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Move Over, Millennial 'Narcissists,' There's a New Generation for the Olds to Get Wrong

Techno-panic finds a new target in Jean Twenge's "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

Jean Twenge/TwitterJean Twenge/TwitterThe trope that millennials ushered in a "narcissism epidemic" can be pinned squarely on one crackpot generational consultant, Jean M. Twenge, whose cherry-picked data and superficial analysis have somehow made it into just about every major media outlet over the past decade. Now Twenge is turning her techno-panic-fueled farce to the post-millennial cohort, Gen Z, in an Atlantic magazine cover story asking, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

Short answer: no, and nothing in Twenge's shoddy research reasonably leads to this conclusion.

For a longer answer, check out my recent Buzzfeed article. As I point out there, "almost all of the problems with Twenge's millennial bullshit are on display in her somber analysis of Gen Z," defined as folks currently between the ages of five and 23 years old.

Perhaps aware that she needed a new shtick to stay at the top of the generational-guru game, Twenge is now claiming that, around 2012, data started showing that "many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear" (she does not say what data shows this). And Gen Z isn't just psychologically far-removed from millennials, she says—they spend their time in far different ways, too.

All of this she blames on smartphones—and it's a superficially appealing idea. Elementary school kids now have their own iPhones. My best friend's 3-year-old can take a selfie. It's quite possible that growing up with smartphones and social media may produce distinct psychological and social effects.

But it's way too early to call them yet. And Twenge's data doesn't back up her attempt to do so.

Instead, she makes grave proclamations based purely on anecdotes, correlations—such as smartphone ownership rising alongside higher rates of teen depression—and selectively wielded data. For instance, she brings up a study suggesting more unhappiness among eighth graders who are heavy social media users, but doesn't mention that the same study found no effect for 12th graders.

Twenge "reviews only those studies that support her idea and ignores studies that suggest that screen use is NOT associated with outcomes like depression and loneliness," objected psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh in Psychology Today. And "nowhere is Twenge's bias more obvious...than in some research that she actually does review but then casts aside as seemingly irrelevant to her thesis—namely, the vast counter-evidence to the 'destroyed generation' thesis contained in her headline."

So far, the counterevidence shows that the youth of Gen Z—like millennials—have lower rates of suicide, unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, illicit drug use, cigarette smoking, car accidents, and alcohol consumption than their Gen X and Boomer predecessors. As Cavanagh comments: "This is what a destroyed generation looks like?"

Read the whole thing here. For some still-relevant millennial myth-busting, see:

Photo Credit: Jean Twenge/Twitter

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    I'd peruse the pages of her book, if you know what I mean.

    So far, the counterevidence shows that the youth of Gen Z—like millennials—have lower rates of suicide, unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, illicit drug use, cigarette smoking, car accidents, and alcohol consumption than their Gen X and Boomer predecessors. As Cavanagh comments: "This is what a destroyed generation looks like?"

    I don't know if destroyed is the right word, more like...risk averse?

    #YOLO, more like #LAME-O, am I right?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I don't know, I think that sort of proves the Atlantic writer's point. All that is because the iGens are on their phones all the time and are not going out. That is weird, unique, and unprecedented. I think they are going to turn out to have differently wired brains and a particular type of unhappiness is going to be a problem. Not all of them, if course, but a significant percentage. Or maybe that's just where the human race is headed, for better or worse.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Or, this apt segment from ENB's piece:

    It's quite possible that growing up with smartphones and social media may produce distinct psychological and social effects.

    But it's way too early to call them yet. And Twenge's data doesn't back up her attempt to do so.

    Baseless technological fear-mongering is feeble af.

  • dk12345||

    Right...it's too early to tell so don't analyze any data for another 20 years. It's kind of like climate change, right? We just don't know and the jury is still out, so best to just do nothing and not worry about it.

    I set up social media accounts for my eight year old last night. Figure she needs to be exposed to some of the selfie queens when she's young so she develops a healthy body image.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Yeah, we can just jump to conclusions!

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Jumping is fun and good exercise.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Crusty's jump to conclusion usually involves something like "I think you have a tick!"

  • Citizen X - #6||

    To be fair, most of the people who find themselves in a situation where they might encounter Crusty are absolutely covered in ticks.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    When science fails, all we can do is say whatever confirms our own biases.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I wasn't fearmongering, but simply making an observation.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Humans... unhappy? That's a scary thought.

  • Rhywun||

    I observe some of these types on the train sometimes. Just swiping through page after page of social media garbage, not pausing to read anything. It's weird.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    You read garbage?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Nah, I usually just skip past the articles and start posting here.

  • Rhywun||

    Not me. The smartphone zombies sitting next to me.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    But you said they're not reading it.

  • Rhywun||

    Is your brain broken?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Your complaint is that they're swiping through heaps of garbage, and they don't even read it.

    Maybe they're swiping through because they're looking for something worth reading.

  • Rhywun||

    You'd think they'd eventually land on something worth reading, but I haven't seen it happen.

  • WakaWaka||

    Buzzfeed, eh. Really brandishing that 'libertarian' street cred

  • Hugh Akston||

    Not nearly as prestigious as the places you've been published, I'm sure.

  • Hail Rataxes||

    You definitely didn't bring that complaint over from the other site. Because you're not there. Lol.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    He did? That is hilarious.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, it pisses me off. I can't think of anything less libertarian than doing contract work to make money.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's tattoos that have destroyed a generation. They've marked themselves unemployable.

  • GILMORE™||

    -1 tramp stamp

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Any job where the employer gets to see your tramp stamp is probably a job where that tramp stamp is an asset.

  • GILMORE™||

    hence the -1

    if i were agreeing, it would be a +1

    why am i explaining how this works

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Necks, hands, faces. This is the current real estate I'm seeing tagged these days. Laser tattoo removal seems like a ripe investment opportunity.

  • Rhywun||

    To be fair, there do seem to be enough coffee shops and food co-ops to go around.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I don't entirely trust people who don't view coffee primarily as a drug.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    The best drug.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I still wish cocaine was legal. ALAS

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Same. I really think it would propel my career a few years forward before inevitably crashing down. That said, the adderall doctors shill out is basically on par with cocaine.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't drink coffee. I don't enjoy the taste, I generally don't enjoy hot beverages, and caffeine never seems to be the stimulant for me that others find in it.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    So your secret is 5-hour Energy Drinks?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Eugene is more of a Monster guy.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    You misspelled "Munster".

  • Rhywun||

    I had a coworker who swore by those and was amazed they're "caffeine-free!"

    Uh, until I pointed out the ingredients list to her.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I do swear by 5-hour Energy Drinks, they do work, it just seems very unwise to use them often. But they definitely work, energy drinks are filling and crash inducing.

    Anecdote: I best maned a bachelor party a few weeks back and gave all the boys 5-hour's between afternoon and night activities, just said, "trust me" -- front row behind home plate, didn't see a single yawn after a long day of drinking and feasting.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Best maned a bachelor party? Was the horse the bride or the groom?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    My secret is that I'm forever drowsy. I have low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Crush and bump some NoDoz, bro.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Oh, god, can you guys imagine Eugene's comments on caffeine?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    His comments would actually appear BEFORE the articles. It'd be a mess.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    It would be like getting the punch line before the set up. Wait, no it wouldn't.

  • Magnitogorsk||

    Humans are changing their behavior in reaction to the astonishing, life-altering technological advances made in the past couple decades. This MUST be a bad thing. I need to figure out why and how it is bad, before someone else does and publishes a book about it first

  • dk12345||

    Humans are changing their behavior in reaction to the astonishing, life-altering technological advances made in the past couple decades. This MUST be an amazing thing and nothing bad could possibly come out of it. Anyone who points out any negative potential consequences is a Luddite.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Not every technological advance is a problemless boon. Just look at the obesity epidemic.

  • Magnitogorsk||

    I'm glad you agree

  • Rhywun||

    They traded smoking and alcohol for sleeve-tatts and kissy lips. Hooray.

  • sarcasmic||

    Tautological arguments are tautological.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    The First Rule of Tautology Club is the First Rule of Tautology Club.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    The Second Rule of Tautology Club is No Mingers.

  • Jerryskids||

    TV undoubtedly affected the Boomer's brains, for good or for ill, and the internet probably has had as big an impact on the iPhone generation. Is it time to panic or even be concerned? There are some people that think all of human progress was a big mistake and humanity would be better off if we returned to our hunter/gatherer roots as animals, they think we should have panicked a long time ago.

    (Full disclosure: I've approvingly quoted it here before: "While I hesitate to question the wisdom of the Almighty, I sometimes wonder if He didn't make a mistake in warning Noah about the Flood.")

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Assigning a label to an entire cohort of people based solely on the coincidental commonality of an arbitrary range of birth dates, and then assuming that label to be definitive? How could any error possibly creep into THAT rigorous intellectual framework?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I just know that as someone who is aging, I have distinct insight into the fact that Millennials are broken.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    And they desperately need to vacate your lawn post-haste.

  • Rhywun||

    I would agree but I'm too busy yelling at clouds.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Have you noticed clouds are getting all uppity lately?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Oh no, I'm want them on my lawn. I am DESPERATELY lonely, haha.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    [hugs]

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    *Reminder to order BUCS a Happy Hannah Sex Doll for Christmas*

  • Citizen X - #6||

    BUCS would prefer Traumatic Injury Traci. You know, for the additional orifices.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Really, I'm just grateful for anything I can stick my weenis in.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    This is why all the bowling alleys near you have your picture hanging up with the caption SHOOT ON SIGHT.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I'll be right over with that warm peach cobbler.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Your sex life continues to sadden and disgust.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Kind of like certain people displayed as statues installed by Democrats between 1861 and 2000 are labelled racist symbols?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    There really aren't that many contenders for your throne, o King of Fantastically Irrelevant Non-Sequiturs. You don't have to try so hard.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have learned from reading your non-sequiturs.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Ah, the old "I'm Rubber You're Glue" comeback. Not a widely popular debate technique outside of elementary school playgrounds.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Is too!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You two have been spotted coming from many a playground BTW.

    Hopefully the police don't investigate your activities further or check your sexual offender status.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    No, but you certainly like non-sequiturs.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    That's your hill?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    more like a mole hill.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You will know when I am holding Hill 69 and intend to keep all you fuckers off it.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Fine with me. I am not a huge fan of 69. It is hard for me to do a good job while I am getting blown, and it is hard for me to enjoy a blowjob when I am trying to do a good job.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    rookie!

  • esteve7||

    I have a younger cousin who's Gen Z (~14yo). Speaking as a 31yo millennial, his generate is going to save our ass. I would much rather hire him or his friends once they get out of college then most of the millennials I know, including one of my roommates.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Sounds like a real square.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I bet he will be a virgin till his brain stops myelinating.

  • esteve7||

    You are talking about my SJW roommate right?

    I'm sure my cousin won't have any problems with that.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I have hope for Gen Z, what people fail to give credence to about the 3yo with a iPhone is they are deep into their own choice mediums of information by age 10; not the mediums of information that were forced upon all of us older folk, Millennials included.

    Gen Z won't have the one size fits all narrative influencing them, they have too many resources -- in the '00s most Millennials were still watching MTV, if you feel me? For Gen Z this kid will be twitch streaming and this kid will be on youtube all day, etc. The narrative control will diminish.

  • esteve7||

    There's a reason why most distrust the media, even more so for places like the WSJ after the whole PewDiePie BS

  • Stormy Dragon||

    "Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis"

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Mmmm, tempura.

  • WoodChipperBob||

    You don't want that tempura, it's mutant tempura.

  • Number 2||

    I have it on good authority that the invention of the printing press ruined an entire generation of 15th Century teenagers by causing them to spend hours reading the printed word and, worst of all, having their own books published! Before the age of 21, no less!

    Similarly, the invention of the spoken language ruined generations of prehistoric teenagers, because they used the spoken language to talk about sex.

  • ||

    According to Peter the Venerable, writing in about 1105, it all went to hell when the young folks started hanging out in coffee shops, wearing turbans, and learning Arabic instead of Latin.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Have a couple of Gen Z kids then tell us how everything is going to be fine, Brownie.

  • GILMORE™||

    There's a New Generation for the Olds to Get Wrong

    While there has never been a generation more stroked in print than Millenials, for the large part, no one got them wrong. They turned out to be exactly the egomaniacal virtue-signal-hungry morality-LARPers everyone mocked.

    If there was any huge error in judgement, it was the decision by media orgs to desperately pander to them, thinking it would slow their terminal decline in relevance

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    They turned out to be exactly the egomaniacal virtue-signal-hungry morality-LARPers everyone mocked.

    T_T

  • Brian||

    I don't get these millennial narcissist whippersnappers: there always thinking about themselves, instead of thinking about me.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    So far, the counterevidence shows that the youth of Gen Z—like millennials—have lower rates of suicide, unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, illicit drug use, cigarette smoking, car accidents, and alcohol consumption than their Gen X and Boomer predecessors. As Cavanagh comments: "This is what a destroyed generation looks like?"
    Millennials drive less, they have less vaginal sex and more anal/oral sex (less babies), cigarettes are outrageously expensive for Millennials to afford, and they smoke more weed (so less alcohol is necessary to get loose as a goose).

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So you agree? Or do you agree with the data but disagree with the conclusion that they're not destroyed.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    No generation is destroyed.

    I was just pointing out the shoddy causation conclusions.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They don't talk about causation there at all though. In the lines you quoted they just state data.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In fact, "trends in youth behavior support the opposite conclusion," as Neil Howe and William Strauss noted in a 2007 Los Angeles Times op-ed. As evidence, they pointed to falling rates of crime, teen pregnancy, abortion, premarital sex, reckless driving, and drug use; rising rates of volunteerism; and research showing that millennials get along better with their parents than previous generations did.

    Jesus, BUCS you really need to read better.

  • NoVaNick||

    they have less vaginal sex and more anal/oral sex (less babies)

    Alternative explanations: Millennial dudes watch porn and milk the snake instead of looking for a hookup.

    For the decline in car accidents, don't fewer millennials own cars or even get their licenses?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Sure. Those are alternate explanations too.

  • Azathoth!!||

    I really hate these 'youth-chasing' pieces at reason.

    'Olds'? Really?

    You get 9 years of quasi-independent 'young adulthood' in your life--4 if you're Obamacared and then you're out of THE Demographic, you've become an 'old' in the eyes of someone on the other end of those 9 or 4 years.

    And you're gonna be an 'old' for the rest of your life.

    And just as you're starting to get your hip, cool young self into reason, you'll cross that line and Nick Gillespie will be writing articles about how terrible you are for thinking that you should get the money back that was stolen from you in YOUR youth--back when Nick Gillespie was courting YOUR interest.

    Try speaking to everyone as if they're in it together instead of this endless pitting of A against B.

    And here's the thing, providing for a comfortable later life is REALLY important--because you get DECADES of it

  • Hugh Akston||

    a) clearly you're not familiar with irony, for which you have my pity.

    b) getting mugged doesn't justify your mugging someone else.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    a) clearly you're not familiar with irony, for which you have my pity.

    They say an old's sense of humor is the first thing to go...

  • Hugh Akston||

    Sad!

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Unfortunately, you know what the last thing to go is.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Judging by some of our commenters, the ability to type nonsense into the internet.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Zing.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Shitposting is our generations smoking. Long after we're senile and lost in a haze of Alzheimer's, each of us will be instinctively posting bullshit to the hypercloud and reading witticisms produced by the Fist Of Etiquette Bot-Net that has taken over our world.

    We will not understand, but we will post. It is engraved in our souls, and will outlast our minds.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Roll that beuatiful bean footage dude LOL

  • GILMORE™||

    you'll cross that line and Nick Gillespie will be writing articles about how terrible you are

    DONT SAY THAT! (hugs copy of 1990s Teen Machine)

  • Bubba Jones||

    Is there anything more stereotypically millennial than complaining about old people in a buzzfeed article?

    If we can't raise the voting age to 35, I can at least do my best not to hire anyone younger than that.

  • NoVaNick||

    Most of my coworkers are millennials and while there are a few who definitely fit the stereotype (always on their phones and social media), most are pretty hardworking and polite. Perhaps this is why they are employed.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Nick you fool - stereotype people based solely upon what you think about those in their particular age group.

    Get it together.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I stereotype people solely based on their amount of body hair.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Which is better? Because I'm pretty damn hairy when I haven't had my body shaved recently.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    The scale goes from baby mole rat to Crusty.

  • NoVaNick||

    Sorry-at 46 I am an old fart entitled to my stereotypes.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    u r old, cuz if u were a millennial u would have typed: "sorry not sorry."

    i cant even.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Just don't. Okay?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Ermagerd, u guyz.

  • All Seeing Eye||

    Just be careful giving your 3 year old that cell phone. You are letting this kid radiate his brain and cook it. Not a good start and maybe this is why those millennials are so emotionally screwed up.

    Regardless, other studies have proven their narcissism as being far above and beyond other generations so it is not just this one person saying so. They ultimately are completely f*cked and once they take control of institutons like the government we're all entirely beyond f. Pray for generation Z coming behind them.

  • ||

    They ultimately are completely f*cked and once they take control of institutons

    I don't know that we ever have or will ever see a generation as ubiquitously narcissistic as the Boomers, and the difference between the Boomers and subsequent generations is that it's typical for people in their 20s to be highly narcissistic, while the Boomers never grew out of that and are just as self-involved in their 60s and 70s as they were in their 20s.

    And Boomers are currently in control of our institutions.

    Be afraid now - not for the future.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    He who controls the... oh fuck it. Yes.

  • jelabarre||

    "He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing." Paul Atreides

  • Crusty Juggler||

    They ultimately are completely f*cked and once they take control of institutons like the government we're all entirely beyond f.

    BEST F*UCKED EVAH F!

  • Crusty Juggler||

    :(

  • Rhywun||

    f*cked af

  • Crusty Juggler||

    tha struggle is v real.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    BEST STR*GGLE EVAH!

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    This is a piece of shit even by ENB's low standards.

    The narcissism is a direct result of the self-esteem movement in public schools. The consultant may be a crackpot, but nobody has ever heard of her before.

  • ||

    The narcissism is a direct result of the self-esteem movement in public schools.

    Then how do you explain the narcissism that still runs rampant among the Boomers?

  • NoVaNick||

    I blame the parents to be honest. I have a 4 and 7 year old and they are not allowed on the iPad except for an hour on weekends. My older son asked if he can get an iPhone in third grade and I told him "you gotta be kidding-not until high school..."

  • Trigger Warning||

    Keep the hate directed at Boomers, where it belongs.

    Millennials are a generational skidmark, and Gen Z's balls haven't dropped.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Millennials are a generational skidmark

    T__T

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    There's plenty of hate to go around. Hate is not an economic good.

  • Bacon-Magic glib reasonoid||

    Isn't this a Buzzfeed article?

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