New book by Dr. Jean M. Twenge bashes iGen, interprets cross-generational trends

Casey Setash

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Young woman stares intently at her phone (Photo courtesy of Micadew on Flickr.com)

If you are not aware of Millennial-bashing, you are not paying attention.

The woman largely responsible for the onset of this “kids these days” mindset, Dr. Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University is back with another zinger focused on the latest generation.

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Her newest book, titled “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us,” was released in August and has already created quite a stir among those who stand to benefit from recognizing the latest trends, mindsets and motivations of today’s teens.

The generation she calls “iGen,” aptly named for the smartphones thrust into their hands straight out of the womb, includes everyone born in 1995 and later. This encompasses all current traditionally-aged college, high school and middle school students.

Generalizing across such a vast span of time might seem hasty at best and insensitive at worst, but it certainly isn’t the first time Twenge has attempted to make such sweeping conclusions.

Her 2006 book, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” sensationalized the entitlement attributed to most millennials and set off a tailspin of panicky headlines.

Parents of iGen’ers now apparently have even more to fear because, as Twenge explains, kids are utterly unprepared for adulthood and have little connection to the real world.

Twenge offers a host of alliterative distinctions she believes differentiate iGen’ers from millennials, including “In No Hurry, Internet, In Person No More, Insecure, Irreligious, Insulated But Not Intrinsic, Income Insecurity, Indefinite, Inclusive, and Independent.” She then steps through each difference, subjecting readers to such alarming questions as, “are books dead?” and interjecting enough “likes” and “ums” into her quotes to lead you to the conclusion that iGen’ers are nothing but a bunch of uptalking tweens.

Readers might find themselves hopelessly distracted throughout the course of the book, potentially from the lack of patience Twenge attributes to iGen’ers, but more likely from the fervent lack of creativity in her writing style. She provides numerous statistics based mostly on long-term surveys of middle school, high school and college-aged students. These sources are generally reputable and considered legitimate, but the observations Twenge makes based on these data are ludicrously blown out of proportion and do not offer a thorough presentation of the facts at hand.

For example, she offers few explanations throughout the book for the precipitous decline in social skills and the increasing suicide rates among iGen’ers besides the advent of smartphone ubiquity. This is despite the fact that the economy took a freefall, academics became harder and more competitive than ever, and the internet made access to graphic media relatively effortless during this same time, when most iGen’ers were coming of age. It is surprising that she neglects to blame iGen’ers’ mass departure from religious institutions on smartphone use, given her reliance on this justification for nearly every other iGen quality.

Twenge uses every opportunity to degrade iGen’ers, conveying a sense of urgency about the state of their mental health and providing pessimistic examples for every trait she associates with the latest generation.

The chapter on growing up more slowly reports that fewer teens are working part-time jobs in addition to school. “Is this good or bad?” Twenge asks. Even though she claims “it’s likely some of both,” she elaborates by citing the values a job can instill, implying a myriad of unsaid indignities in her assessment.

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Should listen read this? No

The book evokes many unfavorable emotions, foremost among them anger. Presiding over her queendom of generational nomenclature, Twenge has spent the last 22 years passing judgment on whichever generation is currently en vogue without giving them the opportunity to respond. Some millennial-driven news outlets (i.e. Buzzfeed) are beginning to take umbrage with many of Twenge’s accusations, making their case against accepting her research as canon and cautioning parents to read this latest barrage with an ounce of skepticism. Given that millennials now make up the largest portion of the U.S. workforce and iGen’ers are likely to follow suit, perhaps Twenge should focus more on changing with the times rather than harping on young people for ruining society.

 

Available at: 

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Collegian reporter Casey Setash can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @caseylovesbirds.