How Screens, Progressive Groupthink Harm Gen Z

Author shares personal inspiration for haunting short story collection

As a Gen Z female who grew up in the liberal north with immediate ties to the LGBTQ community, my writing has grown increasingly critical of progressive social movements.

I wrote a book about our slow roll to isolation and madness.

The first story in my book, “Screens and the Ego: A Meditation on Gen Z,” centers on Uzbek twins who have immigrated to America and attend Emory University. The girl dates a boyfriend while her brother takes up a stringent Islamic militancy spurred by trauma related to his father and radicalizing online cultures.

The story begins by positioning the brother as the antagonist, but as the plot unravels, the reader verges upon a comprehension of patriarchy and gender roles in their origin.

It’s actually a critique of the progressive West.

Depression and the Culture

Then I tell the story of Diep, who fakes suicide by taking a couple too many pills in public places, but whose doctors treat her like she’s suicidal, affirming her in her lies. In the beginning I center the story on Diep, but at its climax I reveal that I, the narrator, stayed friends with Diep because I saw myself in her madness.

It’s a story about my trauma with doctors and how much they confused me when I was a kid.

Other tales hit topics like teenage motherhood, abortion and a residential care facility for foster care wards—and I really did work in a residential out of college, although the story and setting are fictional.

In that story, the foster care wards act violently towards themselves because they cannot think of themselves as people, and therapists and social workers do not alleviate their loneliness and hatred and pain despite the hours and hours of therapy and self-affirmation they are taught.

The story then morphs into a critique of the media. It is called “On Judgment as a Sellable Commodity.”

In the abortion saga, a counselor tells a teenage mom, “You should have thought of that before you had him. There’s no reason to carry to term anymore,” highlighting a social critique that the moment a girl is given the right to choose, the system can penalize her for making the wrong choice.

And the system does.

The Self Esteem Movement

Philosophically, I take issue with omnipresent medical words like, “mental health,” in place of what my Arab grandma would dub, “soul.” The language my grandma uses to access her internal life operates within a religious framework, and she never has to build self-esteem because she always knows that she is as good as her behavior.

What a far cry from the hysterical militancy of contemporary culture and the extreme loneliness of my generation, utterly sideswiped as to why we are depressed, anxious and suffering. While I use the language of mental health, my grandma uses the language of the soul.

I wrote this book to reclaim mine.

Jane-Marie Auret attended Emory University. She has a brilliant fiancé and two dogs: Stephen the Rat Terrier-chihuahua and Zephyr the Standard Poodle. You can find “Screens and the Ego: A Meditation on Gen Z” at Barnes and Noble.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash


  1. More books like this should be written from the perspective of Gen Z. It’s very revealing to see how modern adults are looking for the same things that most of the past generations have, but are pushed by culture to search for these in such misguided ways. There are countless ways in which Gen Z is uniquely challenged by modernity and widespread social pressures, and Auret’s book is an illuminating exploration into them.

  2. I am so excited to read this intriguing collection of stories. Auret has chosen to explore an assortment of extremely relevant topics—topics that will shape the future of Gen Z and those that follow after. Her boldness and honesty are admirable, and her insights valuable. I hope that many will engage with her writing and grapple with the difficult questions that she poses.

  3. Screens and the Ego is the book of generation z. Author Jane-Marie pours her soul in each story, lamenting on and dissecting the many social issues her generation faces. The creative short stories paint a vivid picture in the readers’ mind of struggle and sacrifice. Young readers will relate to this book and gain a new perspective on their lives. A truly brilliant work.

  4. “Screens and the Ego” is one of the most harrowing and important books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. If anyone out there is feeling lost in your generation, or has a Gen Z friend or family member you worry about, this book is a must-read. No punches are pulled, and while your mileage on certain topics in the book may vary, each perspective is worth listening to, thinking about, and considering.

    Please support this book. You won’t regret it.

  5. Whoa, this is really intriguing. “While I use the language of mental health, my grandma uses the language of the soul.” I’ve never heard someone put it that way… it makes total sense. I’m gonna check this book out.

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