My Generation is Bad

You hear people lament all the time about various age groups. “O young people are spoiled” or “Old people are racist” or “medium-age people are boring.” On and on, in all ages and in all cultures. This sort of thing often comes across as alarmism, prejudice, or just ignorance. How could we know how one generation really is one way or the other.

Well if you’re in my age cohort (I was born in 1985), then you may suspect that something is a little amiss with our generation. It’s just a feeling I’ve always had, but I dismissed it as well, alarmism, prejudice, or ignorance of the relevant facts.

But then I came across this which is a little old now, but makes the point, quite scientifically (not necessarily irrefutably, but in a way that requires comment), that my generation lacks empathy. Empathy is a loose word and could mean a lot of things, but the scientific operationalization of it is tied to important things like sharing and helping others and negatively correlated with things like bullying (no wonder we need a bullying law right?) and sexual abuse.

Now this isn’t to say that our generation has a lot of good traits, I’m sure (am I?) we do. But this study shows that we kind of are, in general, a group of pretty self-absorbed bastards, up to 40% more so than college kids from say, the 70s. Whoops.

I guess I’ll go back to the drawing board for my whole personality.


4 Responses to “My Generation is Bad”

  1. May 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    We’ll still have a long way to go to catch the Baby Boomers … who were handed one of the greatest empires the world has ever known, presided over its economic and cultural decline and are now going to bankrupt it so they can receive medical care their descendants will only be able to dream about.

    • 2 questionbeggar
      May 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      Yea, they did quite a bit to lower racism in this country though and dealt with the cold war. That ain’t bad. Yea you’re right though, they like to live comfortably, that’s been their mark for many years now.

  2. 3 Eric Lu
    May 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    You should check out Jeremy Rifkin’s “The Empathic Civilization.” He takes a comprehensive historical, philosophical and scientific perspective and traces the evolution of empathy, arguing the exact opposite – that we’re becoming more empathic as a species.

    • 4 questionbeggar
      May 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      Yep, I’ve seen some things from that. Mirror neurons and whatever. Very interesting stuff, but maybe we’ve become more empathic as a species over the past 10,000 years, but our generation is pretty deficient compared to the last.

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