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Understanding Generation Me

Generation Me is a book by Jean M. Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.  She writes about the generation born in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. She writes from a secular perspective on the basis of her voluminous research and she writes as one who, at 39, is on…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Generation Me is a book by Jean M. Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.  She writes about the generation born in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. She writes from a secular perspective on the basis of her voluminous research and she writes as one who, at 39, is on the front end of the generation. The notes below are summarized by David Mays. This is the most comprehensive  and detailed book I’ve seen about my children’s generation. The conclusions jibe with books and studies described here and here.
Generation Me has created a profound shift in what it means to be an individual in today’s society.  This generation has been actively taught to put themselves and their own needs first and to focus on feeling good about themselves, thus the name, GenMe.  This is in direct opposition to the family-first, group-oriented ethos of many cultures in the world.

The Decline of Social Rules

“Being different is good.”  It’s a mantra GenMe has heard over and over.  We absorbed the lesson of tolerance with our baby food-not just for race and religion, but for sexual orientation, beliefs, feelings, and all kinds of other intangibles.  Just about the only difference that wasn’t good?  Someone who was prejudiced.
Basic consideration for others seems to be on the wane as well.”  “This breakdown in consideration and loyalty, and the increase in cheating, reaches all the way to the top.” (such as the Enron business scandal.) 
But GenMe doesn’t just question authority-we disrespect it entirely.
GenMe is not very religious.  Only 18% of 18-29-year-olds attend religious services every week.  The belief systems of young people are ‘highly individualized,’ make-your-own-religions.  Everybody has their own idea of God and what God is.  As one young woman said, “I just didn’t like having anyone telling me what my lifestyle should be.”  Another woman stopped believing because feeling guilty made her unhappy.
Some managers are surprised at young people’s willingness to critique the performance of older people – it’s a combination of the eroding respect for authority and the compulsive honesty of the younger generation…. Young people see their directness as an asset.  It’s more ‘true to yourself’ to be honest than to be polite. 
“The culture of self is our home town.”  Most of today’s common sense is focused on the self.  Just be yourself.   You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.  Express yourself.  Stand up for yourself. 
In the years after 1980, there was a pervasive, society-wide effort to increase children’s self-esteem, to help them feel good about themselves for no particular reason, usually promoting feelings that are actually a lot closer to narcissism, i.e. excessive self-importance.  Feeling good is more important than performance.  This is a “cotton-candy sense of self with no basis in reality.” 
The results are young people who can’t take criticism, who are easily hurt, who tend toward whiny defensiveness and little learning, and who become unfriendly, rude, and uncooperative.  “They tend to act as though they believe they have worthy and good inner essences, regardless of … how they behave.”
You Can Be Anything You Want to Be
Many twentysomethings struggle with the decision to keep pursuing their dream, or to cut their losses and go home.  More and more young people are going to find themselves at 30 without a viable career, a house, or any semblance of stability.
Many expect to be famous.  “Reality television has spawned a generation of viewers who feel entitled to be on camera.”  The most common reason given for tattoos is “self-expression,” to communicate my individuality.  For many, adulthood begins at 30 [compared to perhaps 12 or 14 for our great grandparents] and the 20s are a time to move around, try things, and date people. 
“Materialism is the most obvious outcome of a straightforward, practical focus on the self: you want more things for yourself.  You feel entitled to get the best in life;… you deserve special things.”
Continued tomorrow…

Comments (7)

  • I am buying this book today. It has taken me 2 years of hearing this about my generation to come to terms with the weight of this unfortunate truth. A great follow up topic would be on the theme of “Unlearn.”

  • Wow. Of course, this isn’t new information to me, but it’s always enlightening to hear others stumble upon these truths – it makes me feel less crazy.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    I am so grateful to have had a mom that raised us with a working attitude. Nothing handed to us, quite poor. She showed me if you want it, you are gonna have to work for ir, i.e. career etc. I am 33 and I see a huge difference from those in their late teens and early twenties. There are definitely those in their thirties and forties still pursuing the “Me ME” too. It’s a shame t see what’s going on in this generation of “individuals”. Thanks Seth, awesome.

  • I was born in 1971 and don’t remember self esteem ever being mentioned in school when I was little. Self confidence was mentioned, and that came from doing well in school and good citizenship. Like Marc, my parents had a strong work ethic. One thing I’ve noticed nowadays is parents who wait at the bus stop with their kids. Can someone please tell me what this is all about?

  • This is why I hire people over 40. They have a good work ethic, regardless of their inability to use Facebook. (That’s a joke, btw, if you’re under 30)

    There are many exceptional young people out there, however they are mostly located in India, China or Russia. It’s hard to find an non-entitled American youth.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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