Wikipedia says the “cultural generations” of western society have progressed like this:
Lost Generation • Greatest Generation • Silent Generation • Baby Boom Generation • Generation X • Millenial Generation (Generation Y) • Generation Z
I know I normally remain anonymous, but I am now willing to share this much about myself: I’m from one of those generations.
Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard announced results of a study last Monday that said, in so many words: We really get off on talking about ourselves.
I will now attempt to merge these two disparate concepts into a unique, unifying theory of my own creation that I hereby dub, “Conversational Masturbation.”
We start with a case study of a subject from the Baby Boom Generation:
The boss’ wife thinks it is important that she and her husband (my boss) go for a walk every day. She has several valid reasons for her desire to walk together but I think one of them is that she also wants a little payback for the douchebag structuring his life so as to spend as little time with her and the rest of his family as possible.
Each day she calls to arrange with him the time when they will walk together. She shows up at the office on time. He then makes her wait. The other day she waited 90 minutes before he was finally not “busy” enough that the office could spare him for an hour.
Recently she stopped by and asked him, “So where would you like to walk today?” He responded non-verbally by getting up from his chair, walking across the room, going in the restroom and shutting the door. (I’d call this douchebaggery but I’ve got my researcher hat on now so I have to stay all scientific and shit with my analysis.)
When he exited the restroom, she asked him again, “So where would you like to go walking today?”
He still didn’t respond. He walked across the room, joined her near the front door, then, as they were preparing to exit, he noticed the mail table covered with outgoing shipments.
He then exclaimed – and this is an exact quote preserved for posterity: “Hey, look! Boxes!“
My grand theory of Conversational Masturbation will attempt to explain this behavior and more.
The researchers at Harvard found that “the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from eating food, getting money or having sex.”
As we become a nation of “content producers” it isn’t much of a surprise that an estimated 80 percent of updates to social sites like Facebook and Twitter “consist simply of announcements about one’s own immediate experience.”
Personally I try very hard to buck that trend, especially on Twitter. Although I do sprinkle in some of the “Hey, look at me” stuff, I’d much rather be noticed and known for my witty puns and twisted sense of humor. For me that is the greatest source of pleasure, at least when compared to talking about myself. (Ugh.)
The series of experiments that made up the study included the now rather routine procedure of using CAT scans to see which parts of the brain lit up during certain activites. For example, when talking about oneself, it turns out the “pleasure” areas of the brain experiences activity. The “strength” of the brain activity may not be as high as during sex or even eating food, but it’s still there, and that explains a lot.
Another experiment in the study asked participants to talk about a series of subjects. If they spoke about the subject as it pertained to other people, they earned a cash reward. They could, however, choose to talk about how the topic pertained to themselves and forgo the reward. The study found that participants would willingly give up 17% to 25% of money they could have otherwise earned in order to talk about themselves rather than other people.
Yup. That sounds about right.
Part of my hypothesis here is that the concept of Communicating Routinely About Self Status (CRASS) has evolved along with generational progression, too. In essence, each of the generations listed above has become increasingly self-oriented. The effect is linear. Unlike the Harvard findings, thought, this is just my own pet theory. I don’t do fancy things like conduct actual experiments. My approach is much more observational in nature and can only afford thought experiments at this time.
Additionally, I surmise that developments in technology have further propelled and accelerated the effects of Conversational Masturbation. Each generation is quicker than the one that preceded it in terms of the rate of adoption of the most recent technological advancements.
So called millennials, for example, are generally considered to have been born in the last two to three decades. This generation is known for “an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.”
The generation that comes after millennials is known as Generation Z. This generation’s most pronounced factor is that members born approx. mid 1990’s or later will grow up in a world where they have never known an existence without omnipresent connectivity to the internet.
Technologically speaking, like their older siblings Generation Y, Generation Z is highly connected. Many of this generation have had lifelong use of communications and media technologies such as the Internet itself, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, smartphones, Facebook, earning them the nickname “digital natives.” No longer limited to the home computer like earlier generations were in the ’90s and early ’00s, access to the Internet is now increasingly carried in pockets on mobile Internet devices such as mobile phones. A marked difference between the Millenials and Generation Z is that members of the former remembers life before the takeoff of networked technology, while the latter have been born completely within it.
What do you get when you combine the basic human desire to speak about oneself (and the experience of physical pleasure derived from the act) with the most powerful self-broadcasting systems ever devised? The development of a new type of human I have dubbed “super asshole communicators.”
It is worth noting that Generation Z members have developed their own updated mores and values surrounding communication technology that are markedly different than those of preceding generations. This includes increased use of communication devices in locales traditionally considered taboo such as vehicles, restaurants, movie theaters, classrooms, churches, funerals and during the act of coitus. In fact, behaviors previously stigmatized and considered socially unacceptable now denote status and prestige within the group and are even incorporated into mating rituals.
A highly controversial and as of yet unproven part of my theory states that we will see cascading decreases in IQ as me-oriented communication continues to advance. In other words, as we decrease the ability to listen to the world beyond self we simultaneously become less intelligent. (This effect is compounded exponentially when irreversibly entwined with my other theory which states humans can do anything they want with ever decreasing consequences.)
Let’s take a look at another real life example of these effects in action:
Person A: I’m upset. A relative that I cared very much about died last night.
Person B: Oh, that’s terrible. I’m here for you. Let me buy you lunch and lend you a sympathetic ear.
During the lunch activity Person B asks a question about the death, then interrupts the response, saying, “That reminds of the the time…” and then speaks for 90 minutes about themselves. Person A has successfully satisfied their role of being a conversational prompt for the other person. Person B dominates the conversation, is responsible for 99% of the words spoken, and covers a wide variety of topics including parking spaces, irritations at work, stories of her child’s grandeur, how she likes to select portion sizes during meals, her favorite colors, and the fact that it’s only three weeks until her birthday.
Person B exits the encounter feeling very good, having had pure stimulus of the pleasure centers in her brain for a solid 89 minutes.
Person A, who suffered an emotional trauma and did not have any needs met and no pleasure center activity, proceeds to go home and invent a clever new method of suicide.
Conclusion: The human gene pool has been significantly weakened with the selfish communicator remaining alive to procreate. Meanwhile the more inventive person has successfully removed their genes from circulation. (The theory of evolution is also part of my research.)
This concludes my presentation. I hope the members of the committee will see the value in furthering this research. The benefits to the human race are incalculable. Not that any of you selfish bastards were actually listening.