Great, comprehensive, survey about an essential subject!

I saw this syndrome unfolding when my now-32 year old son was taught in his undergraduate cognitive neuroscience class that because the same part of the brain lights up when a person is physically hit or verbally insulted, “science proves that speech is violence”.

We’re dealing with a cultural mood that has found numerous ways to insidiously infiltrate our civilizational consensus. I hope articles like this--evidence-based and data-driven--can help turn the tide, but if not there are bad times ahead.

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Random, but for an amazing set of data to support this - check out the Opinion archive for The Tab, an all-UK student newspaper. You can directly see student opinions - and not those of just any students, but of wannabe journalists - change over the past 11-12 years. In 2011 the slant was still very much towards free speech, in 2020 there's an article admonishing Rihanna for appropriating the Qur'an. Everything politics-related is quite moralistic and scold-y in tone now, and echoes the mainstream Guardian/Twitter viewpoint. The writing also gets better and more interesting when you scroll back to 2010!

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I have strongly suspected that my children's descent into depression over the last 5 to 10 years has had a correlation with the emergence of social media. I've even confirmed my hypothesis by enforcing technology-free weeks and seeing them return to the cheerful normal kids they once were. Alas, they are too old now for such heavy-handedness...one is living in the dorms and one partakes of virtual college. Both are connected inexorably to the Internet with social media like TikTok and all its damaging effects. The mere suggestion that they unplug from their screens elicits derision and being called a boomer. I know what I'm seeing though. It's like I've lost control of my own children to this evil world. My daughter even is in CBT but I fear her therapist is too liberal. We've even resorted to making her pay her own therapy bills which she happily does because she thinks this therapist is helping her but she's obviously only getting worse. This is my first time venturing into the substatic world, motivated by the brilliant writing in this piece and it's comments observed here.

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I wanted to chime in with an observation about progressive internet culture around the time in question that may be relevant to this discussion. I received my PhD in developmental psychology in 2013, and in 2014 when I was pregnant with my first child, I was invited by a grad school friend to a Facebook group called "Academic Mamas," which was full of > 10,000 other moms with PhDs from all over the world. A dynamic that I observed often in that group was a huge amount of pushback on any suggestion that people could, even temporarily, disconnect from politics to rest and prioritize their mental health. This was framed as a manifestation of "privilege." The argument was that people who were part of an oppressed class didn't have the option of disconnecting from politics EVER because their basic human rights were dependent on their constant engagement in activism. The argument seemed to be that for people with "privilege" to prove their ally-ship with oppressed minorities, they needed to similarly stay constantly engaged with political activism, both online and offline. This was a time when it appeared to become trendy to involve kids in political activism as well, so I have to assume that this ethic of constant engagement was being absorbed by children. The normalization of maladaptive cognitive distortions discussed in this article combined with the idea that it's shameful to ever take a break from political engagement just can't be good for growing brains.

Side note...I left Facebook in 2020, but I'd bet that there are some people here who are still in that Academic Mamas group. I'd love to know what the conversation about this Substack has been like there.

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Brilliant stuff. All of it. While devices/screen time remain a pivotal impact on children's availability to "real world" activity/interaction with friends/peers...I also believe we've erred in pushing back against this attention-monopoly by creating an endless shuffle of curated activity for our kids.

We find the things they are 1) good at very early and/or 2) seem to bring them joy (very early)...and we go ALL IN. We ensure they remain enveloped in a world of like minds, unfettered successes, and relationships formed too strongly upon shared viewpoints/skillsets/desired experiences/outcomes.

Young Jenny is really good at softball at age 8? Softball to the MAX! Let's post about her softball successes on social media...let's make our family friendships revolve around our team(s) and trips...let's spend more time talking about our great softball memories and upcoming opportunities for softball greatness at the dinner table (when we make it...because we're usually at...softball practice).

This is bad for the softball heroes. And it's bad for those who don't necessarily have a curated activity like softball to embody their performative greatness. Young Jenny often loses interest in maintaining non-softball friendships...or simply sacrifices them to the alter of time/opportunity cost.

I see kids every day in my town that have NO life outside of organized sports and screen time in between. They are 10, 12...14 years old and have the social skills of 6 year olds. And their self-confidence is fragile. It's wholly-dependent. Their existence is unnecessarily narrow.

And it's the parents' unyielding desire to blanket their children in "be a winner" goodness that sets it all in motion. Resilience takes a back seat to feeling good.

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Thank you to everyone doing this work! I live in an extremely left liberal college town and have often remarked that the past 7 years have felt like living inside a communal mental illness. In 2018 a report on student mental health came out of the high school that was devastating. I noticed in a graph that social worker and therapy referrals had more than doubled after 2016-evidence of how much our Trump reaction was effecting our kids. I ended up reading Coddling of American Mind and started to painfully see how much we as a progressive left community were damaging our kids. When you live in a town that is completely ruled by this thinking you see how utterly corrosive it is. Taking away the agency of low income minority students to flatter this ideology is the absolute bottom and yet when you push back you are labeled an ‘ist’ and canceled. I know several students who are so anxious they are unable to go to the school and are sent to a therapy school run by the district. Friends and relatives living in purple or red areas have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention this. Even the kid’s appearance reflects this thinking-bedhead, sleepy pants, sweats, slippers, slides-like they never got out of bed. It’s a cult of mental illness. This way of thinking can not end soon enough and I plan to send this to our superintendent. Please keep going. The kids need this to stop!

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Respectfully, Dr. Haidt, there is no mention of the role of porn in the development of these toxic ideas and behaviours. Porn is so pervasive now and incredibly profitable. There are market forces that are normalizing the extreme sexual objectification and degradation of women, especially women of the age you're referring to. I think it's a huge blindspot in your analysis. It profoundly affects boys, too. I would imagine that boys, who are as young as 8 years old according to studies, cannot help but be traumatized when witnessing the brutality of today's porn. The book Big Porn Inc. https://www.amazon.com/Big-Porn-Inc-Exposing-Pornography/dp/1876756896/ describes the evolution (or devolution, really) of the porn industry and catastrophic effects it's had on the culture. Please consider adding this to your research.

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This is incredibly insightful, and aligns closely with my own observations. One thing that I'd add is that there is evidence that other social media, such as Facebook, has a deleterious, polarizing effect on discourse that also exerts a subtle but pervasive influence on adults. Over the last decade I've seen quite a few middle-aged friends, both men and women, become politically deranged, adopting the pathological politics of the liberal teenage girls discussed here - this despite no exposure to Tumblr.

My guess is that this is not something intrinsic to social media as a technology, but is algorithmic in nature. Big social designs their algorithms to maximize engagement - hence the slot machine addictiveness of it. They are also known to bias their algorithms to favor certain kinds of content. Thus, for example, liberal posts are more likely to be rewarded, while the timeline feed prioritizes liberal posts from one's contacts. The former creates a reinforcement learning loop, the latter distorts perception, and the combination acts as a Skinner box that gradually nudges people in a certain direction. I suppose that might sound conspiratorial, but actually it's not even necessary for the platform to put its thumb on the scale for a certain ideological position - an algorithm that simply learns what users "want" and gives them more of that will produce echo chambers of every ideology. However, the balance of evidence suggests that the polarization has been more due to radicalization of the left, than it has been due to the right becoming more extreme - hence my suspicion that Big Social has been engaging in social engineering.

That then implies another policy imperative: it must be absolutely forbidden for social media to engage in algorithmic social engineering.

I think it will also be very, very important for a cultural shift to take place, such that excessive social media use is shamed as low status. We need to unplug, and reengage with the physical world of real people, and we can't wait for government regulation to prod us in this direction.


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> It’s important to reframe your emotional response as something that’s under your control:

> * Stop saying “so-and-so made me angry by doing X.”

> * Instead say “so-and-so did X, and I reacted by becoming angry.”

I'm not sure about this, because it seems to me it obscures a small but very real and critical distinction, conflating emotion and response into one messy conglomerate.

Emotional reactions are not something a person has control over. If so-and-so did X and it made you angry, you did not have the choice to not feel anger in response to that. That's just not how emotions work. Emotional reactions, particularly immediate-term ones, operate more on the level of instinct than of decision-making.

What you *did* have the choice over was what to do with that anger. You could lash out in a rage. You could suppress the anger and not act on it at all. You could channel it into any number of positive motivations. You could let it fester in dark plans and desires for revenge. You could decide to take physical steps to calm down, such as slowing down, breathing deeply, etc. And so on. But it feels not only incorrect but a bit unhealthy to deny the basic reality that emotional reactions to external stimuli are not a thing that is under our control.

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Apologies for the length, but I just had to comment on this.

As a member of Gen Y (M, 33, born in '89) I couldn't be happier to read your encounter with the Tumblr/4Chan divide, the impact that online communities had on my generation, and Angela Nagle's work.

As I was reading this post of yours, I kept wishing you could find your way to that podcast series and to that episode in particular. But I was very happy to see that you already had!

When I listened to the third episode of "Trials", I felt like they had finally nailed a major, major issue that rarely gets explored in these conversations, and that's my generation's, and by extension Gen Z's, interaction with unsupervised online communities from a very early age, and what that entailed.

Jonathan, my generation, and Gen Z, have been running a kind of social experiment on a massive scale, a scale of hundreds of millions, and it's an experiment which asks, "What kind of personalities are formed, what kind of character is formed, when children grow up in spaces where they can talk amongst each other from a very early age and without supervision about how scary and alienating the world is? What happens when they start sharing amongst each other whatever they want? What happens when they start talking about alienation from a very early age? What happens when they come across sex from a very early age? What happens when their identity is formed in the amorphous liquidity of the internet? What happens when all you talk about, naturally, is how scary and confusing and inexplicable and incoherent everything in the adult institutional world is (from schools on up)? And what happens when you keep doing this year after year, and nobody asks you to look at how you grew up through a critical lens?" And since the early 2010's, we've been reaping the consequences of that experiment.

We (my generation) helped put an idiot in the White House for laughs; we helped QAnon become a thing -- in fact we helped generate it (CP = "Cheese Pizza" & "Child Pornography" simultaneously is an early bit of 4Chan culture from even before the 2010s!!); we became hyper-focused on reaffirming our pain and alienation to and at each other and the rest of the world be damned, because this is literally what we grew up doing!

The conclusions do stand, Jonathan. For years I've been waiting for the rest of the culture to catch up to the impact that these online communities, and internet use in general, have had on my generation. It's been a little more obvious to me because I grew up around people who used Tumblr and 4chan like maniacs. It has been the most surreal thing to have seen the fractious impulsive moods and cultures of those communities coming out into the real world and influencing actual elections, influencing actual national and international cultures and conversations, to an extent that it will now get written into the history books, chiseled in stone forever. I feel like this is the first major collective contribution my generation has made to the massive tome we call Human History, and I find it profoundly disappointing and saddening, because it's so scattered, it's so full of energy that's going nowhere, nowhere good. I remember thinking, "We are not paying attention to this stuff at our own peril. We need to talk about how we grew up with the internet with an extremely necessary transparency. In a way that we've never talked about it before. We need to start to deconstruct our own childhoods and adolescences looking at screens before we start to deconstruct the world."

I really think you should talk to Nagle, you should talk to people who study Tumblr and 4Chan. I think it's going to open your eyes a lot about why it all starts to spill out into the culture in the 2010s, just as Gen Y is becoming adult and starting to voice, as adults, their opinions about the world, in ways that now influence the actual course of daily events, even yearly "events".

An aspect of growing up in web communities that you don't quite capture in this article is how so much of that was constantly infused with the natural confusion and fear about the outside "grown up" world that everyone felt at that time -- that we ALL feel when we're kids and teens. And that developed and evolved into the activist streak that you see today, and also the nihilistic humor-mongering, irony-mongering, boundary-testing nihilism more common in boys, where there's a profound discomfort with the world, that has been cultivated from a very young age. Both sides of this divide are marked by an automated dissing of the world as it works today, even a disgust. When you let kids express to each other how weird and confusing and disgusting and painful and scary the adult world is, and if people keep reaffirming that because that's all they know, that's the only signaling of a "secure community" that they get, that's all they truly value (because it's coming from your isolated communities), and so people grow up to be confused and scared of the world. It never resolves. Along with helicopter parenting, and not enough unsupervised play time outside in the sun, and bulimia-advocacy videos, and porn use from a young age... you have this as well: the confusion and fear inherent in childhood not getting resolved.

My generation has grown up for 20 years without ever questioning how they got to be who they are. Not on this level. Not this deeply. The internet, and its influences and cultures, is just taken for granted. It is in fact seen as the only safe space, as the drug one goes for to be soothed, because that's home. The world out there, made by our parents and grandparents and their parents? That isn't home. At all. It's STILL scary. For a TON of people. I see this everywhere. Radical activism on a hundreds fronts? Doesn't surprise me. Almost suicidal nihilism and lack of sex? Doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

My generation's interaction with the internet, in the privacy of our bedrooms, is going to be the "wound", the nerve, that will have to be touched in order for this utter maelstrom of emotions and cacophonous scattershot energies to start healing. I guarantee you.

With the deepest respect for you and your work, and this ever-evolving conversation,

Cheers from Portugal!

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Mar 9, 2023·edited Mar 29, 2023

I recently finished Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism", and there were a few passages I found really insightful:

"𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘮 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢 𝘥𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘴 𝘶𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘺...𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘦𝘺 𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘶𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭-𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘻𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘷𝘢𝘭𝘶𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦. 𝘈𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘨𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘺, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘷𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘷𝘢𝘭𝘶𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 - 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦...𝘖𝘧𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘳𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘦 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘯𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘨 𝘤𝘶𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘶𝘢𝘨𝘦, 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘷𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘸-𝘣𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘸𝘪𝘥𝘵𝘩 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘭𝘴...𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩-𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘯𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥."

This seems to complement Twenge's argument about children's lack of free play. Apart from school, when a child's primary means of connecting with others and developing social skills is on social media, where their frames of reference on how to treat themselves and others is presented in the most trivial and histrionic ways, how much of their growth is being stunted thanks to these fast food substitutes?

Anecdotally speaking, I find myself preferring to text people instead of calling them, to have random conversations instead of scheduling a dedicated time to connect with them. It's so gosh darn easy to use these shortcuts when you have a smartphone! Lately I've been trying to encourage friends to text me less and either meet up with me in person or at least have a video chat so we can give each other our full attention. For some, it's very foreign to them!

If smartphones are here to stay, let's make sure we're using this technology intentionally and with discipline so it doesn't use us. If it's hard for me to do this, I can't imagine how hard it is for young teenagers with far more on their plates!

Social media may not be real life, but the behaviors it and smartphones encourage (fragmented multi-tasking, constant notification checking, social comparisons) are seeping into our real lives whether we like it or not.

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Thank you for this wonderful article on an important topic.

In addition to writing about policy implications, you might consider including some less idealistic (and more realistic) coping strategies for parents. Some will read this and think, “Head to the hills!”--reinforcing the walls around their subculture in a way that prevents their kids from developing the skills to relate and engage with most of their contemporaries. Others will focus on trying to control internet usage in a way that inhibits their kids’ development of locus of control. Others will give up too soon. As an idealist myself, with a 17-year-old daughter, I found it useful to develop a “distract and delay” strategy. I delayed getting a phone as long as possible, prioritized and supported almost any sort of off-device engagement, kept phone away from her at night, on Sundays and during meals, etc. Knowing that she would eventually need to set her own limits, I relaxed rules later in high school. She never got into posting a lot and says “social media is boring after a while.”

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Mar 9, 2023·edited Mar 9, 2023Liked by Zach Rausch

How do you think about the Tumblr hypothesis versus the Instagram hypothesis?

In this post, you focus more on the Tumblr-based hypothesis, which explains why the rise in depression is hitting liberals hardest. But in other writing you've talked more about Instagram and how it's implicated in the self reports of teen girls, particularly around body image. These hypotheses are very different, and the existence of both of them could open up you to charges of excessive theoretical flexibility.

I personally think it's reasonable to keep both hypotheses alive. Both Tumblr and Instagram were Gutenberg-level shocks to teen social life, so it wouldn't be surprising if they both had a big impact on mental health, each in their own way.

But I am curious what you think.

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“Has a doctor or other healthcare provider EVER told you that you have a mental health condition?”

While this is interesting, I'd first like to know how many of them went there explicitly to get that very diagnosis in the first place (so they can run and tell their TikTok followers that they're legit), and the doctor just went along with it because they like money.

As someone who's successfully manipulated doctors into saying what I want, I gotta say... I don't really trust them that much... and the last few years have not helped at all.

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This reminded me of something that was in LinkedIn recently from Dr. Brad Klontz, Financial Psychologist.

To My Capitalism-Hating Friends,

I love you.

I appreciate your sensitivity, your sincerity, your sense of fairness and your desire to make the world a better place.

I also appreciate your thoughtful insights into the downsides of capitalism, which are many.

But you and I are different.

I am not an economist, politician or a sociologist.

I am a clinical psychologist.

I have dedicated my professional life to helping real people improve their day-to-day lives.

In my work in the trenches, highbrow political musings about capitalism, socialism, etc. are TOTALLY USELESS for people who actually want and need to change their lives TODAY.

Even worse, suggesting to people that they CAN’T change their plight because the “system is rigged” is just HORRIBLE.

You’re actually HURTING the people you say you want to help by spouting that disempowering nonsense.

Please stop doing that.

People like me - who grew-up economically disadvantaged - can’t afford to wait for people like YOU to change the entire system of government to give us a leg up.

We can’t afford to believe that “the system is rigged” and we are powerless to create a better life for ourselves and for our families - and the evidence just does NOT support this claim.

Politicians have been promising to make our lives better to get our votes - but nothing has changed.

As a clinical psychologist my role is to help people achieve their goals and reach their highest potential.

My focus has been in the area of financial psychology. I have conducted psychological studies on thousands of individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

I have studied the mindsets, habits, and lifestyles of people who grew-up POOR and have been able to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

Their stories are inspiring, their psychology and behaviors can be taught, and their results can be replicated.

I will continue to share these mindsets and habits to help inspire people who want to create a better life. I will continue to dispel myths about the rich that keep people poor. I will continue to call out self-destructive beliefs about money.

I will continue to do my best to give people the tools they need to change their lives - because NOBODY is going to do it for them.

I will keep focusing on helping people win the game we were all born into.

I appreciate your desire to make the world a better place.

When you’ve successfully changed the game I will immediately shift-gears and do my best to teach people how to win at the new game you’ve created for us.


Dr. Brad Klontz

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Mar 9, 2023·edited Mar 9, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

I was excited to see the reference to Tumblr in the piece. As someone who entered college in 2011 (and graduated in 2015), it always struck me as plain-as-day that Tumblr directly impacted this cultural shift. I was someone who always felt just a tad bit too old for Tumblr that people a few years my junior were obsessed with, which coincides with the timing you and Greg mention taking hold in colleges in 2013.

I don't really have any empirical evidence for it. But I found writings that talked about this very personally compelling (e.g. Katherine Dee's discussion at https://www.theamericanconservative.com/tumblr-transformed-american-politics/ and Kat Rosenfield's discussion at https://unherd.com/2023/01/how-tumblr-corrupted-the-new-york-times/).

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