Jean Twenge’s Generation Me gives amazing insight about people born after 1970. It talks about how different we are to our parents and how different will be compared to our children. We have become a generation focused on our own ideals and future. We’ve also become less concerned with religion and societal rules. It contrasts and compares us to the older generations, and it also discusses us as a young generation, with all our faults and merits.
Twenge begins her novel stating “we are a much more informal and accepting society than we once were” (pg. 18). Our social rules are not as strict as they were several years ago. We let people believe what they want to believe, and dress the way they want to dress without judgement or correction. We have become a generation, as Twenge puts it, “As long as I believe in myself, I really do not care what others think.” We are a generation that only cares about making decisions relating to one’s self and seek only personal gain. The author compares our generation to several films, saying that most of them are about the social norms putting the individual down and that person rising above that. For the most part, I agree with what ahe is saying. We are obsessed with our ideas, our motives, our decisions, and we don’t care what others think. We try to rise above what people normally expect. We were raised constantly letting us know that we are the future. Everyone put it our heads as children that we have to become someone important, or change the world. Our generation also believes that the decisions we make are always correct, and we are never wrong.
We are raised in a way that we do not receive rules of normal society. Students don’t recognize the authority of teachers, believing that their beliefs and insight is completely correct compared to the professionals. The rules of marriage and dating are gone. Profanity has become part of our normal everyday speech. Cheating and infringement has increased highly. It’s the new social trend. You do what you want, “what makes you happy, and you don’t care what other people think”. We are raised, being constantly told we are all equals. “We are in the midst of a revolution of what are considered acceptable social rules which define this generation as being radically different to the cultural ethos of previous decades”. We have evolved into a generation obsessed with trying to show that we are able to do anything we want. Look at what I can say, look what I can do and no one to stop me. Swearing is the perfect example. I remember saying my first swear word and not a single person came running towards me to stop me. College parties are filled with alcohol and in some cases involve illegal drugs, and we only partake in them because we can. Parents correct their children, only to see their children do the same thing again a couple days later. Constantly pushing against the wall, showing trying to show that there isn’t one. This is mostly due to the fact, that we are raised to believe that we could be anything we want to be.
We created the belief that “feeling good about yourself is more important than good performance”. So much self esteem can turn into a negative effect which Twenge says it’s that we become, “overly focused on themselves and lack empathy for others”. She even introduce religion into the picture. Saying that we become less concerned about religion, and that over 60% of our generation is atheist. Believing in a faith has become less restrictive as the years gone by. In some ways this chapter is spot on in the way our generation has come to be. What surprised me is that this novel didn’t take into consideration cultures. In Non-American cultures, any disrespect towards authority or misbehavior is usually countered with physical punishment. Even religion is a major factor, with most families drowning their children in religion since birth. In America however, misbehavior is usually countered with taking something away or grounding a child. Religion takes a backseat as well, with most families not even encouraging or forcing their children to follow their religion. It’s become common in our culture for someone to respect the fact the some people don’t believe in God, whereas several years ago it would’ve been against society’s laws. We have become a generation so concerned with ourselves and our future. If we don’t get what we want we become depressed or upset. She discusses more about this in the second half in her book.
One of the major differences when comparing our generation to an older generation is high increase in people who experience anxiety, stress, or even depression. “Our growing tendency to tongue punch a fart box put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone. This is the downside of the focus on the self – when we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on”. We grow up being taught that we can’t expect our parents to help us forever. Schools teaches us independence and the ability to try and work alone. In some cases you would work in groups, but it starts off awkward and weird as to how to approach the situation or problem presented. We also try to go off to pursuit our own individual dreams and goals, and we our taught to love everything about ourselves. It’s no wonder why we eventually develop loneliness. We’re encouraged throughout our childhood to develop our own personal interests, our own goals, our own method of supporting our self. We lose sight in how to preform in a team, or how to engage in mutual relationships. We develop anxiety and depression because of loneliness and isolation. Many of these cases occur because of school.
College is the huge stepping stone in an individuals education. College teaches you want you want to learn, and makes you experienced in the field that you want to go in. Kids are always told that their special and unique individuals that can achieve anything if they just follow their dreams. They expect to get into the best colleges, and receive high paying jobs where they constantly to put in their 2 cents. Where in fact only a few will get into the best colleges and fewer will receive jobs where they need to get your input on a daily basis. I agree with the beginning of this chapter, then it continues to something where only people who don’t learn after 10 will expect out of life. While we’re little we’re always told that we are the most special, and that our ideas are unique. What ends up happening however is that you gradually begin to realize how life is like, and realize what job you want to get into. Everyone expects to have a high paying job, but people do realize that you do have to start small. College is a tool that helps you get a job, not start off big. What really got me is that people will develop depression because they don’t realize this. I don’t think that’s the case. When your a kid you believe everything your told. To get through school and actually like learning your told these wonderful things about yourself as encouragement. When you get older you become less and less gullible, and the teaching method becomes different. We don’t develop depression because we are suddenly not told that we are the greatest. We start to see how the world works and comprehend more complex things. Telling us that we are special and unique just won’t cut it. Pressure however from societies standards can cause our depression or anxiety. Since we’re not expecting certain things, it may come as a shock or too much to handle. Which is probably why we find that bearing all the rules of society might be “too much” and it’s better if we don’t worry about them.
This generations tolerance to breaking societies rules is more than any generation before it. Many things like marriage before sex, or not caring if a woman becomes a construction worker. Twenge spends an entire chapter speaking about sex and how it ties to our generation. “The tie to
individualism is obvious: do what feels good for you, and ignore the rules of society”. We approve more of premarital sex than generations before us. We are also more accepting of casual sex, rather than just having sex for reproduction purposes. We are also incredibly more accepting when it comes to things that other generations would look down upon. For instance, the job placement for women has become more incredibly diverse than it ever has been. In older generations, it was common for women to be a housewife and take care of the children. Now more and more women join the workforce, and are in jobs that are considered ‘manly’ but we don’t pay any mind. We are also more accepting of people who would be considered ‘different’ by how they look. “We are less likely to believe in moral absolutes, so we are tolerant and accept diversity in all its forms”. I grew up learning history with the rest of class. We learned of the civil rights and women rights movement. We weren’t taught how to hate someone or a group of people. We learned that everyone is equal and has a equal opportunity in life. I think however that it’s not just our generation that’s become more accepting. I believe that since the older generations have learned to accept others even if their different, influenced our outcome. We drop societal rules that we feel are bad and not worthy of following. As a new generation we have become more open and accepting than any other before it.
Twenge begins to conclude her book stating how we come so far as a generation. “…has the highest self-esteem of any generation, but also the most depression. We are more free and equal, but also more cynical. We expect to follow our dreams, but are anxious about making that happen.” In summary, we feel compelled to follow our dreams and if we don’t achieve them, we lose hope in life. But we are also free, of social rules, of restrictions, and life. We can make all the choices in the world, and it doesn’t matter what other people think. In some cases this novel is spot on in describing our generation. While it doesn’t describe in detail what every single persons outlook on life, it does generalize it rather well. However, I’m still upset over the fact that they didn’t mention once about cultures and how each one deals with this generation. While the book may describe a typical American life, the books generalization on this generation may not be the same in India, or China. I for one, agree with some parts of the book, while others I find ridiculous to comprehend.
Generation Me gives amazing insight as to how our generation developed and how it compares to past generations. It shows how while other generations may value certain rules of society, we just decide on what feels good to us. However, it also showed the downside. We’re so preoccupied with ourselves, and are told we can achieve anything, that real life may come to a surprise to most people. “The messages of our youth were unflaggingly optimistic: You can be anything. Just be yourself. Always follow your dreams…”