Rating: PG-13, but only for some language, mostly when she is quoting young adults, or lines from movies.
Summary: Called “The Entitlement Generation” or Gen Y, they are storming into schools, colleges, and businesses all over the country. In this provocative new book, headline-making psychologist and social commentator Dr. Jean Twenge explores why the young people she calls “Generation Me”—those born in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—are tolerant, confident, open-minded, and ambitious but also cynical, depressed, lonely, and anxious.
Herself a member of Generation Me, Dr. Twenge uses findings from the largest intergenerational research study ever conducted—with data from 1.3 million respondents spanning six decades—to reveal how profoundly different today’s young adults are. Here are the shocking truths about this generation, including dramatic differences in sexual behavior, as well as controversial predictions about what the future holds for them and society as a whole. Her often humorous, eyebrow-raising stories about real people vividly bring to life the hopes and dreams, disappointments, and challenges of Generation Me.
GenMe has created a profound shift in the American character, changing what it means to be an individual in today’s society. The collision of this generation’s entitled self-focus and today’s competitive marketplace will create one of the most daunting challenges of the new century. Engaging, controversial, prescriptive, funny, Generation Me will give Boomers new insight into their offspring, and help those in their teens, 20s, and 30s finally make sense of themselves and their goals and find their road to happiness.
My Thoughts: While I thought this book was completely fascinating, I didn't feel like I really learned any new information. Most of it was me saying, "Yep, that's how it is!" Also, since the book was published in 2006, some of the information is a little outdated, and there was hardly any mention whatsoever of social media, which has become HUGE since then.
However, I felt the book made a very good case for erasing so-called "self-esteem" curriculum from schools and homes and replacing it with the learning of self-control. Twenge makes the point that GenMe was so saturated with the "You Are Special" message, that we tend to feel important for no reason at all, and are more narcissistic than high in self-esteem. Most members of GenMe feel that they are more important and more special than anyone else.
We also have a big gap between our expectations of life and the reality. We've been raised to believe that we can be anything we want to be, and that if we just try hard enough, it will happen for us. However, we can't ALL be movie stars, rock stars, and famous athletes, and all the trying in the world is not going to change the fact that some people just don't have the talent.We've also been led to believe that if we find the right job and/or the right life partner, that we will always feel fulfilled and completely happy. Previous generations never expected their job to feel personally rewarding, it was just expected to pay the bills. Previous generations also understood that their marriage was not always going to be soul-mate heaven. As a result, the divorce rates of today are high, and people unhappy with their perfectly good jobs are many.
GenMe also has a high tendency to be depressed and anxious, and for many good reasons. First of all, we're more likely to live far away from family when we reach adulthood, to move frequently, and fail to keep in touch with those who are important to us, meaning we don't have a strong support system underneath us to buoy us up in hard times. We also expect a lot out of life, at the same time when life has gotten more difficult. For example, we expect to have a good house, a good job, and great insurance, just when all of those things are ridiculously hard to obtain. Twenge relates that when her parents bought their first house in the early 1970's, it cost $23,000, a little more than their combined annual income. "The rule of thumb used to be that your house should not cost more than two times your annual income, and that you should spend about 25% of your income on housing. What a joke." A quote from political scientist Robert Putnam reads, "Virtually all of the increase in full-time employment of American women over the last twenty years is attributable to financial pressures, not personal fulfillment." We're stressed out because a lot of moms would like to stay home with their kids, but they can't afford not to work. However, the cost of child-care makes working almost as bad as staying home. According to the book, more and more women are forgoing having children at all. Because of what we see on TV (people who are able to afford basically whatever they want) we feel like we are constantly failing. "It's like a cruel joke - we've been raised to expect riches, and can barely afford a condo and a crappy health care plan."
The end of the book offers some practical solutions to employers, parents, and young adults about how to deal with the attitudes instilled in GenMe'ers. Overall, I thought the book was completely fascinating. Worth a read, even if you just need a reassurance that you're not the only one feeling like life is kind of impossible these days.