When my elders start to reminisce about how good things were “back in the day,” I am tempted to remind them that back in their day, there was no cure for polio.
But that would be disrespectful.
However, the sense we are in a societal decline, and Generation Y—my cohorts and I—can’t compare to our predecessors needs to be done away with.
We’re better than our parents in so many ways. The theory of the “Flynn Effect” developed by professor James Flynn postulates we are smarter than our parents were in their twenties.
The typical American from the 1900s would score a 67 on an IQ test today. They would be labeled intellectually disabled, since any score below 70 is indicative of deficiency. In fact, by today’s standards, most Americans from that time would be considered disabled.
In “Are We Getting Smarter?” by Flynn, he discusses the data and tries to explain the continual increase in IQ points from generation to generation. Even without an explanation for the phenomena, it supports the hopes of our parents that their children
will learn and do more than they did.
Perhaps more importantly, all those hours we spend playing video games does not appear to be rotting our brains. The complex combinations of “Mortal Kombat” take more mental acuity than what is needed for solitaire. Scientists at the University of Texas medical division discovered teenage gamers performed virtual surgery better than medical residents.
Despite the popularity of outlets that expose our populace to depictions of immeasurable violence, like “Grand Theft Auto” or “Call of Duty,” as Steven Pinker writes in “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” society has actually become less violent.
Members of Generation Y do have their flaws. Despite our concentration in populous cities, we are alone. Our methods of communication, instant messages and tweets, make us more distant from each other than ever before.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter provide us with a false sense of connection, which halts the social development of communities. Values are also misplaced in this hyper-connected world. A study by Cisco showed members of Generation Y considered the Internet to be “as important as air, water, food and shelter.”
Unlike the Greatest Generation, which survived the Great Depression and lived to be parsimonious in the future, we tend to be spendthrifts. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland shows personal savings are rising, but the increase may be a result of the financial crisis rather than a new trend.
Fiery preachers who bemoan the downward direction of society have little credibility. Despite worries about an oversexed culture filled with young, unwed mothers, research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute shows the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years.
These social indicators and this narrative represent the fulfillment of humanity’s utmost desire: for our successors to do better than we did.
So the next time your parents or elders tell you about the days of yore and complain about how lazy you are, just smile. Realize you’ll probably do the same later in your life and if the trend continues, your children will be even better than you were in your twenties.
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