process of the emphasis of the self. While the Baby Boomers initiated this movement, Generation Me was born into it. Being taught this mentality by the facilitative attitude offered by teachers and professors, the norms of modern society allow and even encourage these ways of thinking.
Another factor of this change is advancing technology. As information and communication is becoming more attainable and widespread, opportunity in the world is growing. The concept of “being able to be anything you want to be”, presented in chapter 3, is supported by this opportunity. While in the past a standard 9-5 job would be ideal, it is now widely accepted that (given enough effort) one can accomplish anything. This produces increasing characteristics of entitlement and empowerment that lead individuals to be let down instead of adequately preparing them for the struggles that modern life presents.
Twenge transitions from these generational observations to an examination on the effects of individual focus on members of Generation Me. We see increased statistics of anxiety and depression in our generation as compared to previous ones. This can be easily seen as a product of high expectations. Being nurtured our whole lives about how “special” and “empowered” we are, Generation Me’ers experience unexpected difficulty when facing the real world. When facing the higher expectations in college and work-related events, our generation is faced head-on with its weaknesses. While experiencing...