US Navy calls MySpace kids an "Alien Life Force"

Over at the Wired Danger Room blog, Noah Shachtman writes:

The MySpace generation is a "somewhat alien life force," a Navy recruiting presentation contends -- with a language and lifestyle that's almost unrecognizable to adults.

And because the kids are such "coddled," "narcissistic praise junkies," they'll be beyond tough to bring into the military. Propensity to join the armed forces among these so-called "millennials" has dropped to as little as 3%; that's down from 26% in 2001.

Entropic Memes uncovered the bleak, often unintentionally hilarious report from the Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference, which also glumly notes that the Iraq war has brutalized recruiting efforts.

Up to two-thirds of millennials are "less likely to join the military" because of the war, according to the presentation.



  1. And because the kids are such “coddled,” “narcissistic praise junkies,”

    Unfortunately this is true in many cases…

  2. I agree with Phasor, but also think that the long, drawn-out, poorly justified war has more to do with it. Why would any even remotely critical thinker sign up right now?

  3. Actually it makes me happy to hear this. Are they “coddled & narcissistic” or perhaps all too savvy to the industrial-war machine & the lies, corruption, graft & politics behind it?

  4. to Phasor:

    This is a generation who have seen the achievement bar raised to unimaginable levels, have had their civil rights trampled on, watched their parents get downsized and been the target market of moral & standards free corporations. All in the name of the mighty profit.

    And we accuse THEM of being narcissistic?

  5. to Phasor:

    This is a generation who have seen the achievement bar raised to unimaginable levels, have had their civil rights trampled on, watched their parents get downsized and been the target market of moral & standards free corporations. All in the name of the mighty profit.

    And we accuse THEM of being narcissistic?

  6. Yeah, these darn kids today, with their weird abbreviations, acronyms — all that impenetrable insider jargon. That’s alien, all right. Not like the military at all.

  7. The NPJ phenomena is well enough known that there are consultants who work with corporations to help them deal with younger employees who are NPJs — there was a segment about this on a TV news program recently. For example, the NPJs expect to be awarded senior positions very quickly, just because they feel they deserve it. NPJs have a low tolerance for work that isn’t fun (and even cool jobs always involve some amount of grunt work). And of course NPJs by definition expect high praise for baseline levels of work, e.g. installing a patch, backing up a server, and tend to spend large amounts of time telling everyone within earshot what they’ve accomplished.

    I’m not saying that all, or even most, 20-somethings are NPJs (or that all NPJs are young people), but there’s a lot of them, and they tend to stick out.

    Hey you kids get outta my yard!

  8. Hmm. Kids don’t want to sign up to die for oil, and they think its because of an alien language (which I have no trouble understanding)?

  9. Wow. I’d love to see the hard data on kids being narcissistic praise junkies. It’s funny that I end up reminding the frakkin’ ARMY not to shoot from the hip!

  10. Speaking on behalf of Somewhat Aliens everywhere, I blame the current administration for failing to address NPJ standards.

    Good thing the Military won’t put up with things like misplaced hundreds of thousands of weapons, and our intelligence services scrutinize everything with a fine tooth comb before passing it on to the administration.

    Okay, that’s enough, I’m going back to my truck-mounted biowarfare lab now.

  11. the kids are such “coddled,” “narcissistic praise junkies,” they’ll be beyond tough to bring into the military

    The fact that they just keep getting smarter all the time doesn’t help much either.

  12. Call me cynical, but somehow I don’t think that all these ubermensch 20-somethings would volunteer to eat Army grub and get shot at if the mission were say, Darfur, instead of Iraq. But I have to admit that “I’m too smart to fight for oil” is a very handy excuse.

  13. Sorry, my last comment made it sound like I care WAY more than I do about this.

    I think it’s a cycle, I have a couple of kids that are itching to get into Special Forces (but only if you get a cheat for “unlimited ammo” and “invincibility”) but they haven’t lowered their recruiting standards to eleven years old yet.

  14. They’ll be tough to recruit into the military? Don’t they want to spread freedom and peace throughout the axis of evil anymore?

  15. The NPJ is no joke. I know one person whose entire social circle are like that. They don’t have high school diplomas and once worked a temporary manual labor job for 18 dollars an hour so now they refuse to work for less than that (a large part of the problem is family members who won’t let them sink or swim). I also met one in the military who was just barely in his twenties and expected that he should be allowed to be late multiple times with no repercussions just because he did a couple of moderately good things at work. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of other people encountering NPJs either.

  16. As if this is the first generation to mold language to suit their own needs and separate in-group members from the older generation. What’s shakin’, Daddy-o? You dig me?

  17. This has got to be one of the oldest jokes in the world. “kids these days” has likely been around since people could talk.

    I was actually pretty impressed with that ppt. The guy (girl?) was actually suggesting that the military adjust their expectations and change their working methodology to fit what people are expecting, and it looked to me that what is being asked for is respect. If that presentation had any real impact or any importance, then I would say THEY ARE ACTUALLY GETTING IT! more coddling I say.

  18. Yea, *definitely* read the actual .ppt file before judging – the boingboing and wired reportage is complete misrepresentation of what the presentation is saying: they are showing slides which are clearly counterpoints, and the main thrust of the presentation seems to be “these are not the grunts you are used to, these are incredibly accomplished people, used to multitasking, very smart, and potentially very loyal and driven in their work, if handled right”.

    Which is even scarier. If the recruiters totally didn’t get it, that would be fine and dandy with me. Seeing that they have such a good handle on the average desires and motivations of today’s US youth is considerably more worrying.

  19. Neil Howe and Bill Strauss wrote a great preview of the Millennials in their book, Millennials Rising:

    Having worked with a number of Millennials (and having a Millennial sister), I think much of the popular coverage gets the generation dead wrong and buys into the stereotype of kids simply being rotten and different from the more noble older generations. (Please note sarcasm.)

    Millennials are busy and hard working, patriotic and devoted to their country, very willing to follow instructions/orders and need frequent feedback.

    Note the differences: Not lazy, not foreign, not in constant need of praise. The Millennials I work with really want *feedback*, good or bad, more than praise. That’s a key point the military needs to get right.

    With regard to their adoption of technology, new cultures, and so on: *Every* old generation has said something similar about new generations. Rock & roll was going to cause brains to rot, right?

    The PPT actually mentions this point on the last slide: “Remember how the previous generation misunderstood you? Try not to do it to them.”

    Also — the PPT gets a number of points right that the summary BoingBoing and Wired coverage don’t pick up on:

    — “Millennials are the busiest generation of children ever”

    — “A spirit of volunteerism and interest in the world around them … 66% of freshmen surveyed last fall said it is “essential or very important” to help others, the highest percentage to say so in 25 years”

    — “Their ‘BS’ barometer is very high … Status and authority will not impress them, bureaucracy and red tape will frustrate them and a patronizing attitude will drive them crazy”

    — “They have an aversion towards ambiguous situations—and ignoring an issue won’t go well with them”

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