July 4, 2023


Lost in Transition: The popularity of Harry Potter reveals a yearning for rites of passage that no longer exist. (John Carroll, 3 Jul 2023, Quillette)

The effect on college and university students has been marked. There were positive effects, with iGen members drinking less, smoking less, being safer drivers, and waiting longer to have sex. On the negative side, these kids arrive at university having had far fewer offline experiences than their predecessors; they have grown up more slowly and are less mature; and they spend much less time going out with friends. They are more solitary, more socially alienated, and more given to gloomy introspection.

The COVID years have aggravated the problem, with home-schooling forcing greater isolation and more dependency on devices. Relevant agencies and psychotherapy services have noted the deleterious effects on teenage mental health. With universities, an already existing trend has been accelerated, away from face-to-face teaching and live seminars to online classes. Australian parents are now reporting with horror their late teenage children spending all day in their pyjamas in their bedrooms attending their online classes, lectures, and tutorials--a recipe for depression. At every turn, our society seems to be switching off its socialising, and encouraging a solitary monastic existence spent alone with screen devices.

The origins of cancel culture lie here, coinciding with iGen reaching university. Lukianoff and Haidt argue that heated interaction in public, including the robust exchange of conflicting opinions, builds up defences in the individual, in a necessary toughening up for survival and success in the adult world. Too much emphasis on safety, too much over-protectiveness, will cultivate less robust, more thin-skinned characters with paranoid fears of imagined dangers waiting round every corner out in the public world. As with the body, which needs to catch viruses in order to build up antibodies, the psyche needs some exposure to harsh experience to build up resistance to social hurt.

Posted by at July 4, 2023 7:08 AM