One of the themes that emerges from generational studies about iGens, those who are 18-35, is cynicism. Typified by two expressions: “Yeah, right” and “Whatever.” Jean Twenge discusses the presence and increase of cynicism among iGens in the 5th chp of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Here’s a classical illustration: “Where I’m from,” Ryan on The O.C. says, “having a dream doesn’t make you smart. Knowing it won’t come true — that does.”

What do you think of her discussion of “internality vs. externality”? Do you see a trend toward externality? Do you think there is a culture of blame at work today?

I don’t know if the numbers changed, and I suspect they did, but one issue concerns voting — an indicator that individual voting matters and that we need each person to vote. 25% of citizens under the age 25 votes. Only 25%.

The key measurements here concern tests that measure “internality” (roughly those who think they are in control) and “externality” (roughly those who think things are out of their control). She found studies of 18,310 college students who took tests between 1960 and 2002. Result: “College students increasingly believed that their lives were controlled by outside forces” (139). The average iGen college student in 2002 had a higher externality rating than 80% of the same group in 1960. That is, the beliefs in external control increased about 50% in those years. Similar conclusions were found for younger kids (9-14).

53% of iGens thought a person’s main responsibiliy was to themselves; only 27% of Boomers thought this. She thinks iGens aren’t paying enough attention to the news; she thinks they don’t protest enough.

Now some voting numbers: 1972 it was at 48% of 18-20 yr olds; 2000 that same number is 28%. For 25-34 yr olds: 1972 (60%) to 2000 (44%). This number shifted up in 2004. They were not the same as Boomer numbers, but I’m waiting to hear about 2008.

She sees a pervasive sense of luck when it comes to love, work and money. Life is lottery and there is a growth in a victim mentality. Externalizing explanations reduce blame and protect self-esteem.

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