Friday, February 20, 2009

Generation Me

Scot McKnight, at his popular blog, Jesus Creed, has done a series of thought provoking posts on this important book. Click here to read McKnight's reflections. The following review by Derek Melleby appeared in the winter 2007 edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU.

Many people have tried to label the current generation, but Jean M. Twenge believes her label has staying power. Based on the results of 12 studies of generational differences, as well as data from 1.3 million young Americans, the title alone of Twenge’s book is a conversation starter: Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2006).

So, how did we get here? According to Twenge, the “Me Generation” consists of people born in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Currently this group ranges from elementary school kids to 30-something adults. Here’s what’s most unique about this generation: they have been bombarded with the notion that the individual always comes first and being happy is the highest virtue. This has been communicated by educational programs that attempt to build high self-esteem and is reinforced by popular culture. Movies, music and advertising continually remind kids they are special and can do anything they put their mind to.

So, why the misery? Here’s the ironic twist: “Generation Me 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.” Basically, this generation has been taught unrealistic expectations about how the world actually works.

There are many books currently available about the different generations and the new “emerging adulthood.” What sets this book apart is its engaging style, narrative approach and tons of statistics. If you’re looking for an accessible (and entertaining!) guide to understanding the current generation, start with this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Related Links:
McKnight is also doing a series of posts about David Naugle's new book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness that we highly recommend. (Be sure to (re)visit our interview with Dr. Naugle as he talks about why his book is helpful to parents and youth workers.)

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