Monday, November 12, 2007

Generation Y(unnie)

Update: Yahoo provides a handy guide to Millennials.

Last night, 60 Minutes had a story about Millennials, the generation of 80 million kids born between 1980 and 1995. Morley Safer asks "who's to blame for the narcissistic praise hounds now taking over the office," and, I must add, the streets, the movie theaters, the subways, the media, everything.

From the 60 Minutes story, here are a few nuggets about Gen Y (Generation Yunnie?):
  • They believe anyone over 30 is "old, redundant, should be retired." This is their attitude not only about human beings, but also about mom-and-pop businesses, old buildings, and ways of life. They value only the young and the new.
  • Helicopter parents actually call their children's bosses and HR departments to complain about Junior's bad performance evaluations, the same way they complained to teachers about unsatisfactory grades.
  • Says one of these kids, he wants lots of praise from his boss: "We want to hear it and truly we'd love for our parents to know. There's nothing better than Mom getting that letter saying, 'You know, Ryan did a great job. Yeah, I just wanted to let you know you raised a fantastic son.'"
  • They cannot tolerate being told what to do or how to do it. Millions of dollars are being spent on consultants who tell bosses, basically, "Sweet talk these kids. Don't express disappointment in them. Praise them, let them arrange work around their yoga schedules, and give them lots of rewards--just for showing up."

As 60 Minutes says, these kids were "raised by doting parents who told them they are special" and "They are laden with trophies just for participating." Now, consultants to companies are telling managers to continue this same enabling behavior.

This does nothing to actually support a person's true self. People with narcissistic personalities may appear to be "shiny, happy" people, but, truly, they are empty people. They spent their entire lives being puffed up with empty praise and empty rewards, while their true selves were ignored or shut down. Consequently, they do not feel connected to themselves and have great difficulty connecting with others.

The extreme end of narcissism is sociopathy. What will our city, and our world, look like when it is controlled by 100 million sociopaths?


Rambler said...

Interesting piece but, of course, for every arrogant and coddled kid there is someone working two jobs to go to college, etc.

On the one hand, these kids are sharp enough to realize that companies will screw you over first chance they get. On the other hand, the sense of entitlement is out of control.

kingofnycabbies said...

You know, since the Millenials started off as boomer offspring, at least in their early phase, and since boomers have shown more than a little of these same tendencies, differing only in degree, perhaps our true culprit is...Dr. Spock. I don't pretend to know what's inside his megaseller, "Baby And Child Care," but it was the bible of child-rearing for a long time. Could it be the good doctor was the gatekeeper to the hell that we now know as "Generation ZZZZZ," the most boring people ever?

Sam said...

I saw this segment as well and was thinking of your blog. It's just everywhere, and I agree completely with your statement they will all turn into sociopaths.

The only thing I didn't completely understand is what happens to them when they turn 30? Do they turn into the bad Gremlins like Stripe? Or do they simply die like the replicants in "Blade Runner"?

Anonymous said...

Rock on, Jeremiah! I love your screed.

Jeremiah Moss said...

I am voting for a Blade Runner replicant-style demise, for sure. And, yes, I do think Dr. Spock is somehow behind this whole yunnie phenomenon, looming in the background.

I actually do know a few pretty cool people in their 20s, but it's much more fun to make vast generalizations than to talk about the exceptions, isn't it?

L'Emmerdeur said...

If you want to read a fascinating book from the early 1990s that explains (nay, predicts) everything mentioned here about Millenials, and probably explains why New York is headed where it is headed (namely, up a syphilitic horse's ass), you should read this:

I keep multiple copies at home, as I give them out to people. It is that good. It explains the generations of Americans and how they evolve over time, and shows a pattern going back to Plymouth Rock.

Jeremiah Moss said...

interesting thing about the generations. i am gen-x and my parents are silent generation. i wonder if we take after our parents, with the millennials following in the footsteps of the narcissistic boomers, and the Xers being more like their silent-gen parents. i certainly identify with much of the 50s gen, at least as described this interesting article written in 1970:

L'Emmerdeur said...

Funny, that article was written in the year I was born...

Generations describes how America has a generational pattern that repeats approximately every 85-90 years. It is made up of 4 types of generations

The previous cycle was:

1. GI (the previous Millenials)
2. Silent
3. Boomer
4. Gen-X

1 and 3 are favored by social policy throughout their lives, whereas 2 and 4 are not. GIs and Boomers are favored by social policy throughout their lives, Silents and Gen-Xers are shunned. Example: when GIs were retiring, benefits for retirees peaked. Since then, as Silents began retiring, those benefits have deteriorated.

Interesting fact: in the history of the U.S., there has never ever been a president from the Silent or gen-X generations in any cycle, only from the GI and Boomer generations (recent example: Bush Sr. was a GI, Clinton a Boomer).

These cycles are punctuated by two types of crises: a secular and a spiritual. The last secular crisis was the Depression and WWII, the last spiritual crisis the Vietnam War and the Flower Revolution. These crises occur every 80 or so years, secular when GIs are in their 20s and 30s, spiritual when Boomers are in their 20s and 30s.

Next up is a secular crisis, due around 2010 (give or take a few years).

The book argues that the allignment of generations instigates and determines the nature of these crises. For WWII, Boomers were the elders providing ideological guidance (i.e. FDR), the Gen-Xers were in middle age commanding the troops (i.e. Patton), the GIs were the troops eagerly following orders (i.e. JFK), and the Silents sat in the corner and kept quiet while their elders fixed the world.

I'll bet those GI children were seen as precocious, spoiled little shits before 1929. The coming economic collapse, in my opinion, should have a similar effect on the Millenials, turning them into obedient Crusader troops to fight the next great American Jihad against the "forces of evil".

When the pattern breaks, it is highly destructive for American society. The one time it has broken was in the mid-1800s, and this led to a premature spiritual crisis, which brought on the Civil War.

Strauss and Howe have written other books which create a general theory which can be applied to any national entity. They have a website, too:

L'Emmerdeur said...

About Silents: when they are young, they want to be like their GI parents (straight-laced, family-oriented). As they grow older, they want to be like their Boomer kids (rebellious, anti-establishment Hippies).

They are defined by this split identity. If the pattern applies, the kids being born right now are this cycle's Silent generation.

doris said...

god i love this blog. i was born in '72 and get treated like Yoda at work.

mikestill said...

Fluff. To generalize like this is purely fluff. May as well do an article on astrological signs. The real division in our society is economic, not whether you were born in the year of the rabbit, come on.

Was there any mention that this "Yunnie" generation is involved in volunteerism in college and after college at an unmatched rate? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what's been said here. The horrific sense of entitlement of this generation; at least in part, is astounding. Having said that, I work with a large population of them and I can honestly say I've never noticed anything but committment and hard work from their end. Then again, I don't hang around with them nights and weekends so who knows.

Joshua said...

Regarding this strange new wave of our professional-class ‘best and brightest”, I just saw another nightly news program that, contrary to media tradition, gave a revealing glimpse at the sociopathy and narcisism that seems to define their culture.
I’d like to call your attention to the 20 20 episode shown two days ago on December 7th, about the practice amongst yunnies and pre-yunnie teenagers of recording themselves performing bizarre and/or criminal behavior and then posting these videos for their friends to see, by way of bragging, on sites like YouTube. Apparently, it’s grown into quite a fad, with videos of this kind developing loyal followings amongst the other yunnies. For those who didn’t see it, there’s a full transcript on 20 20's official website (read the commentary too, other people have submitted their own horror stories regarding the practice, and the occasional defensive, predictable yunnie-type rebuttals are a hoot). The whole show, in fact, was basically about aspects of yunnie behavior, and their unbelievably arrogant use of the internet to display that behavior.
Of course, it was lenient. For example, there was more “boys will be boys” type editorializing than I think would have been present for any other socioeconomic group’s criminal activities, and the moral of the story seemed to be that these kids shouldn’t post these kinds of videos because a future employer might see them (it was sweet of 20 20 to care, really), but that’s to be expected.
Nevertheless, I found it very helpful, and I hope others did too. Jeremiah ought to work this stuff into his articles. This is all part of the puzzle of yunnie behavior, after all.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks joshua. here's the link to the 20/20 episode:

just a couple thoughts:
sociopaths are known to take souvenirs of their victims, a lock of hair, a piece of clothing, etc. targeting a victim and then filming the attack, showing it off like a trophy, exhibits this kind of "souvenir" activity.

the reason we have so much film footage of Holocaust events is that the Nazis were so grandiose, they filmed their atrocities obsessively.

yunnie kids aren't filming their victims just because they're mean. they also want desperately to be seen. what do i have to do, they seem to ask, to make you see me?

inside every malignant narcissist is a smothered, and enraged, self. the question is: are there more than ever before? and, if so, why now?

Anonymous said...

You're all poor. And I love you.

anon. said...

To put a twist in Malcolm X's words:

"We're not yunnies, we're New Yorkers who happen to be in the East Village. We were pushed out and Vongerichtified here against our will. We didn't land on these condos -- those condos landed on us."

laura said...

jeremiah (9:08 am): please write more about this. now you're on to something. the violent or exibitionist youtube postings, the cell phone pictures (sending nude photos to each other in high school), documenting every breath & thought-text all day me me me me m...... or is this our new culture in general? encompassing all ages? the face book syndrome? the constant texting, the cell phone yapping..... why is this different? what is "unique" of 20 somethings/yunnie? from what i see the lines can blur into normal mainstream narcissistic society. ive made similar comparisons to the nazis. been told im dramatic. but youre with me on this one....get into this. the nazis are an interesting reference. it proves my theory that people will do what they do. just give them the platform, & mankind goes into the sociopath mode. for once & for all: what is the difference between a nice intelligent 20 something w/a career upwardly mobile buying a condo, & a "YUNNIE". i want to know who is it exactly that is ruining NY?