The Personality of Generation M
The Wired Life: The Public and Private Spheres of the Gen M Community is written by Karen J. Klapperstuck and Amy J. Kearns. The article evaluates statistical observations of how middle school and high school students spend their time while not in school. They assert that members of Generation M spend six to eight hours every day using two or more media simultaneously. They have not stopped using old media such as television or broadcast music. They have added to those media the Internet and cell phone texting (111). Multi-tasking multi-media is part of the personality of Gen M. This constant connection makes privacy less important to individuals. Their privacy removed, other liberties, enjoyed by previous generations have also been removed affecting their personality.
D’Angelo notes that when members of Generation M were children, they were the first to be riding their bicycles illegally if they were riding without helmets. Their entrance into school led them through metal detectors. She goes on to assert that no previous generation was as confident as this and that they consider a positive self image is a right. They do work well in groups. In a new way, they value the opinion of the group while valuing less their own privacy. For the first time in history, adolescents broadcast their teenage anxieties to the entire world, via their smart phones on social networking sites (97).
This global broadcast of personal feelings is significant in that their personal lives are no longer private. A positive aspect of this privacy being removed is that the self-consciousness involved in shyness is also removed. Removing the apprehension of publicizing their thoughts benefits the rest our society in that their creative thinking is more accessible to the world. The downside of this can be that thoughts are all over the place, disorganized and non-factual. Still a member of Generation M is a great person to have on a team creatively troubleshooting problems because they are not embarrassed to throw their ideas out in the open.
There is another disadvantage for the Generation M individual divulging his personal life globally. Cyber bullying is a danger that, in contrast to face to face bullying, the victim cannot escape danger by going home.
Sharing feelings with a support group is not new in this Generation. Generation X and the Baby Boomers and earlier generations have realized the benefit in disclosing life’s struggles and victories. However, members of Generation M are able to share feelings about their experiences instantly, and globally. Their sphere of caring friends is a much wider support group than older generations enjoyed. The benefit they realize, disclosing their struggles, is greater than previous generations in that there is a more diverse, extensive, instant feedback from the support group. Currently this benefit is greater than the risk of cyber bullying, as was indicated by the popularity of My Space and now Facebook and Twitter. In general, the Generation M personality embraces the advantage it has over older generation’s personality.
It would seem that a person able to multi-task multiple media six to eight hours every day would get a lot done. However, the productivity may have not reached its full potential because of the media that are tasked simultaneously. Most students are working on a computer while listening to music or watching TV or they alternate media while on the computer. “What needs to be learned as parents and educators is that activity should not be mistaken as achievement” (D’Angelo 104).
The author goes on to say that their apparent mastery of multi-tasking may actually be sequential processing. The student isn’t listening and computing simultaneously. It is likely he or she is “ignoring” and computing simultaneously. The prefrontal cortex part of the brain, where multi-tasking is accomplished is the last part of the brain to develop. Younger students are not processing information simultaneously. Studying for a math exam and writing a book report for example are impossible because of the interference between the two tasks. It is worth saying that some competition of thought processes helps improve concentration, but too much deters from the primary task the brain is trying to do (104).
Even though it may seem that multiple media pumping information at the same time is a large quantity of information for a student to take in, the reality is that some, if not most, of the onslaught of information is discarded in favor of the singular task at hand. However, the people of Generation M are comfortable with the onslaught. However, they are probably tasking sequentially, ignoring the less important the less important media. They are not actually multi-tasking, as Klapperstuck and Kearns assert, taking in information from multiple media simultaneously for six to eight hours a day (111).
While taking in multiple media, sequentially tasking their productivity, he or she produces the minimum to get by. Later it will be shown that most high school students that drop out do so because they are bored or because they felt the lack of challenge is a waste of their time. This is not different than drop outs in Generation X or the Baby Boomers. What is different from the previous generations is that Generation M drop outs are getting B’s and C’s and are for the most part less than two years from graduation. In earlier generations, students that left high school were held back in earlier grades, so they were older when they dropped out. Also, they had difficulty passing their classes (Happel). So in the midst of the oversupply of information given to them, it seems that Generation M is less productive because they choose to be.
D’Angelo, Michele Kathleen. “Gen M: Whose Kids Are They Anyway?” Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators. Eds. Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic and Robert J. Lackie. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2009. 97-108.
Happel, Tiffany. “New Report Illuminates America’s ‘Silent’ Dropout Epidemic.” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 2 March 2006. Gates Foundation. 2 Oct. 2010. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/press-releases/Pages/americas-dropout-epidemic-060302.aspx
Klapperstuck, Karen J., and Amy J. Kearns. “The Wired Life: The Public and Private Spheres of the Gen M Community.” Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators. Eds. Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic and Robert J. Lackie. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2009. 111-124.