Writers’ Authority & Trustworthiness

When I first thought about this topic, those meme-worthy “Millennials Are Ruining Everything” articles immediately came to mind. Specifically, articles written about millennials by Generation X or baby boomers who are not sociologists or experts about generational gaps in any way. That is why when I first saw the article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” in the Atlantic by Jean Twenge, I made an assumption that it was just another Millennial-bashing, angsty post by a random, angry adult. Upon reading it, though, Twenge made this statement: “I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology.” She wrote this very early in the article to assert her authority.

Regardless, I was still skeptical, mostly because Twenge continuously asserted that the iPhone and social media are causing changes in the younger generation. While I do not disagree with this, I still found myself resisting because I am (as Twenge calls people born between 1995-2012) part of the iGen and I was used to these kinds of articles being a personal attack. However, Twenge did include a kind of disclaimer: “To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both.” While I appreciated the fact that Twenge put effort into actually differentiating her argument from the usual “I Hate Younger People” articles, I still felt resistance in trusting her as a writer. I think it had something to do with the fact that the only exposure I had to this trope of writing were baseless claim that younger people were ruining everything, and could not think of a reason someone would write a piece like this with a more altruistic reason behind it. Therefore, after reading her work, I found Twenge to be an authoritative author, but not trustworthy (basing that assumption on this piece only).

As for an author I found trustworthy but not authoritative, is an article by the New York Times’ Editorial Board on the Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition called “Art and China After 1989.” This article argues that, by removing three pieces because of complaints by animal rights activists and threats of violent retaliation, the museum was censoring its contributing artists while it should be promoting freedom of expression. While I understand the argument the Editorial Board is making and even understand why they wrote this article as a matter of principle, I fundamentally disagree with the conclusion they come to, which is that the museum should have just beefed up security and kept the exhibits up. My reasoning behind this comes down to the safety of the animals used in the pieces. For example, one of the exhibits has eights pit bulls on treadmills facing each other, lunging toward the others to fight. While I do not claim to truly understand the motivation behind this piece from one article (which only briefly mentions that its purpose is for viewers to consider the “social conditions of globalization”), I do not believe that it is justifiable. That is why, while I feel that the piece has authority and a leg to stand on in the argument, I do not believe it is trustworthy, because I disagree with the argument they made.

Meghan Brody

Meghan Brody. B.A. History & Writing. LSA Senior. Aspiring librarian.

Leave a Reply