A blow to the "You’re Special" generation

A very interesting article over at “The Journal” (anyone still missing Imus in the morning?) about the challenges of the “tell-me-how-great-I-am” generation.

Can anyone on here relate to Mia?:

Some young adults are consciously calibrating their dependence on praise. In New York, Web-developer Mia Eaton, 32, admits that she loves being complimented. But she feels like she’s living on the border between a twentysomething generation that requires overpraise and a thirtysomething generation that is less addicted to it. She recalls the pre-Paris Hilton, pre-reality-TV era, when people were famous — and applauded — for their achievements, she says. When she tries to explain this to younger colleagues, “they don’t get it. I feel like I’m hurting their feelings because they don’t understand the difference.”

You mean, some people were famous because they DID STUFF?

No doubt the “you’re special” tendencies, where everyone gets a trophy, papers are graded with purple pens, and people are praised just for showing up has its downfalls. Apparently corporations have tried to accommodate this ridiculousness. Bank of America even has a “Senior Vice President of Recognition and Rewards.” But some feel that it’s not enough; that there needs to be an adjustment in the praise philosophy:

In the end, ego-stroking may feel good, but it doesn’t lead to happiness, says Prof. Twenge, the narcissism researcher, who has written a book titled “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable than Ever Before.” She would like to declare a moratorium on “meaningless, baseless praise,” which often starts in nursery school. She is unimpressed with self-esteem preschool ditties, such as the one set to the tune of “Frère Jacques”: “I am special/ I am special/ Look at me…”

I’ve always felt that the constant praise felt better for the parent, teacher, or employer than it did for the praisee. Meanwhile I grabbed a book the other day (at a library sale) titled, The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence, which takes the opposite tack: that the middle-class culture of meritocracy and “tough love” is ruining our young people. Aaaah…the search for balance, it’s never-ending.



5 Responses to “A blow to the "You’re Special" generation”

  1. Rothell Says:

    I wonder the extent to which this phenomenon is influenced by language. There is this understanding we youngsters have about the way our parents and grandparents talks back in their day “gee, that’s swell,” which may or may not be true, depending on the truth of the movies we often derive this understanding from. But I have a feeling that speaking in the superlative is something new, characteristic to generations x, y, and me.

    Speaking in the superlative is common among people who work in the entertainment biz. For example, on the phone several days ago somebody called the office where I was working to ask for our fax number. She actually said, “if you could give me your fax number that would be amazing.” Amazing? Had everyone she’d ever met prior to that moment denied her their fax numbers?

    I often her “great,” “unbelievable,” “amazing,” “the best” and even more often “fabulous” “the biggest…!” and “awesome” when talking about the most trivial thinks like the sausage biscuit from McDonalds they just ate or the ream of paper I just handed them from my desk drawer.

    Awesome is so mis-used that it made #3 on Lake Superior University’s annual list of words and phrases banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-use, and General Uselessness!

  2. wdporter Says:

    Very good points. Especially where you are (and by extension through broadcast, movies, and DVDs, where virtually EVERYONE is), superlatives are way overused. I’ve found myself using the phrase, “I’m a big fan,” lately. Am I in the wrong state?

    LOVE the list. It’s AWESOME! Do you know what “PWN” or “PWNED” means?

  3. Reagan_Gahagan Says:

    It’s another way of saying “Owned,” as in O.J. Simpson owned Nicole Brown Simpson.

  4. Rip Says:

    The overuse of praise is downright depressing, and is compounded by the corresponding decline in the critical feedback that makes people better at their respective endeavors. Luckily, it hasn’t yet infiltrated my corporate office.

    In an effort to make this article therapeutic, I’ll share a childhood memory:
    When I was 5, I was the only person on my tee-ball team not in the starting lineup. My parents told me that I was as good as the best player and that the coach was wrong. They were wrong to say that, as I knew they were not telling the truth at the time. But, I’m not sure that I’d have wanted them to tell me I was terrible (I was).

    WDP – Have you read the book you mentioned? If so, what did you think of it?

    Reagan – I think we may have to ban your icon, as it’s way too distracting.

  5. wdporter Says:

    I do not own the “Generation Me” book; it was mentioned in the Journal article and I just created a link to it.

    the other book, (the one that tells us that middle class meritocracy is destroying the confidence of our youth) I do own, but have not yet read. When I do, I’ll review it.

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