Nearly a third of people between 18 and 34 have put off marriage or having a baby due to the recession, and a quarter have moved back to their parents’ homes, according to a Pew study. These decisions have helped cut the birthrate by 11 percent by 2011, while the marriage rate slumped 6.8 percent. The baby-boom echo generation could propel historically fecund America toward the kind of demographic disaster already evident in parts of Europe and Japan.
A surprising majority—almost 60 percent—of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable. More than half also approved of killing captured enemies in cases where the enemy had killed Americans.
Does our generation have an “entertainment entitlement” problem? Does the Web hold so much incredible free stuff (I am primarily thinking of Dogs Dressed as Lady Gaga here) that we’ve been inured to the very idea of wonder and amazement? Merton’s chat partners found themselves face to face with a talented performer willing to sing a personalized song for an audience of one—and still, many of them hit “next,” the Chatroulette equivalent of “deleting your existence,” as one UCB comedian put it.
We have long bemoaned our generation’s atrophied attention span, but this is something worse. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s getting bored even when top-flight entertainers prepare comedy especially for you and deliver it to your face in your own home. It may be literally impossible to get any lazier. At this point, what wouldn’t receive a dismissive shrug of the shoulders? A 600-page novel about yourself, mailed to you, by someone who found your name in the phone book?
"Meh," we say, employing a word that is the "essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism," as comedian John Hodgman put it, "a rejection of joy." Have we become Generation Meh?