Here's a phrase I mention only briefly in the book that I now realize should have had its own section: "you shouldn't care what anyone else thinks of you". Parents often tell kids this (along with all of that other modern brainwashing I have railed against, like "believe in yourself and you can do anything.")
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Think about this one for a moment: If no one cared what anyone else thought of them, what would this world be like? Crap, that's what. Total chaos, with all sorts of unpleasantness. Basically, no one would be nice to anyone else.
I think this phrase was originally intended to argue against peer pressure. (Teen: "But I have to have $200 jeans, Mom! Or everyone will think I'm a dork!" Mom: "Oh, honey, you shouldn't care what anyone else thinks of you.") But aren't there better, less blanket-statement, ways to put this? Like "What's wrong with being a dork?" (Just kidding). More like, "I'm sure we can find cheaper ways for you to not look like a dork." or "I'm sure not everyone will think that."
It's just that if we tell kids not to care what others think, they will (shocker) believe us and then act like jerks. Then more of them will drive down the street blasting their music at all hours of the night, and there are way more than enough of these kids already. It's official -- I am a geezer at 34.
The USA Today story came out yesterday (Thursday), and it looks great! There's a teaser on the front front page (It actually says "Meet the new 'Generation Me'"!!), and the article itself is in the Life section, and has a pic of the book cover and a small pic of me.
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The online version doesn't do it justice, but here it is:
Remember my blog post about Bode Miller, and sanpaku's comment about Lindsay Jacobellis?
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My question is, did this guy rip off my blog or did he have the same idea I did, but about a month later? Especially strange is that he actually uses the term "Generation Me."
Now this is just funny.
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The book signing was yesterday -- it was a lot of fun! Thanks to all of you who attended and made it a success. We sold out of books and had to supplement with my comp copies, which Craig had thrown in the trunk of the car. The store will reorder copies and give them back to me. (Though I would have been happy with cash. :) We had 64 people in all.
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Because it was a local event, the charm was in the gathering of friends, family, and students -- like a party that was in a bookstore. I started my talk by holding up the "books" I made when I was 7 or 8 -- typing paper cut into fourths and stapled, with text typed in on my dad's IBM electric typewriter at his office. Clearly I have wanted to write a book for a long time (something I have to remember every time I worry about how it's selling -- no matter what, it's still published). Then we did questions, and then signing. I used a Sharpie (a very dark permanent marker), so I made sure everyone spelled their name for me first -- I didn't want to mess that up!
So now I am trying to sleep as much as possible to prepare for Monday night/Tuesday morning's 3am wakeup call.
A side note -- another Free Press book, _Female Chauvanist Pigs_, will be on Oprah tomorrow (Monday). So check out its amazon rank now, and again Monday night, to see what happens.
Update on media appearances ...
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The Fox News morning show (Fox & Friends) appearance will be live, 7:40am Eastern time on Tuesday April 11.
The USA Today piece has been moved to Thursday April 13.
Friday April 14, 3:05pm, live radio interview on KGO-AM in San Francisco.
Well, it's finally happened: _Generation Me_ has officially been published and is in stores and on amazon as a regular order. Barnes & Noble, and I think Borders too, is shelving it in Sociology. (Because most Psychology books are self-help or about Freud.)
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Now you can read the book and see what the hell I have been blabbing about!
The push to get media appearances has also begun. This week, in advance of Saturday's book signing here in San Diego, I'm doing local media.
So if you're in or around San Diego and are interested (e.g., you want to see if I screw up), here's the lowdown:
KPBS radio 89.5, Tuesday, 10:00-10:40am.
Fox 6 local morning show, Wednesday, ~7:30am.
KUSI 9 local morning show, Thursday, ~7:20am.
Next week is national media time. USA Today *should* be running a story on Tuesday, April 11. On the same day, I will appear on the FoxNews national morning show Fox & Friends, between 7am and 8am Eastern time. We'll nail down the exact time later, but no matter where it is in there, that means I will be -- drumroll -- doing live TV between 4am and 5am local time. *That* should be good for some laffs. But it's national cable TV, so who can say no?
Here's a self-focus example I didn't discover until I finished the book: many churches have Sunday school classes -- sometimes for kids as young as 3 -- where the lesson is "God made me special."
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You can buy a kid-size t-shirt with this slogan: http://store.yahoo.net/yhst-54787164184156/godmamespt.html You can also get pencils that say this.
Sometimes this slogan is used for kids with disabilities, and there the message makes some sense. But for non-disabled kids, the slogan is an invitation to narcissism. An item on the most popular narcissism scale is "I am a special person." And this is how kids are likely to hear it -- special as in special treatment.
Here's a song used in some Sunday schools:
"I Am Special (tune of Frere Jacques) I am special (point to yourself) I am special Don't you see? (make binoculars with your fingers) Don't you see? Someone very special (hands out to the side, palms up) Someone very special 'cause God (point to heaven) made me (point to yourself) God made me!"
So not only am I special, but *God* made me that way. Please give me my candy now, and move out of my way.
Here's a line from another Sunday school song:
"My hair's a special color. My eyes and skin are too. God did not make me to be like you."
This emphasizes one of the central tenets of high individualism: I am unique. I am not like you. It emphasizes difference rather than sameness. Kids are not singing this song in collectivistic cultures like Japan or Mexico.
Many people have asked me how this book and my research will affect my own childrearing when I have kids. I may eat these words later, but from where I stand now, here's what I think:
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• I will not utter the following phrases: "You can be anything you want to be," "Believe in yourself and you can do anything," or "You should never give up on your dreams" -- mostly because all of them are patently untrue. I bet I will not be able to stop myself from saying "Just be yourself," however, as it is one of those all-purpose phrases you say when you don't know what else to say. But it is somewhat ridiculous.
• Will I encourage my kids to aim high? I hope so, but I also hope I will help them understand that both hard work and luck are involved in making it -- that despite what they see on TV, becoming rich and/or famous is not easy.
• I will not ask a very young child if she wants to go to the park, the mall, etc. We will just go. Making decisions like this is stressful, and very young kids don't have the cognitive ability to make an informed decision. There's enough time later for kids to learn to make decisions and be more individual.
• I will try my hardest to not blame the teacher when a kid gets a bad grade. I am sure I will do this sometimes. But parents have taken this way, way too far recently. And it only teaches kids not to take responsibility for their own actions.
• This one will be hard: I will try not to be overly concerned with my child's self-esteem. I *will* tell a kid not to say things like "I hate myself," because that's counter-productive. But what if a kid says "I'm not good at math" when he actually isn't? The most tempting reply is "That's not true." But better might be "Well, that might be true now, but if you work hard at it, you can get better." This is what Asian cultures believe, and it's key for academic success. Americans are obsessed with natural ability, which means people often think working at it won't help -- which is NOT true.
Now that this is posted in electronic posterity, I have set myself up to eat crow sandwiches for the next 20 years. But I will try. And if I work at it maybe I will get better. :)
Johnny Weir (the somewhat strange American figure skater) was interviewed in _People_ magazine a few weeks ago. He was asked what he would do if he weren't a skater. His reply: "I'd be a fashion designer. Or anything that would make me happy. Life is too short to do something for your living that makes you unhappy."
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Let's forget for a moment that this guy is a bit of a dingbat, because he brings up an interesting point: Is it necessary to love what you do for a living? (I was going to post this anyway, and then flw's points about expectations made this even more clear -- how real should our work be? Why are we putting in sixty-hour weeks when what we do often doesn't matter much anyway?)
If, as Weir says, "Life is too short to do something for your living that makes you unhappy," then I guess a lot of people are living short lives. Most people don't get to do something they love to pay the bills, because most things worth loving don't make much money. Even if we hold a job to his less rigid standard -- that it shouldn't make you *un*happy -- we would have very few lawyers, cashiers, garbage men, factory workers, office workers in cublicles, dentists, etc. (all of which the economy needs to get by).
And then there is the generations aspect: Did our grandfathers expect their work to make them happy? I'm guessing they didn't -- they expected, instead, to head off to the factory or the farm and to make enough money to support their families. Happiness or unhappiness didn't really enter into it.
Where did we get the idea that work should be fulfilling and make us happy, and is that a reasonable expectation?
As some of you know, my alternative name for Generation Me is iGen. (the resemblance to iPod captures the tech thing, and i could stand for individual or for the first-person singular, capturing the self-focus part as well).
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Here's an article that came out a few months ago about this generation and their tech preferences, particularly MySpace:
Two comments: First, the article has this somewhat awed tone about young people and technology, like "isn't it amazing people communicate instantly online?!?" (No. But maybe it is if you're 50 -- perhaps the readership is?)
Also, there's the ongoing debate about online communities -- are they a net good or a net bad? It's good to have people to talk to online who have similar interests, but it might be bad if it takes the place of face-to-face interaction. People are social creatures, and our need to belong is satisfied much better by in-person contact.
Time magazine did a story this week on "house churches," in which people have religious services at home instead of going to a church. Apparently this is particularly popular among people in their 20s and 30s. Many of the people who have joined this movement say that they would rather have an interactive service, where people talk to each other, than listen to a preacher in a pulpit. The article includes a discussion of home synagogues as well. One adherent says, "having a meaningful, personal service just didn't seem possible in the harsh lighting and monotonous, institutional vibe of a synagogue."
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It's yet another trend that captures the Generation Me tendency toward decentralizing authority and letting everyone have their own say. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this new approach, but it's interesting that young people are not satisfied with being spoken to (while not getting to speak up themselves) and attending a service meant for many people (instead of one that is "personal" and not "institutional" like the home synagogue adherent says.)
Just to argue with this trend: Isn't one of the beauties of religion that it's *not* personal -- that it is about things larger than yourself, like communities, institutions, traditions, and of course God or another higher being?
Bode Miller, the U.S. Olympic skiier who didn't do that well, is so narcissistic he claims he doesn't even care that he screwed up. (Thanks to my friend Jeff Green for the link below!)
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Favorite quotes from Bode, the man who loves himself:
"I just did it my way. I'm not a martyr, and I'm not a do-gooder. I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here." (By not finishing in two events and nearly falling in another?)
On his enjoying the bar scene instead of concentrating on training: "My quality of life is the priority ... it's been an awesome two weeks. I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."
Too bad they don't give medals for drinking.
Very brief procrastination from packing to note: amazon.com finally has the correct cover for the book! Yay!
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Unless something really newsworthy happens, I'm going to take a brief hiatus from book blogging. We are going to move to our new house this weekend. The old one still hasn't sold -- we have now had two buyers drop out -- but we just want to get the move done. So I have lots and lots of books to pack up. Gotta love academia -- it's correlated with both owning a lot of books and moving a lot. A bad combination.
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Another quote from the John Vasconcellos letter ... no, this part is not any better written:
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"In my moral code (as well as my understanding of healthy human development), the world - and especially each & all of us adults - owes each child (from the moment of her/his arrival, if not before) the right to be her/him self, to be whole, to have integrity, to be self-esteeming.
My best evidence in support of my position is my 11-year-old 'grand-daughter' Megan, whose very 1st pre-school report card at age 3 opened with, 'Megan's self-esteem is off the charts!'
I'm pleased and proud she's been blessed with parents who cherish her and her self and her self-esteem and, to this day, she approaches the world expecting it to be open and responsive to her, and her sweetness and lack of inhibitions truly work wonders!"
First, notice he doesn't actually give any evidence that her high self-esteem has led to any good outcomes like having friends or doing well in school. And what's up with the quotes around grand-daughter? That might hurt her self-esteem. :)
This also hits on something I see a lot, and always warn my students against: The tendency, after hearing about a scientific study, to say "I don't believe that, because that doesn't fit me (or my uncle, or my child, etc.)" People will say this without thinking it through: One person's experience cannot trump a carefully designed study of hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people. You (or your loved one) might be the exception to the rule; plus, you have not measured your variables precisely.
Yet I hear this all the time. "My uncle smoked and he lived until he was 95." "I play violent video games, and I'm not aggressive." (Yes, copious amounts of research show that playing violent video games leads to aggression in real life -- both correlational and experimental studies). Here, Vasconcellos is saying "I don't care if several hundred scientific studies showed that self-esteem doesn't correlate with anything, because my granddaughter has high self-esteem and I like how she approaches things." This guy was a lawyer. He ought to get how this just doesn't work.
This gets back to one of your points, flw -- many people won't believe something unless they've experienced it themselves. And when that something is the link between smoking and lung cancer, it's a little late.
A few years ago, my study on self-esteem increasing over the generations received a little news coverage. My co-author and I pointed out that self-esteem increased at the same time that objective indicators of achievement were waning, and argued that self-esteem probably went up because of the cultural emphasis on the self (e.g., by 1984, a song would declare that "The Greatest Love of All" was loving yourself.) We also mentioned the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility -- yes, my state actually spent money to investigate ways to raise people's self-esteem. The Task Force final report, though, concluded that self-esteem is only weakly linked to outcomes, and that even then the causation is often reversed.
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So in December 2001 guess what shows up in my mailbox? A letter from then-California State Senator John Vasconcellos (now retired), one of the main champions of the "Task Force" for self-esteem. I was cleaning out my files recently, saw it again, and burst out laughing. Here is part of his letter, verbatim:
"Readily acknowledging my deep bias toward the centrality of developing healthy self esteem in each and all of us humans, especially beginning with the newest and youngest amongst us - I read with deep sadness and not a little anger your quotations regarding self esteem in relation to the study recently reported by Suzanne Rostler of Reuters Health.
My sadness derives from the curious seemingly endless efforts toward disparaging the centrality of the development of healthy self esteem, for the lives of all our children who are thereby more likely to be less encouraged to have and maintain themselves with a healthy sense of self, yes of self esteem.
My anger derives from:
1 - my own painful personal experience which so utterly contradicts your seemingly infallible unnuanced negative declarations regarding self esteem; +
2 - my fear that each of our basic beliefs about the nature of us humans, yes of children as well, will so inform our expectations and our behaviors as we approach each other child (and every other human being) that it operates as a (wonderful - or awful) self-fulfilling prophecy."
It's quite fortunate he has high self-esteem, because he sure can't write worth a damn.
It also kinda reminds me of "all your base are belong to us."
From the Dove website: "Too many girls develop low self-esteem from hang-ups about looks and, consequently, fail to reach their full potential in later life. So, we've created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund as an agent of change to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty."
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Let's parse this. A girl doesn't like how she looks, so then she doesn't do well in school or succeed in the working world. Huh? Why would this be true? There's a serious breakdown in logical reasoning here.
If anything, the opposite might be true: Why should you pay attention in calculus class if you're a cheerleader and all the boys like you? Why pursue a career if some model-obsessed rich guy will marry you? Now, plenty of very beautiful women do pursue careers and do very well. But so do plenty of ordinary-looking women, no matter how they feel about their looks.
Plus self-esteem does not lead to higher academic achievement -- numerous research studies have shown this. There is a small correlation between self-esteem and academic achievement, but it is explained by two things: academic achievement leading to higher self-esteem (not vice versa) and third variables like income that cause both things.
And which girls are failing to reach their potential? 57% of college degrees go to women already.
Now, to be fair, do we need to tell girls that you don't have to look like a supermodel to be beautiful? Yes. But we also need to tell them that being beautiful is not the most important thing in the world. But that doesn't have anything to do with self-esteem.
Here is what CBS news had to say about the Dove "Self-Esteem Fund" Superbowl ad (The whole story is at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/06/superbowl/main1282943.shtml):
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A spot for Dove soap also resonated with viewers, sending a serious message about improving self-esteem among teenage girls, not the usual Super Bowl fare.
"It's very sweet and it's very innocent," [Barbara] Lippert [from Adweek magazine] tells The Early Show. "And it's an ad that's beautifully photographed with these little girls just looking straight at the camera. You're gonna have to take 45 seconds out to think about little girls and their self-esteem."
That spot was a favorite among a group of 35 business students at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at the school who organized the panel to rate and discuss the ads, said his group found the Dove ad the "most distinctive" of the ones they saw.
"It was unusual, but one that really resonated," Calkins said. "This was a message that was very serious, but it really worked with the panel."
Let's take 45 seconds out to think about how this whole self-esteem obsession is a bunch of crap.
There was a commercial during the Super Bowl for the "Dove Self-Esteem Fund."
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It's based on the Girl Scouts' "Uniquely ME!" program for girls, which was founded in 2002, which just happens to be three years *after* the most comprehensive review of the literature ever done found that there is only a very small difference between boys' and girls' self-esteem.
There are so many problems here. Not only is there not a "self-esteem problem," but the website itself admits that self-esteem comes from things that a program is not likely to fix (having good family relationships, being successful academically). Plus most of what it talks about isn't self-esteem at all, but body image -- a completely different issue.
It also cites statistics like "1 million girls under the age of 18 get pregnant annually" and then says "Experts agree that a key cause in all of these statistics is lack of, or low, self-esteem." Uh, no -- experts have agreed for several years now that this is *not* true. In fact, people with *high* self-esteem are more likely to engage in more, and risker, sex. People with low self-esteem tend to sit in their rooms and not do much. It's the high self-esteem folks who are out there getting it on.
Is it too much to ask that these types of programs actually be based on a modicum of research?
Their "experts" are from something called "The National Association for Self-Esteem," whose board (http://www.self-esteem-nase.org/boardmembers.shtml) is filled with a bunch of people I've never heard of (and I do research in this area).