This week my guest is Jean Twenge, a renowned psychologist, professor, and author who has been one of the world’s leading researchers investigating generational differences and the impacts of technology. This includes her books The Narcissism Epidemic, Generation Me, and my personal favorite iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.
In this episode we explore Jean’s wonderful collection of work through the lens of her newest book, Generations, where we investigate how Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z have been shaped by technology and the implications this holds for the future. This takes us on a tour of discussions around the animosity between generations, mental health, personality traits like narcissism, regulations for social media platforms, and more.
or follow her at twitter.com/jean_twenge
Learn more about Singularity: su.org
Host: Steven Parton - LinkedIn / Twitter
Music by: Amine el Filali
Jean Twenge [00:00:01] You know, time is what we have as human beings. It's our greatest gift. And we really have to start thinking more seriously about how we're going to spend all the extra time that we have been given by the wonderful inventions we've come up with.
Steven Parton [00:00:28] Hello, everyone. My name is Steven Parton and you are listening to the feedback loop by Singularity. This week. My guest is Jean Twenge, a renowned psychologist, professor and author who has been one of the world's leading researchers investigating generational differences and the impacts of technology. This includes books such as The Narcissism, Epidemic Generation, Me and my personal favorite I, Gen Y. Today's super connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for adulthood. And this episode we explore this collection of genes work through the lens of her latest book, Generations, where we take a deeper look at how Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z have been shaped differently by technology and what implications these differences hold for the future of our society. This takes us on a tour of many topics, including animosity between generations, mental health issues, personality traits like narcissism, regulations for social media platforms, and much more. And with that overview out of the way, let's go ahead and jump into the conversation. Everyone, please welcome to the feedback loop Jean Twenge. I think what I want to do is kind of start by looking at the long history of your work, which from Generation me, I Gen and even the longitudinal work that you did and the narcissism epidemic. There's this obvious emphasis that you've had that culminates in your latest book, appropriately titled Generations. And I'm just wondering if you can kind of lay out why you found it valuable to look at humans through this lens of generational groups or these generational divides?
Jean Twenge [00:02:28] You know, I've always just really been interested in how culture and society. Influence people, influence who we are and how we live. And that interest started in being interested, how boys and girls and men and women kind of learn how to be boys and girls and men and women around gender. So it's kind of what I went to grad school to, to study. But I realized quickly that there was a big modifier of attitudes and behaviors around gender. And that was time that you know how to say what a woman is supposed to act like is very different. Now than it was 50 years ago or 100 years ago. And so that kind of got me interested in cultural change and generational change. And also, as a graduate student, it was the early nineties was right around the time that people are starting to pay attention to Generation X generation and what made us tick. And I read lots of books and articles about Gen X and some are really cool, but very few of them had any empirical evidence. Mm hmm. And being in grad school for research psychology, I found that odd and realized that this might be something I could do something about.
Steven Parton [00:03:57] Yeah, fair enough. Well, in the book, you introduce this idea that I think obviously is pertinent for for our audience, which is the technological model of generations, where you're basically suggesting that technology is a potential driver of the generational shift that you may have noticed, you know, specifically as it relates to these gender roles or or other things. Can you can you touch a little bit about how you view that technology model generations to be manifesting?
Jean Twenge [00:04:27] Yeah. So, you know, traditional series of generations. Focus a lot on events. How old were you when September 11th happened or the Great Recession happened or the Vietnam War happened? But. Big events, with a few exceptions, don't have a lot of impact on day to day life. What really has an impact on day to day life, which makes living now completely different from 20 years ago or 50 years ago, 100 years ago? Is technology so broadly defined? So when I say technology, I mean, of course what people think of like smartphones and social media and the Internet. But also things like airplanes, advances in medicine, labor saving devices. I get a little obsessed with thinking about laundry and how that has changed that. Thinking about if I had been a woman 100 years ago, how laundry probably would have taken an entire day or more, and you had to boil the water over to open fire and then clean stuff. And it's kind of mind blowing because now we take our laundry, we put it in the washing machine, we go watch television and how different that is.
Steven Parton [00:05:45] What are some of the, like tangible behavioral changes that you think are manifesting from this? Like what? Aside from maybe the the time saving aspects? What are some of the key things that these technological shifts are really hitting us with? Is it something that specifically personality or other behaviors, how we spend our time out in the world? What are some of the key things that are really happening to the generations that separate them because of these technologies?
Jean Twenge [00:06:16] Well, I do think the Chinese piece is really key. And that's that's one of the really the biggest changes is that we don't have to spend as much of our time merely surviving as it used to be. True is just an enormous change. But there's there's all kinds of downstream effects of of technology. So television. Probably related to people not reading as much, probably related to materialism going up all these labor saving devices we've been discussing. One of the reasons that there are more women participating in the workforce. Air conditioning. How many people would live in Florida if there were no air conditioning or in Texas where I grew up? Same thing. So where people live has been influenced by technology. And then the some of the later developments, of course, computer technology and the access we have to information. It's probably one of the reasons why education has changed so much that it wasn't that long ago before when people didn't get a high school education, that that was used to be common for people to not even finish high school. And now almost everybody finishes high school and a lot more people go to college because things are just more complex in terms of information and ideas and technology. And then we get to the Internet and social media and smartphones with lots and lots of benefits, but also downsides. The age of the smartphones, Social media has occurred with a huge mental health crisis, especially among adolescents, because they're spending more time on devices. They're spending less time with each other face to face. And that's not a great recipe for mental health, especially for teens.
Steven Parton [00:08:10] There's so much work that I've seen, you know, especially from people like Jonathan Haidt, where you watch these graphs of suicide ideation, of depression and anxiety and it seems to be relatively stable. And then you hit the group that's born around 95, 96 or later. And by the time you get to about 2009, 2012, where they're starting to, you know, hit puberty and enter into, you know, adolescence, it seems like those numbers just spike. Like what? What do you think is really taking place to drive some of these like a very tangible generational shift that's taking place here where we've never seen that before in terms of technology that I know of that has caused something like this to occur in a generation.
Jean Twenge [00:08:56] Yeah. So I first started to see these trends in 2015 when I was working on my book I Gen, which is about Gen Z, and that that book came out in 2017. And I've been working with these, these big surveys of, of teens for a while. So I got used to seeing changes that are big, but they take a decade or two to get there. And then in the data that was available in 2015, which is, you know, there's a little bit of a lag here. So this data from like 2012, 2013, 2014. Loneliness started to go up. Symptoms of depression started to go up. Then you started to see. Or it's from elsewhere about clinical level depression, about self-harm, about emergency room admissions for suicide attempts. All of these things. So in putting this together. When those trends started to appear and then kept going. I really had no idea what might be causing this. And. It wasn't economic trends. That was pretty clear because the U.S. economy finally started to improve after the Great Recession. Or on that time, 2012 wasn't the pandemic because these things started long before the pandemic. Depression doubled between 2011 and 2019, even before the pandemic was on the scene. So with these first years of data, it was really a puzzle. It was really a mystery and a puzzle really for a long time. And then in writing it, Jen realized something. At the end of 2012 was the first time that the majority of Americans had had a smartphone and then received surveys of teens. It was also a time when social media use moved from something that about half of teens were doing every day to something about 80% were doing every day. That happened around the same time early 20 tens. So in in. Writing that book and documenting this in these graphs and things where exactly as you're describing that there's very little change and then all of a sudden they just shoot upward or with happiness, it's the opposite. They've actually been improving and then we just fall off a cliff. So like happiness and life satisfaction. And then yeah, I shared a copy of the an early copy of the book with John Hight, and he was very excited about this because he, in writing his own book utterly in American mind, he had been speculating that there might be a change in depression, but he hadn't seen the data behind it yet. So when I shared those grassland, I was just stunned by that and put some of the ideas in his book. And then we ended up collaborating on the open source Google doc that has all of the studies and all of the evidence for this huge increase in teen mental health issues that started around 2012.
Steven Parton [00:11:50] And a lot of the evidence for this is that for women, specifically young girls, I should say, it's because of more gossip and kind of.
Jean Twenge [00:12:01] A.
Steven Parton [00:12:03] Lot to do with like beauty filters in the way they treat one another, whereas young boys seem to be more like porn and video games with women. Young girls seem to be more about gossip and things like that. Is this kind of one of the main drivers you see of this, or is are there other factors that are really influential and these rates of depression and whatnot?
Jean Twenge [00:12:25] Yeah, I mean, you do see in most of the indicators, the changes are are larger for girls and young women compared to boys and young men. And but not all of them. There's there's there's somewhere there's equally troubling trends for males as well. So given that, I think that that points to a cause that has affected both genders but might affect girls more. And I think this new technology fit that description. So for one thing, it's not just that you're using technology, it's what you're doing on it, and it's spending time on. Social media is more strongly linked to depression than spending time, say, gaming. Even when you control for gender in girls and more time on social media than boys do. They probably took a heavier hit from the specific pressures around social media, and those pressures are bigger for girls. The body image issues. I mean, think about it this way Instagram. It does. You know, there's just a fair number of things people do on Instagram. But the primary thing. That people do on Instagram as girls and young women post pictures of themselves and then invite other people to comment. Right. And, you know, you think about it that way. It's really not surprising that there's a link to depression, particularly for females, where there's just for many, many reasons, that pressure to look a certain way to be beautiful, to have a certain body type that honestly most of us can't live up to. And so it's uniquely depressing.
Steven Parton [00:14:07] What about the further, like, second order effects? Another thing I've heard talked about, you know, is that this time spent on social media, on video games, is taking away from time spent playing from, you know, the psychological development that comes from playing, that comes from being away from parents, developing rules and punishments within your peer group, and figuring out how to navigate that kind of in a very mature, adult way that helps you develop as a person. But then there's also issues of looking at social media all day and developing this hyper hyper focus on your how you peer to other people on, you know, your individualism, on this identity that you're creating for the world. So, you know, these are the two things I know we've touched on want to touch on is this idea that we are really emphasizing our individuality and we're maybe not developing as well as we should because we aren't taking time to do some of the things that used to be the key channels for psychological development.
Jean Twenge [00:15:18] Yeah, there's there's a there's a number of changes here and I think they're on and as they're there, they play together, but they're they're somewhat different. So one is displacement in terms of time spent socializing. So this was another piece of the puzzle when I was writing Gen because at the same time I was seeing these big increases in mental health issues. I was also looking at time use among teens. And one of the things that popped up right away in these big surveys is teens are spending a lot less time with each other face to face. And that had started to decline a little bit around 2000, but it really started to fall off a cliff, you know, after 2010, 2011, right around the same time that mental health issue started to go up. And here, especially at that generational or group level, it seemed pretty clear that what was happening is as teens started to communicate with each other more online, they started to spend less time with each other in person. And that's across the board, is going out with friends, is just informally hanging out with friends, going to parties, going to movies, you know, anything that was like in-person that previous generations of teens did with friends, it was going down. So that's the, you know, the one displacement piece. The other thing. Is that teens also started sleeping less. That's something else. Technology might have been interfering with. So that's not a good formula for mental health that you're spending more time online, less time sleeping, and less time with friends face to face. So that's one element. Then there's another element which is not as clearly good or bad. Which is one of the other downstream effects. So technology is what psychologists call a slow life strategy. So at times in places when people live longer and when education takes longer to finish, parents tend to make the choice to have fewer children and nurture them more carefully. They grow to adulthood at a slower pace, and the entire developmental trajectory from infancy to old age has slowed down. So for teens, what that means is, is they are doing adult activities later. So things that adults do and children don't do. 17 and 18 year olds are not doing as much now compared to ten years ago or 20 years ago. Or 40 years ago. So they're less likely to have a driver's license, There's less likely to have a paid job, they're less likely to drink alcohol, to go on dates, to have sex. So a lot of people go is not a good thing. Well, probably in many ways. But having a job, is that a good or bad thing? It's neither. So trying to judge it by good and bad, you miss the big picture. And the big picture is is slower development. There's upsides to that. It's a good thing. Most public health experts and parents would agree that not as many teens are drinking alcohol and having sex. However, there's a downside. Especially with some things that are more neutral that in center the 18 year old graduating from high school and going into the workplace or going to college. And they haven't been out of the house without their parents all that much. And they never had a paid job. And they don't have much experience with alcohol and sex. And then they get to college and then they have to do all those things or they don't have to, but they often do and they have to go to 0 to 60 in a short period of time. And that's hard. That's really difficult. And that's what this generation has experienced. And mass, you know, that they just don't have as much experience with independence or decision making. And once they go out into the world as legal adults.
Steven Parton [00:19:13] Is this something that might have to do with, you know, what Nassim Taleb calls Taleb calls anti fragility? And maybe we could just liken it to exposure therapy, like are the children and teenagers now growing up without enough experience of kind of adversity that when they get to the later stages of life, when they actually kind of have to head into that adversity head on alone, they simply lack the tools. And, you know, I think specifically of of these ideas of helicopter parenting or borders or parenting, where some of the latest trends have been literally to to, in fact, take away all of the challenges for kids. And then they just genuinely don't understand how to face challenges later in life as as that may be part of what's going on here. And maybe that is enforced by technology, kind of making it easy to stay inside and away from challenges.
Jean Twenge [00:20:09] Well, it's funny. I mean, I think there's there's certainly some truth to that, especially about real world challenges around independence and making decisions and scheduling your own life and trying to stay motivated and sleep at the right time and all of those types of things. There's been certainly a lot of hovering when it comes to that. On the other hand. Social media is not an easy place, and this generation has grown up on that. They have certainly faced challenges, but it's just that they face challenges in in that digital realm more than in the so-called meat world. And I think they they have certainly experienced adversity, but it's a different type of adversity.
Steven Parton [00:20:58] Well, could we talk maybe about some of those ways those challenges might be different? Like for me lately, one of my big focuses has been on this idea that we're breaking the evolutionary checks and balances with social media. You know, it's been talked about that the dark triad of personality traits, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism were things that can become more rampant if you don't have kind of these face to face checks and balances that we evolved with that say, hey, like if you betray me, if you do something against the group, everyone in the group will know and you know you're face the consequences. But in the social media landscape, those things don't really exist as much because you can kind of move from group to group and you can be anonymous and it feels like there's a lot of room for this bad behavior to go unchecked and. The adults are failing tremendously to cope with it. So I can't imagine the the challenges that's facing a teenager who doesn't have a fully developed frontal cortex to even begin to, you know, rein in some of these more impulsive behaviors. So does this feel like something that is really even navigable until we maybe alter the paradigm a little bit?
Jean Twenge [00:22:15] No, I think you really hit the nail on the head. I think that's exactly the problem. Right. And, you know, we have decades of really solid research in in personality and social psychology behind exactly what you said. And people are anonymous and more likely to be aggressive, that people who have are high in those dark triad traits run rampant online, you know, for a bunch of reasons. First, because they want to you know, they love being a troll. They get a charge out of it. Unlike, you know, people who have empathy, who don't really think that's fun. They think it's fun and they get away with a lot of it. Because you're right, the social contract kind of breaks down in those environments. So, yeah, it's hard enough for adults to deal with that stuff online and then think about being 12. I mean, it blows your mind and you think about it that way then. Yeah. This very well, my. Might be one reason we have this mental health crisis. And it's it's hard because, you know, technology is everywhere. It can be used for so many good things, even social media can. But we do have to ask ourselves those hard questions about what limits are we going to put on the use of technology? Are we going to put an age limit on certain platforms and more and more time to think that we should?
Steven Parton [00:23:31] Yeah. I want to get into that before we do. I want to hang out here a little bit longer. Specifically, do you think that. These dark triad traits are just being allowed to manifest themselves more publicly so they appear more common. Or do you think there's actually a cultivation of these traits? Like, are we seeing a genuine increase in prevalence for dark triad traits? That comes about because the brain is adapting itself to the social media landscape rather than maybe those in person landscapes? Or is this just a case of we're seeing it more because now it's public?
Jean Twenge [00:24:10] I think I think it's because we're seeing it more because it's public and because of this personality type, you know, just thrives in the in the online environment. You know, I have in the past look at trend looked at trends in narcissism and I updated that study recently and found yeah. In our previous finding across a couple of different data sets, there was a rise in narcissism among young people between the early eighties and about 2007. But since then it's gone down. So I suspect this initial decrease was a real. A check from the Great Recession, but then it kept going down. But that's likely because all the other things that it's that narcissism is linked to, like self-esteem and life satisfaction and happiness, at least when people are young, have also gone down among young people. So and I think some of that is just the way social media changed. You know, I think for a lot of millennials when they were young, social media was optional. It was fun. It was a way to communicate with friends and with Gen Z. Social media is mandatory, it's stressful, and it just doesn't have that same. The feeling of satisfaction. Instead, it's often, you know, something you can't put down. The addict's narrative around it that I don't really like it, but I. I still do it.
Steven Parton [00:25:36] Well, in terms of like personality or even psychopathology, are there things that you think are becoming more prevalent or cultivated? Because I feel like a lot of people would be surprised by that finding, frankly, that that narcissism seems to be decreasing because in this attention economy where we are so focused on, you know, getting followers, having people follow us and literally having this self-aggrandizement, it feels so ironic that we wouldn't be cultivating that more and more. So are there any are there any traits that are becoming more common, you think, because of the technology?
Jean Twenge [00:26:15] You know, I mean, I think that that model of social media maybe leading to more narcissism might have been true in the early days, but I think it's now become so big that it actually ends up maybe even pushing it down because of seeing all the perfect people online and not feeling like you measure up. Everybody else's life is more glamorous and everybody else's life is more successful. They're probably not, but they look that way. And that's what you see and that's what you process. And that's tons of studies on that social comparison. And social comparison is pretty bad online as a general rule.
Steven Parton [00:26:57] Well, let me let me bring this back to a conversation I was having recently with a gentleman named Zach Stein. He focuses heavily on education. One thing that he talked a lot about is this idea of generational knowledge being transferred from one generation to the next. And I can't help but think right now we have this massive amount of animosity between generations and even isolation or alienation from one another. It feels like it used to be the case that adults made content that was then consumed by the upcoming generation, but now it feels like it's a lot of peers of the same generation making content for one another. And you're losing this almost this generational exchange or traditional inheritance that might have proven, you know, valuable. Maybe not. I don't know. But I guess to that point, do you think there is something happening, some truth to this? And what is the cost if it is the case?
Jean Twenge [00:27:58] Yeah, it's a good question. I you know, I hadn't thought about it in that in that way for a while, but I think there's definitely some truth to that. I mean, there's there's the big picture and then the more recent picture. I mean, the big picture is this has been going on for a while that if you think about a traditional hunter gatherer society, how do young people learn things? So the only way to learn something is from the elders and then maybe from your parents and from older people who teach you things. That's it. So knowledge has to be generated from older to younger and with information technology, you know. So I mean, we got the printing press and that already then started to break down. So it's been going on for a very long time. But with television, with the Internet, then it breaks down even further. And then I think with, you know, user generated content, that's when it's almost a complete breakdown because it used to be so. Okay, I'm a I'm a Gen Xer. I will date myself a little bit here. And one of my favorite parts of this book was writing about the Saturday morning part. Tunes I watched as a kid because grew my God with a bad. I think I think they were written by boomers who were on acid. That is my theory, yet to be proven. But that's the thing. You know, older people were were writing this content. And that's probably still true for six year olds and eight year olds. But, you know, you get beyond about ten. Yeah. Especially with teens. They're watching Tik Tok videos that somebody their age might have made. There's not a content filter through older generations anymore. It is more direct.
Steven Parton [00:29:27] What is the cast of this, do you think? I mean, are we is this an okay thing? Because in my mind, I think of adaptive ness as one of the most important qualities we can have, right? An adaptive iness is basically adapting to your parents environment, adapting to the previous generation. You know, that's kind of how natural selection pushes along. But what now? We live in this time period where. The difference in environment is so vast between our parents generation, our generation, and actually even between our childhood and our adolescence. This this changing environment is moving so quickly that I'm just wondering what kind of effects this has on our ability to kind of navigate. The transmission of culture in a healthy way.
Jean Twenge [00:30:20] Mm hmm. Yeah. No, I know what you mean. So, I mean, I think it has definitely led to a more pronounced generation gap. So people just not understanding where the other's coming from. Gives. You've seen that. I think the generation gaps now are arguably just as pronounced as they were, say, in the 1960s between boomers and their parents generation. You're seeing that now. And I think this will play out, continue to play out, especially in the workplace, with more and more of of Gen Z entering the workplace. The oldest are 28. So, you know, even at places like law firms or in medicine, you're going to see that it's going to be in all of your entry level employees pretty much from now for a while, for the next decade or so. And that's the disconnect. If you have more and more young people where their culture is, say, TikTok videos and they haven't had as much experience talking to older people, then we're not going to understand each other. This is something I thought about a lot, you know, in writing this book, because people occasionally say to me, you know, oh, you you're going to write about generations. Are you going to are you going to tell tell us whose fault it is? Like, okay, that's the wrong question. You know, these are big changes. Some are actually good. So, you know, that's that's not the conversation we want to have. It's really it's about understanding and trying to understand where the other person is coming from based on their experience. And older generations have always been fascinated about that piece with the younger generations. But I think it has to also go the other way because I think there's there's a lot of young people that, oh, you know, boomers, Gen Xers, you know, your world is gone. I don't need to understand you. But yeah, you do, because we're your boss. Or your coworker. Yeah, well.
Steven Parton [00:32:09] I'm not even sure what question I want to get at with this next next point. But as you were talking that I'd find it interesting that we have these this boomer generation that is arguably running things and has a huge disconnect from technology. And then you have the upcoming Generation I Gen who are now entering the workforce and starting to become, you know, the leaders in a lot of cases there. They're starting to be the Forbes 30, under 30 type of individuals who are going to start leading the charge. Right. And an idea and you know, specifically you're addressing the fact that they are less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, unprepared for adulthood. There seems to be this book, End of Generations, that isn't really adapted. You know, the millennials and Gen X maybe have a grasp because we were kind of transitional. Yeah, but this bookend is very disconnected. And I don't know. Is there a way that you reconcile that or how you how do you think about that?
Jean Twenge [00:33:07] Yeah, I mean, it is tough. I do think that there there is there is a disconnect there. And, you know, I think it really you know, I mean, as with many things in life and getting along with other people, it does really just it comes down to empathy of trying to put yourself in that other person's shoes and understand where they're coming from. And that is much easier said than done. But it's it's a very, very productive exercise to be able to do that. I think you have to do that whether you're an older person looking at younger people on your kids today or a younger person saying a person is just they're they're dead weight, you know, they're gone. Well, not yet.
Steven Parton [00:33:47] How do we fix some of this, then, I guess, you know, beyond just empathy, we touched on briefly before some some things with age. So could you talk a little bit about your thoughts around maybe regulation in this? Do you think it is reasonable to say that 13 years of age is simply too young to access social media? Is that something that you would kind of stand behind, stand behind, given your psychological expertise?
Jean Twenge [00:34:15] Yeah, absolutely. So, know, let's get social media out of middle schools. And if we're going to do that, we're going to need it done on that group level because the problem right now. Is it's kind of a it's a losing game because if let's say you're 18 and you don't want to use social media where you might feel left out, probably will sell opt out, then you use it. You have all of the pressures and you see what your friends are doing without you. And so you feel left out too. You can't win. So more and more, as I've thought about this over the years, I've come to realize we need group level solutions. And one of those would be raising the minimum age for social media to 16, maybe even 18. 16 is a nice compromise position because then get it out of middle school. You can get it out of most ninth grade. The vast majority of people or the 14 and 15 at that age. And when they are more able to deal with it because social media has some upsides, but it has some really, really big downsides. And a lot of those downsides are especially acute for younger people. And in terms of, as you mentioned, like the frontal cortex and that self-control. Because the algorithms on these apps are designed. These companies have poured billions of dollars into designing algorithms that keep us on the apps and keep us coming back. That's just true for adults. And you think about kids 13, 14 years old, and they're they want to communicate with their friends and not at all saying. Young people should be able to communicate with their friends. There's many, many safer ways to communicate, even online, that don't involve social media, texting and group text being one example.
Steven Parton [00:36:07] Yeah. Do you do you think that one potential risk with. Young people in particular being on social media is this idea of what I guess I would call standardization of self. Like I think a lot about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. And if you have a tool like social media that's rewarding extrinsic motivation, rewarding attention followers, maybe even becoming an influencer. A lot of these things that are external to self. It seems like it could push people to to acquiesce or shape themselves to the most common trends that they give rewarded for and kind of deviate from self, which seems potentially really harmful for somebody who's trying to figure out who they are as a person.
Jean Twenge [00:36:56] Yeah, I think that's absolutely one of the things that's that has been going on. And we see that in the big survey data too, that there's been a decline in intrinsic values and a rise in extrinsic. So extrinsic money, fame and image. Yeah, that that's more important to young people now then than it used to be. And they might argue all because those things have to be more important anyway. Right. But that is yet another thing to consider when we're thinking about the influence of social media.
Steven Parton [00:37:26] Yeah. Well, on another solution than I guess, do you think that we should look into something like digital IDs or something that takes away the phenomenon that we talked about before allowing the Dark triad to kind of sneak in? I know a lot of people worry that this would silence whistleblowers or hand too much power to the government. But it really does seem like from an evolutionary standpoint, it's just really bad to maintain this anonymous system that we have. So what do you think about policy around something like that?
Jean Twenge [00:38:00] Yeah, I mean, I think that that question is harder. I think a lot of people can get around, okay, we're going to verify age and we're going to raise the minimum age to 16. But then we're talking about adults and we're talking about everybody has to use their real name and so on. That gets a lot harder that those those questions are there's a lot more complexities and subtleties with that. But there is a lot to be said for not having an anonymous face when people are just beaten on each other all the time. But you're right, there's there's a lot of downsides to that system as well, that if we didn't have sites where people can be anonymous, maybe we'd lose something.
Steven Parton [00:38:45] Do you think a lot of what we're seeing online is a result of the technology itself, or is it the other factors taking place in the world that are being manifested there?
Jean Twenge [00:38:56] I think it's much more an intersection of human nature and technology and how the two end up playing together, because in terms of people feeling fear and insecurity, I mean, that happens every year, every decade, Every generation experiences some form of war around the world and some sort of concern around economic performance. And actually, one of the things that I explore in generations is that young adults are. Actually making more money than previous generations at the same age. Contrary to popular belief, median incomes are actually at all time highs. So there might be the perception that people are doing well, but it's not the reality. So I think it's not so much this, you know, some of the specific challenges of this. Time. But just what happens when you have a place where people can be anonymous? And then what happens when you have 13 year olds posting selfies online and then. Waiting for comments. I get to those interactions of just development, basic human nature, and then putting technology on top of that.
Steven Parton [00:40:13] Do you want to kind of give us a snapshot of what some of these real differences are that you think in summation are maybe some of the key things that really are dividing the generations?
Jean Twenge [00:40:24] Yeah. There's there's there's a lot. So one one thing is around this economic piece, there's a really common narrative that boomers made a ton of money. Did really well for themselves. Had really no huge obstacles to financial success, then pulled up the ladder behind and didn't let millennials. Climate. And that really that narrative really is true. Millennials are doing a lot better and boomers are doing a lot worse than is commonly perceived. It's already mentioned how millennials are doing better. And then you look at boomers. A lot of boomers, particularly those who didn't go to college, really got screwed because they had already started those careers. By the time the economy started to shift away from manufacturing and toward service and technology. And then it was hard for a lot of them to start over. And then that that shows up in so many places. You take that combined with a lot of that alcohol and substance abuse that boomers have struggled with. And that's probably why you get suicide rates up. I mean, of drug overdoses, very high, binge drinking among older people has gone up. Boomers have a lot of struggles, and that is not often discussed. And it's particularly true for those without a college education. It's interesting. It's changed. One of the graphs in the book in that chapter, which was really stunning to me, was that if you look at people lower and higher in income among the silent generation, those born before the boomers, there's very little difference in rates of depression between those two groups. Then it starts to separate and you get a really by the time you get to boomers born in the fifties early sixties, huge gap. Rates of depression among lower income boomers are about twice as much as among higher income. Boomers didn't used to be such a huge difference by socioeconomic status, although I think the 2016 election gave us a view of boomers who were not as politically powerful, but they were when they voted Trump into office. So I think this this this data really shows what that election also demonstrated, which is just the vast amount of dissatisfaction among boomers without a college education.
Steven Parton [00:43:04] Yeah, that makes sense. Well, and that kind of segways us really nicely into the second part of your subtitle there, which is What this means for America's Future. What are the implications of these generational differences?
Jean Twenge [00:43:22] Well, there's there's a lot of them. So I start in that last chapter with the workplace. So obviously technology has had an enormous impact on the workplace. We're still trying to figure out is everybody going to work at home or are we going to go back to the office? And that's going to be probably figured out over the next 5 to 10 years. I think there's there's a lot of things with. Gen Z or agent in particular that I think are going to come up more and more in the workplace. I think there's going to be a lot more conversation around gender identity. There's going to be a lot and pronouns is going be a lot more conversation around safe spaces and emotional safety. There's already been a lot more conversation about companies taking political stands, and it's almost always been the younger employees who push for the political stand and the older generations who say, No, no, no, that's not what we do. And that clash is only going to get worse.
Steven Parton [00:44:25] Yeah, I feel like a lot of us can notice that already, just as we we come to a close here. I just want to give you a chance to leave us with any closing thoughts, any closing sentiments, maybe something you want to point out that we haven't talked about or anything at all.
Jean Twenge [00:44:42] Though. When I think about technology. It occurred to me that that probably one of the most important things we need to consider is this that technology has given us longer lives, some more years to live. It has given us more hours in the day because we don't have to spend as much time doing laundry or cooking or just generally surviving. So it's given us the gift of time. Then we have to ask, what do we do with that time? And if the answer is watch a bunch of videos on YouTube and then scroll through Instagram, maybe that's not the best answer. And time is what we have as human beings. It's our greatest gift and we really have to start thinking more seriously about how we're going to spend all the extra time that we have been given by the wonderful inventions we've come up with.