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Opening Arguments

Before the crash

Gee, do ya think? We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists:

A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.

Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.

This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.

We've been at this topic before. Each new young generation is full of itself and unable to see the world as it actually is. The important thing is not what they're like now but how they adjust as they go through their 20s and start confronting reality as they approach 30. Of course they're childish now; the question is whether they'll grow up.

My generation may not have been the first narcissistic one, but we surely abused the privilege. Everybody paid so much attention to the every whim and twitch of the Baby Boom generation that was hard not to take ourselves too seriously. Even our eventual grudging acceptance of Real Life was self-indulgent and whiny -- think "The Big Chill."

And this generation probably finds it even tougher to stay grounded. They not only have adults taking them too seriously. Through the techological magic of Facebook and Twitter they can also share their self-delusions with each other endlessly in a closed loop. Boy, is their crash gonna be tough.