Books: Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D.

The subtitle of this book is: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitledand More Miserable Than Ever Before. But that was too much to put in the header. Would've looked clunky.

The subtitle could just as easily have been: The Reason for the Rise in Assholery. Because that's really what we're talking about.

It's the kind of topic that gets blood boiling and tempers flaring. The older generation (Boomers, and possibly some of Gen X) would read this and be like, "Yeah! These kids today! This is everything that's wrong with them!" And Millennials would read it and say, "Yeah! This is all the ways you guys screwed us up and over!" So I guess there's something for everybody at least.

Twenge covers the self-esteem movement, how educators are actively encouraged not to correct mistakes but instead to focus on making kids feel confident and good about themselves. This is the whole everyone-gets-a-trophy thing, which Twenge points out has led not only to very confident young people, but to young people who have expectations of getting rewarded for pretty much doing nothing, and to a rise in narcissism. These kids think the world revolves around them. They think they're stars in their own shows. They all expect to be rich and famous one day because every single one of them has been told he or she is special and unique and can do and be whatever they want to be.

This is a problem for a variety of reasons. As children, these kids throw tantrums when they don't get what they want. (And a lot of them do get what they want from parents trying to avoid said tantrums.) Then they go to college—most young people do these days—and are stymied when they're actually expected to put effort into the work. They are confused when they don't get what they want. And they don't know how to handle it because they haven't been taught to take criticism. In fact, they've seldom if ever been criticized (except possibly by peers, which these kids shrug off because peers have no power and present no obstacles). That's just it: This generation (Gen Me, or Millennials, or whatever you want to call them) aren't used to obstacles. And they haven't been given the tools of logic to re-route when a path is blocked and the GPS has no other suggestions.

It only gets worse when they enter the workforce. They expect to climb the ladder quickly, and they expect their bosses to help them and pat them on the back just like teachers and coaches did in grade school. So once again there is confusion and resentment when that doesn't happen.

I keep saying "this generation" because I'm not 100% sure where I fall in the spectrum. I'm not a Boomer, of course, but I seem to be in that microgeneration between Generation X and Millennials. We're the kids who still played outside and used card catalogues in the library. We had computers, but they weren't so pervasive. And phones still had cords. We carried a quarter when we went out in case we had to call our parents for anything. Cuz, you know, pay phones. That was a thing.

I look back at my youth and realize that, yes, we were told we could be and do anything. My mother told me so often that I "could be president," that one day I burst into tears. "What's wrong?" Mom asked. "I don't want to be president!" I cried. In some ways, having too many options is far worse than having only one or two.

Participation ribbons were a thing, too, but my particular generational slice knew that these ribbons didn't mean anything. We weren't satisfied with them. We didn't walk away with "Participant" and believe we'd done a great job.

Twenge, however, counts herself as one of Generation Me. And she's a few years older than I am, so this created a kind of dissonance for me as I was reading. Twenge used "we" when referring to this generation, and I found that off-putting. I wondered if she did it so as to make it seem less like she was criticizing them. "I'm on your side here," seemed to be the gist.

As for Gen Me being miserable, well, a lot of it has to do with the lack of preparation I mention above. These kids aren't educated, aren't made ready for the real world. Instead they're encouraged to dream big . . . Only to be massively disappointed when they don't immediately become rich and famous, and when they can't afford the houses and cars they feel entitled to. Honestly, my gut reaction is to say, "Get over yourself," but Twenge points out it's not these kids' fault. They've been done a disservice, mostly via that whole self-esteem movement.

Gen Me also doesn't believe there's anything they can do to change things. They don't believe voting makes a difference, and they largely believe things happen to them. Which ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because they don't take action. Just as they expect fame and fortune to fall in their laps without working for it. Gen Me is all about what impacts them versus them attempting to make an impact on the world around them. Even if/when they do get rich and famous, it's all about them having a good time versus them using their celebrity as a forum for a better world.

I could go on and on, but it would only be me paraphrasing the book. It's a good book and a thought-provoking one if you find this kind of thing interesting, which I do. Twenge writes in an accessible style, and aside from the bizarre "we," I enjoyed reading Generation Me.

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