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Friday, July 06, 2007

Generation Me - Chapter 3

Jean Twenge has written a very interesting book studying today's youngest generation to have come of age. In these postings, I will begin to provide key quotes and references that have stood out to me. From that, I have posted a few questions for reflection. For more information on this book, I encourage you to explore her website:

YOU DON'T NEED THEIR APPROVAL: The Decline of Social Rules

You Can Be Anything You Want to Be


"Generation Me has always been taught that our thoughts and feelings are important. It's no surprise that students are now being tested on it. Even when schools, parents, and the media are not specifically targeting self-esteem, they promote the equally powerful concepts of socially sanctioned self-focus, the unquestioned importance of the individual, and an unfettered optimisim about young people's future prospects. This chapter explores the consequences of individualism that go beyond self-esteem, and all of the ways that we consciously and unconsciously train children to expect so much out of life" (p.72).

"Culture Shock! USA, a guidebook to American culture for foreigners, explains: 'Often one sees an American engaged in a dialogue with a tiny child. 'do you want to go home now?' says the parent. 'No,' says an obviously tired, crying child. An so parent and child continue to sit discontentedly in a chilly park. 'what is the matter with these people?' says the foreigner to himself, who can see the child is too young to make such decisions.' It's just part of American culture, the book says: 'The child is acquiring both a sense of responsibility for himself and a sense of his own importance' ...In most of the countries of the world, parents feel that their obligation is to raise an obedient child who will fit into society. The little ego must be molded into that of a well-behaved citizen. Not so here [in the U.S.]. ...the top priority is to raise an individual capable of taking advantage of opportunity" (p.75f.).

Educational psychologist, Michele Borba: "Too many parents subscribe to the myth that if you discipline children, you're going to break their spirit... The 'Me Generation' is raising the 'Me-Me-Me Generation'" (p.76).
"...another change from previous generations: the length of time GenMe has to pursue dreams. Because we expect to marry and have children later, it's more acceptable to spend your entire twenties pursuing 'dream' careers like music, screenwriting, or comedy. Jeffrey Arnett calls that period emerging adulthood, a time when 'no dreams have been permanently dashed, no doors have been firmly closed, every possibility for happiness is still alive. That period is getting longer and longer..." (p.83).

"...tattoos and nose rings might not be just random fashion trends after all. Instead, they are a medium for self-expression and the communication of individuality. The fit the generational trend perfectly: they are outward expressions of the inner self. They allow you to be different and unique. It's so important to be an indivdual, and to communicate that fact to others, that young people routinely tattoo it onto their skin" (p.97).

"Ask someone in GenMe when adulthood begins, and a surprising number will say 30. For this generation, your early twenties - and often your late twenties - are a time to move around, try different things, and date different people" (p.97).

"...Kids have much more spending power these days, and parents include them in many more consumer decisions... 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: the best clothes, the best house, the best car. You're special; you deserve special things" (p.100).

"So many products now cater to the tastes of the individual. Instead of listening to the radio and hearing what everyone else does, we program our own special mix on our iPod, put in the headphones, and enter an individually created world. We even choose unique ring tones for our cell phones. Instead of three or four network stations, we can watch cable channels dedicated to our own interests. Instead of watching TV live with everyone else in our time zone, we TiVo it and warch it when we want to... Individualism has driven the increasingly large universe of consumer choice in other things as well... From clothing to cars to jewelry, consumer products are designed to exhibit the wants of the unique self. 'Shopping, like everything else, has become a means of self-exploration and self-expression,' writes David Brooks" (p.101).

1. This chapter addresses the socially constructed idea that everyone in America can have what Andy Warhol referred to as their "15 minutes of fame." Is it possible that we are fueling dreams so much in this generation that there is an absence of reality in their lives? Does this create a dellusional state of mind?

2. Aldous Huxley wrote the dystopian novel Brave New World. In it, youth are controlled and confined through the tantalizing prison of pleasure and dream-states. Is it possible that this "You Can Be Anything You Want to Be" message cultivates a spirit of bondage in our culture?

3. On page 90, Twenge uses the example of an associate pastor (Lucy) from the television show, 7th Heaven, to illustrate how even our models of Christian leadership fuel this self-love, self-esteem mindset. What are the practical and theological repurcussions of the Church fueling this idea? At what point does this become self-contradictory?

4. Twenge suggests that materialism is the inevitable outcome of self-focus (p.100). In what ways do the small concessions during childhood amplify the concessions made during adolescence and adulthood?

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