43 Comments

This is a bit off topic but I was wondering if you could do a write up to explain why Canadas GDP per capita growth has been so terrible over the past 10 years or so. Especially while the United States is going through unprecedented growth.

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I was curious to see Twenge single out non-graduates as a group affected by depression, after all the headlines about poor mental health among liberals, who I assume are more likely to have degrees. This suggests a more complex picture than the media paints.

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Sep 1Liked by Noah Smith

Excellent work Dr. Twenge.

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As much as I appreciate Dr. Twenge's work, the person who has driven this at an advocacy level in the last few years is Jonathon Haidt. He also runs a substack for those interested in this topic. As Dr. Twenge hints at here, Haidt has found that social media alone didn't cause depression; smartphones alone didn't do it;, and even the combination didn't do it for all teens. (Teenage boys don't have this problem significantly, which if you know anything about men and women, isn't really that surprising.) However, for teenage girls, the "24/7 social media in your pocket" has been devastating. He has spent multiple years studying this and has reams of data on it.

The data is rock solid on this. If you are a parent, do not get your child a smartphone and do not permit social media. Period. Full stop. To those worried that your teen will be "left out", I suggest being left out from the always-online social group is probably a good thing for her.

And here's a revolutionary idea: it's probably good for you too. One of the best ways to enforce this is for your teen to see you giving up your smartphone. I dumped mine 3 years ago when my oldest was 13. I think more clearly, have better relationships, and pay just $30 a YEAR for my phone now. Give it a try. Buy a cheap dumb phone for your carrier on eBay, drop your SIM card into it for a month, and see what happens.

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As Twenge points out Millennials and Zoomers are less sexually active than older generations. From what I understand also lose their virginity later than Xers and Boomers, plus they are less likely to use recreational drugs or engage in binge drinking.

Years ago when social media first arrived on the scene there was speculation as to how the young would adapt to a scenario where a photo of oneself vomiting into a toilet or carousing drunkenly could follow you for the rest of your life. I wonder if the response was to simply abstain from engaging in risky behavior altogether.

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As a late-model Gen Xer, I've noticed one big difference in how we were socialized as youths to those who came after us.

Millennials and later were taught to think with their feelings, their own and others around them. It might be the psychological equivalent of the data effect, that if you find some statistic to show bad something is, things look worse than they appear because we're actually looking for it now. If there's a vocabulary for negative feelings, people will feel more negative because they can identify with it.

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Fascinating interview, Noah. A couple of tidbits, though, that I'd dispute:

>>So we're really just debating whether we should group people into somewhat arbitrary 15- to 20-year blocks of birth years or not. If we didn't, though, it would be very difficult to discuss or research differences based on birth year.<<

I think it's far from clear it would be difficult to "discuss or research differences based on birth year" if we replaced the highly arbitrary (they're not "somewhat" arbitrary!) year blocks with other (preferably shorter and/or ad hoc) increments, eg "people born during the late 40s" or "people who were in high school during Reagan years" or what have you. Or if full-scale replacement isn't feasible, at least consider *trying out* other forms of generational description from time to time. Granularity is good!

>Yes, there is plenty of variation within generations, but that doesn't negate the differences between generations.<<

It doesn't negate them, but it often renders them substantially useless. Let me give an example: I'm six years younger, I believe, than Barack Obama. And twenty years younger than Bill Clinton. But because Barack and Bill are one one side of an imaginary generational boundary, and I'm on the other, the implication is that the historical/cultural influences on Obama's development have more in common with Bill Clinton's than with mine. But that seems crazy. Obama and I both experienced being children in the 1970s!

I don't disagree with the notion that we need to engage in cohort grouping for various purposes. There's zero doubt of that. I'm just underwhelmed by the supposed relevance of these fixed demarcations. They're not merely arbitrary; they're also too lengthy (5-7 years works a lot better for most purposes). There's nothing wrong with keeping the focus a bit narrower, and using whatever works (ie, ad hoc boundary-drawing, depending on the purpose), eg. "children born in the late 1940s" or "adults who were in high school when Obama was president" or "people who were young children when 911 happened" or what have you.

I'm under no illusions we're going to jettison the current, inane M.O. for talking about generations any time soon. But I believe such discussions would be more meaningful and insightful if we could.

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There's an important political dimension to this discussion as well. Young liberal women are the most likely to describe themselves as suffering from depression and anxiety, followed by young liberal men. Conservative women come next and conservative men bring up the rear.

Jonathan Haidt discusses these issues in great detail on his SS. And I believe Matthew Yglesias had an article up recently discussing this phenomenon as well.

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Sep 1·edited Sep 1

What would legislation requiring an age verification for social media even look like? I’ve heard this idea before but I always have a hard time picturing it

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Jean mentions we are polarized by "class" and I have observed that many blue collar or pink collar workers are not very interested in new technologies other than social media. I have mentioned that we are creating the class struggle again from the beginning of the industrial age where a few "robber barons" accumulated vast wealth while the "serf" simply traded dead end agrarian labor jobs for even harsher factory labor indenture. Are we creating a new "technocracy" with a few rich tech bro barons and masses of digital serfs reduced to iterate gig labor with no benefits or stability. Is ownership of technology the new entrée to nobility?

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Gen Z's moving away from relationships is mostly an outcome of low self-esteem, few social interactions, unemployment, higher education/housing costs (debts), availability of an unlimited sex pool, especially for women, mental health issues, over-availability of information leading to ever-evolving desires of life and mates, infidelity, trust issues and what not. In simple words, Gen Zs don't have money or an idea of what they actually want in their lives. They want everything perfect. It's like they are chasing a unicorn, unaware of how to make a meaningful long-lasting human connection, -- and people inclined toward individualism don't behave that way. There is legal biasedness, especially towards men and other economic developments are also the reasons why people don't see any benefits in these things anymore.

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Does individualism teach that you don't need other people to make you happy?

I think I'm an individualist, but that is some bullshit.

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I know women who wish they had not allowed their middle school age daughters get on social media and a daughter glad she has not allowed any of her teenage kids get on social media period. Her kids still had and have friends. I like the recommendation to require teens to be at least 16 to get on social media sites and require proof of age.

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I know women who wish they had not allowed their middle school age daughters get on social media and a daughter glad she has not allowed any of her teenage kids get on social media period. Her kids still had and have friends. I like the recommendation to require teens to be at least 16 to get on social media sites and require proof of age.

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I know women who wish they had not allowed their middle school age daughters get on social media and a daughter glad she has not allowed any of her teenage kids get on social media period. Her kids still had and have friends. I like the recommendation to require teens to be at least 16 to get on social media sites and require proof of age.

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Yup, Millennials started moving away from Bernie when their median income rose dramatically in 2015. The year before his first presidential run. Which makes about as much sense as the generation that graduated into the great recession (which multiple studies have demonstrated leaves a generational scarring effect decreasing annual salary by 5-10% for as long as 20 years) e.g. https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2018/01/24/a-dream-deferred-inequality-and-poverty-across-generations-in-europe ) with far more debt and worse job prospects, magically turning that around (in like 5 years?) and outpace sing other generations. All while less and less wealth has been accumulating to anyone besides the very richest. There is zero doubt in my mind that whatever data source you are getting that from is intentionally obfuscating reality.

I'd say the depression onset has at least a plausible relation to Bernie. Depression was a reasonable response to watching our supposedly free press bend over backwards to excuse HRC's warmongering imperialism, faux feminism that only care about PMC women, and subservience to Wall Street. We saw all the top news organizations just flat out lie about Sanders; calling Sanders and his supporters racists based on strong arguments like her being a Goldwater Girl while he was in SNCC, and her calling black people super predators while he was giving impassioned speeches about harmful The crime bill was going to be for poor black people. Yeah, I’d say it was depressing realizing that both political parties actively want to harm as many of their constituents as possible to be of better service to their donors. That NYT WaPo and MSNBC have exactly as much integrity and credibility as Fox News does. And worst of all, the whole worthless corrupt system has completely insulated itself from any and all reforms. We have redefined democracy down to the ability to nominally select iif we would like your decreased wages, poor job prospects, deference to any and all billionaires, increasing homelessness, worsening climate change, and unlimited support for endless wars with or without a side of explicit racism.

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