The MySpace Generation

To open his show today, Dennis Prager welcomed guest and SDSU Psych Professor Jean M. Twenge who recently wrote Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before. I was only able to hear a portion of his interview, but what I heard was incredible insight into the issues facing the current generation (as was predicted by C.S. Lewis in his Abolition of Man, a profound and truly prophetic work.)

Dr. Twenge asserts that those within Generation X and Y, whom she has collectively dubbed GenMe, products of the vast "self-esteem movement," have been dealt a bad hand. What she argues is that this generation does have a higher opinion of themselves, but that it's not self-respect, per se, but rather pure narcissism. She asserts that it is not self-esteem that brings good work, but good, hard work and genuine accomplishment that creates a healthy self-esteem. Who would have thought?

Upon hearing her claims, my mind naturally began racing with examples. I could not think of a more paramount example of this generational narcissism than the MySpace endeavor. Narcissus has nothing on Tom's vision for this generation. So, if you'll allow me, I'm diving down the rabbit hole to take a deeper look at some issues plaguing the inevitable future leaders.

Anyone who has been a teenager, knows teenagers or has worked with them knows that adolescents already have a very heightened, and false, sense of self-importance. It's a natural and highly entertaining/annoying phase of one's development. However, the normal growth from this phase includes the toning down of one's raging ego, but our culture only fuels it to a greater capacity. MySpace is the pinnacle example, yet again.

On MySpace (the mere title acting as a tip-off to its effects) any Jack or Jane has the ability to broadcast his or her entire life in pictures and diary entries to the whole world (as if we care) on a website that has 58 million users (most of which were made to sign up just to gain simple access). It's a rigged popularity contest. Users can send out APBs about a new, self-portrait-like picture (taken in the bathroom mirror of course), and they do. They do send out these bulletins so that perfect strangers from under any rock or public library pc can voyeuristically ogle young girls in sorry excuses for clothing. Water:Narcissus::MySpace:GenMe.

This generation feels empowered because they can "make or break" a potential pop star's career with their uber important text message vote. More fuel.

It's only natural that this and the younger generation is more narcissistic when the previous generation (the Boomers) all but removed every trace of God in the public square, or at least allowed for its removal. If there exists no greater, transcendant, extranatural Being in the cosmos, then it really is just us. We are the center of our universe. The secularization of society nearly lends itself to solipsism, when taken to the extreme. (See Shirley Maclaine. Scratch that. See Hollywood.)

In a strange twist of fate, the crusaders of "root causes," also known as terrorist apologists, are the very ones who've ignored the root causes of this generation's failure to live up to previous educational, military and civic standards, and have ended up enabling an entire generation to excuse poor behavior, apathy and incessant shortcomings. The Menendez brothers sucked their thumbs too long. Jeffrey Dahmer wet his bed. And so on and so forth, as far as the eye can see, stretches their diatribe of justification.

The so-called, and most likely well-intended, self-esteem movement has created a monstrous sense of entitlement in children and young adults today, one major side effect including ingratitude. This has most recently been manifest in the illegal immigration marches in America and employment related protests in France. There is no sense of paying one's dues. A job for life, or instant citizenship, is not something that is earned, it's deserved. And not based on merit but on the fact that "I deserve it, because I do, and that's why." This is a purely secular trait.

In the Judeo-Christian religious traditions, self-esteem isn't even remotely a part of the lexicon. In fact, in the Old Testament, Isaiah 66:2 says, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word." In the New Testament Paul exhorts Christians in Phillipians 2:3, saying, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

I typically try to keep my faith separate from much of my posts, as incessant references can become obnoxious. However, the distinction must be drawn in this case. Secularism breeds rampant narcissism while the Judeo-Christian creed (and a few others) provides a more accurate mirror of one's true worth and importance. It's the same mirror that Joseph stared into when he all too eagerly shared his dream with his brothers. The same mirror Job was forced to confront in the face of questioning God and hearing "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?"

This understanding of one's human and fallible condition and deep appreciation for the grace and mercy of God leads men to serve Him and others. It commissions us toward altruism and the betterment of the environment we live in for the benefit of the future generations.

In the meantime we're left with a generation of which only 4% claims adherence to Judeo-Christian principles. And the educational system and pop culture shows no interests in adopting these tenets, so it appears, save for a miracle of God, that we are left with a system that produces hoardes of egomaniacs more interested in strangers checking them out than they are the protection and service of our neighbors, our country and our world.

(There. This should make up for my horrific neglect of this blog. More to come on similar topics, pending spare time.)

Posted by Portia at May 9, 2006 09:06 PM | TrackBack

I've never been to MySpace (like it's a long ways away, or something)

How different is MySpace from blogging, particularly with regard to the narcissism required?

Great post. Lots to think about.


Posted by: Captoe at May 10, 2006 11:50 AM

Myspace is an immense vacuum of space-time, or what we like to call in the real world "Actual productivity and personal interractions". Originally started as a networking site, similar to "Frendster", it ballooned once high school drama kings and queens found out that if they fudge their age, they can gain access (the age limit was originally 18, then 16, and now down to 14!).

I am saddened to say that I've been hooked since the get go. I'm even more grieved to say that I recently corrected a friend of mine who said "MySpace started as a music site"...**Shakes head in shame*

Many of my "myspace friends" have begged me to "liven up my site". I refuse, stating that I'm not there to be noticed, but keep in touch with friends.

It really isn't bad if you only have a friend's (and I mean someone you know in "real life", and have had face-to-face interractions with) myspace account on hand, and no email. Other than that, It's a definite waste of time...

- Peter

Posted by: Nasa Nerd at May 10, 2006 08:10 PM

i have a myspace and im doing a report on MySpace for a end of the year project in my history class. I have over 700 friends... yet i have moved over 10 times in my life and i know all of them if not than i know someone that knows them. I keep good control over my site and i dont allow people i dont know to be my friend. plus i keep ine locked and my mom knows my password and sign in name. i also dis agree with the fact that its a waste of time. if it really were than you wouldnt be writing about it. i have found over 100 friends that iwouldnt be talking to right now if it werent for myspace. its not an all n all bad site look at it from someone elses point of view.

Posted by: candace at May 30, 2006 05:50 PM