Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jean M. Twenge’s Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before describes the nature of Generations X and Y and reveals the causes and effects of their contrasting views with Baby Boomers. Generation Me’s conflicting views of entitlement and hopelessness have changed America’s identity, and the trends are expected to continue.

Generation Me’s apparent inconsideration stems from pride cultivated from not only the home and in school, but from the media as well. As Luke Epplin states in his The Atlantic article “You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids' Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem?”, “These films have been infected with what might be called the magic-feather syndrome….the characters must relinquish the crutch of the magic feather--or, more generally, surmount their biggest fears--and believe that their greatness comes from within.” Children have been taught that there are no limits to their greatness, and willpower alone is enough for them to reach their goals, and that their goals should have priority over those of the community. Epplin states that “Their attitudes are all part of an ethos that privileges self-fulfillment over the communal good,” just as Twenge cites the extreme example of the Columbine school shooting; in a video made before the shooting, Eric Harris, one of the gunmen, states “Isn’t it fun to get the respect we’re going to deserve?” Generation Me’s extreme focus on the self has destroyed the sense of community established by Baby Boomers (text to text, text to world).

Self-focus is a consequence of the self-esteem taught to members of Generation Me by their parents and teachers. A popular poster seen in classrooms features a kitten viewing its reflection in a mirror, though its reflection is of an adult lion. The image is accompanied by the phrase, “What matters most is how you see yourself.” Though the image is intended to increase confidence in students, the message is destructive; when the most important thing is your opinion of yourself, what bearing should grades, social relationships, or criticism from others have? When an adolescent believes their view of themselves is perfect, they are not motivated to attempt intellectual, social, or professional growth. As long as there is a lion in the mirror, members of Generation Me disregard that everyone else sees their true form: just a kitten (text to text).

Today's adolescents are more direct than Baby Boomers. Twenge states, "managers say that young employees ask for instant feedback that's straightforward and uncomplicated, and give it in return." My bluntness and preference for directness are pet peeves of my mother. Too often, we will have an argument that began with "I want to come home to a calm, inviting environment," and ends with "why didn't you just say you wanted the kitchen cleaned?" Every day my grandmother picks me up from schook, she asks how my day went. Whenever I answer "fine" or "okay," she responds with "oh, so you had a good day!" Though I am honest in having no warm feelings towards six hours of brain exercise, older generations believe it is best to say whatever will upset others the least (text to self).