Friday, July 2, 2010

MY Generation Is Not The NY Times Generation.

Three days ago I read this article in the NY Times that cites a university researcher's (aka PhD candidate?) study as definitive proof that Gen-Y, referred to by the Times writer as the "Me-Me-Me My-Space Generation," is indeed self-important and uncaring. Really?

It seems to me a study about the empathy of college students, particularly college students born of helicopter parents, forced into SAT tutoring from the age of 14 and often still calling mom a gajillion times a week on their cell phones is more a study of the values that were practiced in their upbringing than about the awfulness of my peers.

...the authors speculate a millennial mixture of video games, social media, reality TV and hyper-competition have left young people self-involved, shallow and unfettered in their individualism and ambition.

Universities are more competitive and more expensive than ever. It is neither a surprise nor a fault that current students look out for themselves more than the students of years passed- it's what they had to do to get in in the first place, and now it's what it takes to get employed upon graduating. Criticizing Gen-Y students for self-aggrandizing and self-involvement is punishing them for the skill set (self-promotion) they needed to make their application stand out among thousands. And why should you criticize college students for ambition, when old people always seem to criticize college students for being stoned, lazy slobs?

Really, I'm just sick of the trash talk. It's hard enough for people to take new graduates seriously enough to hire them, and this bullshit will only make it worse.


  1. I have more issues with the study design then the article. They don't seem to testing Gen-Yers empathy so much as how they express that empathy. Particularly this section:

    Today’s students scored significantly lower in empathic concern (a 48 percent decrease) and perspective taking (34 percent), considered the more important indices of empathy. In a decisively everyone-for-themselves manner, they are less likely to agree with statements like “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me” and “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.” This is particularly notable since these are considered shared social ideals: people are more likely to say they agree than they really do.

    When it comes to that last claim, for Gen-Y, I believe the opposite to be the case. People are less likely to say they agree than they really do, because while I feel bad for the less fortunate and try to see things from my friends point of view and all that, when you put it that way, it sounds lame.

  2. The New york Times and the baby boom generation; if any two bodies were more self absorbed, together they would form a black hole and consume us all.

  3. Michael,

    Excellent point about the lameness-

    Also, did these researchers set foot in a class room? Gen-Y hates disagreeing, which could be argued as an overactive empathy gland. "I agree but, [completely opposite p.o.v.]" is the staple of college prefacing.

    Laird- Yes. And they wouldn't feel bad about it either. While they're at it they can take the remains of the self-proclaimed Greatest Generation.

  4. I found this article to be very shallow...tries to be clinical but the research is so skimmed over that the author is making generalizations without substantiations. I wonder who the writer, Pamela Paul, is..esp her age.

  5. From her picture, I'd say Gen-X. And an ivy leaguer.