Sunday, May 17, 2009

American Idol Syndrome?

My branch president was talking about The Family: A Proclamation to the World recently, and how much one of the phrases had troubled him originally, because of the phrase "entitlement." Here is the phrase: "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

The First Presidency does not like the word "entitled," he said, because it means that you receive something you didn't work for, which completely contradicts the teachings of the gospel about "working out your salvation" and "reaping what you sow." But, my branch president said, this is the one right everyone is entitled to. It made me really happy that I can be a mom someday.

But his mention of the word "entitlement" reminded me of an editorial I wrote about a year ago about the "American Idol syndrome," which I will describe later. It came about because of my dad's gentle reminder when I wanted to go on a tour to Europe that I was necessarily entitled to everything that I wanted, and that it was important to work hard for things I really wanted and watch what I indulged in.

I feel like there's still a lot of us, myself included, who forget that we have to work for things that we want or need, since we have so much opportunity and wealth around us.  Which is why I've decided to repost my editorial, mostly as a wake-up call to myself about being patient and not getting in such a hurry to get everything that I want. Enjoy.

Entitled, narcissistic, saddled with an ‘American Idol complex.’

These are just a few of the terms used to describe the generation born after 1970, sometimes called the “millennials” or, as Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University, calls them, “Generation Me.” “This is the social trend: do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about what other people think,” Twenge said in her book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

Twenge said that today’s generation is more narcissistic than previous ones, and she linked narcissism in young people to seven social outcomes, including “materialism, interest in becoming famous, inflated and unrealistic expectations, more hookups and fewer boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, more gambling, more cheating, and more aggression and crime,” according to her blog on

And why shouldn’t Twenge and other experts feel this way? Some college students today blow thousands on the latest Mac computers, X-Box games and techno gadgets, and when they move back home for the break, they leave most of it behind, a phenomenon Ohio University recycling program head Ed Newman called “a study in conspicuous consumption” in an article on Those living near Pennsylvania State University had the opportunity to look through 62 tons of leftover items from students in 2007, according to

Even more disheartening are statistics from student loan company Nellie Mae, which estimates that the average undergraduate has $2,200 in credit card debt, while graduate students have $5,800. In her blog, Twenge argues that this generation, in which she includes herself, isn’t as happy with themselves as older generations believe they are.

“Many young people are distressed that our résumé-building, brag-friendly culture means they need to carefully ‘package’ themselves to get ahead. Others are profoundly angry that their parents and teachers did not prepare them for an increasingly competitive world that does not give out trophies for participation. They feel duped by adults who fed them patently absurd bromides like, ‘You can be anything you want to be,’” Twenge said.

Samuel Clay, chair of the Psychology Department at BYU-Idaho, agreed with Twenge’s assertion.

“Sometimes we have these grandiose ideas that our son or daughter will be the next star athlete or performer, and we can’t see that they’re not as talented as we think they are,” Clay said.

Clay also said that teachers pamper students too much in junior high and high school by providing extra credit.

“When the extra credit buck stops here, [students are] wondering what’s wrong and asking, ‘Why aren’t you doing this for me?’ They want to get into medical school or law school, but in my opinion, I don’t want my orthopedic surgeon getting into school on extra credit,” Clay said.

But are we really the pampered, spoiled brats that America thinks we are? A recent study published in USA Today suggests otherwise, as it found that young people today “are no more conceited today than they were 30 years ago.”

Sociologist Frank Furstenberg of the University of Pennsylvania noted that it is difficult to compare youth today with youth of previous decades.

“They may look more self-absorbed now because they’re growing up later, marrying later and having children later … Young adults can be very self-absorbed. That doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way,” Furstenberg said in the USA Today article.

It doesn’t mean that we have to stay that way, either. As LDS youth and students at BYU-Idaho, we have already raised the bar, and it just keeps getting higher.We can and should use our desire to be better than ever before to positively affect America.

Neil Howe, author of Millennials Rising: The Next Generation, already has faith in our ability to head in that direction.

“Over the next decade, the Millennial Generation will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged — with potentially seismic consequences for America,” Howe wrote.

1 comment:

  1. Good work, Lindsay! I loved this when you wrote it and I love it now. You're SO talented.


Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts! I love reading them.