Feb 8, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

Thanks, very important work.

The main thing I think might be related, but not mentioned anywhere as I can see, is the influence that the feminization had on society. The 'always price' principle, teaching kids to run to authorities (snitching), anti bullying measures (preventing them to work things out among themselves/inserting authorities), reduction of competition, the demands on girls to compete on masculine traits, the lack of societal appreciation for feminine traits, sometimes extreme measures to prevent even minor harm (microaggressions?), the increased authority of females in the public space while not giving up their authority in the private space which reduced the traditional role of the father, the active blurring of gender roles, etc. The current generation is growing up in a wildly different world than I did 60 years ago when this movement just got started. Up until high school, kids lives seem to be managed full time by an almost exclusively female world. All this must have had some influence on our kids?

Taleb's anti-fragile concept would predict a very fragile youth, imho exactly what I see today.

It think it is impossible to deny that the effects of the feministation of society are massive. In all aspects it was a revolution. However, somehow it acts as a giant elephant in the room that everybody wants to avoid talking about?

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I have some questions:

1. What does “feminization” mean here? Does it refer to women rising in society, or does it mean we're promoting kind and nurturing values?

2. How can society be “feminizing” and at the same time losing appreciation for feminine traits?

3. Our commenter says that competition is on the decline, but at the same time, girls are having to adopt more masculine traits. How can this be so?

4. If this is the problem, what is the solution?

If you ask me, this “feminization” argument is a bunch of weepy nonsense, conveniently sidestepping facts in favor of wild imaginings and not a little misogyny. Where’s your evidence? To think that anti-bullying measures turn kids into little snitches is a hoot and a half, but where's the proof? For that matter, can anyone really believe that competition is a thing of the past?

Facts don't cater to emotions, plain and simple. The topic of teen mental illness requires a good dose of common sense and knowledge. I’d advise our friendly commenter to get his thoughts in order.

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

I think Haidt tries to create an inventory of possible causes and then gather evidence and refutations later. I think you're running ahead of the program? That said, you're attempt to attack my reputation with a false accusation of misogyny is a typical female strategy to shut down an unwanted discussion.

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It sure looked liked the poster just disagreed your idea (ideas expressed in comment) and didn't say anything personal about you.

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I didn't note any personal attacks just that the claims don't make sense and that some of what was written sounds like something that an misogynist might think.

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

> .. didn't say anything personal about you

Not true, she called me a misogynist. That is a serious false accusation.

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It could be the organization of the comments, but I replied to the one directly under prarieghost06 (which was more about polyvalence and the danger of mono-causal explanations).

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Why do you assume “she”?

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'false accusation' .. 'typical female strategy' ?

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

> 'false accusation' .. 'typical female strategy' ?

+ in an attempt to cancel someone by causing reputation damage. Well known as the 'mean girl' strategy. I think you get it! :-)

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No I don't agree. What is 'female' about that? If that is what is going on. Maybe you genuinely come across as misogynistic in your assumptions about what it is to be female.

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I am a woman, and I completely agree with Peter. If your rider is working overtime to the point that you are denying that reputation damaging is a classic female way of fighting / gaining power, then you should probably take a step back and try to see what your elephant is up to.

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Feb 12, 2023·edited Feb 12, 2023

Expressing a dissenting viewpoint is not trying to cancel you. I don’t care one way or another if you keep posting.

At the same time, no personal attack was intended, and I would be delighted if you responded to any of the questions I raised about your argument. Do you have any evidence to bolster your generous claims?

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As I said several times, this would be hijacking Haidt's post. If you find a better venue to have this discussion, in a polite way, then I am all ears.

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What reputation?

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Many of you gals here seem to go out of your way to help me make my point!

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What point?

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1. The feminization of institutions. Demoting merit and rules.

2. Great point. Men are feminizing while women are masculinizing.

3. Comparative advantage. Men are better at being men and women are better at being women, on average.

4. Don’t know.

I think your last sentence is rather passive-aggressive.

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Feb 15, 2023·edited Feb 15, 2023

Thanks for clarifying Peter’s comment for me.

1. In what sense are rules/merit being “demoted”?

1a. Why is the word “feminization” used to refer to a demotion of rules/merit?

2. So what? In other words, why is this a factor in teen mental illness?

3. See 2.

4. Fair enough.

4a. I don’t know if snark qualifies as passive aggression, but I’m curious: to your mind, what would constitute non-passive aggression on a website? Name-calling? Threats? Something else?

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1) The OP went into some detail about what he meant.

"The 'always price' principle, teaching kids to run to authorities (snitching), anti bullying measures (preventing them to work things out among themselves/inserting authorities), reduction of competition, the demands on girls to compete on masculine traits, the lack of societal appreciation for feminine traits, sometimes extreme measures to prevent even minor harm (microaggressions?), the increased authority of females in the public space while not giving up their authority in the private space which reduced the traditional role of the father, the active blurring of gender roles, etc."

2) Because if everybody is feminine then what value do feminine traits have? It is simply the default.

3) Is competition an exclusively male trait? If not then the two are not correlated.

4) Let boys be boys.

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Just need to say how profoundly I disagree with the sentiments expressed here.

Women are emerging from thousands of years of oppression, violence and low pay to claim our rightful power in this society.

Asking a teacher for help navigating complex human relationships (instead of expecting kids to figure it out themselves) is not snitching

Staying safe at school (not being harassed, beat up and sexually abused in many cases) is a human right.

Part of standing up for yourself is asking for help when you’re in danger.

And everyone, by the way, seems to be talking about this.

As women and other marginalized groups start to gain back some of their power , the dominant group (eg bullies) rightly feels threatened.

And women thankfully aren’t just taking on “male traits” they’re learning to have power using their true voice.

Yes, We also have a long way to go in how we raise boys, allowing them to express their feelings, find power in kindness and collaboration

I’m not sure what circles you travel in...but Far from no one talking about this, I’m excited to see that every day there are conversations going on about how we raise boys -and girls to build a more fair, just, kinder and also economically thriving world. And in addition, conversations questioning this dualist view of gender , one “feminine” one “masculine” that are completely distinct and separate.

I appreciate your viewpoints, but the suggestion that children shouldn’t ask for help if they’re being bullied puts children at risk.

A good teacher will intervene in a way that helps the child learn to resolve conflict and stay safe.

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When I was in first grade back in the mid 70s, our elementary school principal believed that fighting was good for boys and so fighting was not stopped when it occurred on the playground and that corporal punishment was good when needed. It helped the kids manage their own differences and also do better during the class periods.

He retired and was replaced by a woman with lots of "new" ideas. There was no more corporal punishment and fighting was not tolerated. We were even stopped from playing soccer during recess because a fear it was too violent.

When my kids were young, I was shocked that they no longer could play on the playground before school and instead had to just sit without talking. They also were not allowed to talk in the hallways or during lunch. It was pure torture for the kids.

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023

"This thing has increased, so has this, therefore the one caused the other" is the same argument as the old "pirates cause global warming" joke.

The factors you mention are just a list of things you disapprove of, often self-contradictorily: how is increasing feminization indicated by a *lack* of appreciation for feminine traits? How do anti-bullying measures create mental health problems, when bullying itself is a common cause of anxiety or even PTSD? How has competition both reduced and increased? They're closer to the "indoor plumbing has made the youth soft" complaints mentioned in the first section of the article than the evidence provided in the latter parts.

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"how is increasing feminization indicated by a *lack* of appreciation for feminine traits?"

There is a difference between femininity as expressed in women (or indeed men) and feminisation of society as a whole (institutional, legal, cultural etc).

Femininity is intimately tied to pregnancy/ motherhood and the vulnerability that comes from this biological role. Women need resources, special considerations and protections from men as a result of their biological role. Men need to provide these things to a mate in order to reproduce successfully (which puts them in danger and makes them also vulnerable in their own way).

Inherent to femininity is a recognition, appreciation and even veneration of masculinity. Masculinity allows as well as demands women to be feminine, just as femininity allows as well as demands men to be masculine. This dynamic is what makes the male/ female 'pas de deux' so interesting and fun, for those who like complex, nuanced and involved interactions.

But the 'feminisation of society' (admittedly a clunky term), basically means everybody assumes the biological role of women - except skipping the bit about pregnancy and motherhood. A feminised society is one where safety, security, feelings and comfort are prioritised - even for males. It means the female trait of neuroticism becomes the dominant (or even exclusive) motivating factor for all interactions and social organisation.

To return to the dance analogy, a feminised society is like a pas de deux without a strong male partner. The lack of a strong male partner severely reduces the scope of feminine expression that is possible.

When you obliterate (or denigrate) the masculine, you also obliterate (or denigrate) the feminine too. We can't all be feminine all the time, because the feminine is defined (and in a practical sense ENABLED) by the masculine (and vice versa).

A feminised population is just a weak and passive population. Those at the front of the class are already asking: Qui bono?

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Feb 13, 2023·edited Feb 13, 2023

Reading Taleb's book Anti-Fragile, as referenced, might help understanding where i come from.

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Can you explain a little bit about how Taleb’s book (my namesake) is relevant here?

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Read it again.

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There's some clarity

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I'm a few years older than you and in the UK, (I'm guessing you're in the US?) but my educational experience up till secondary school was almost entirely female. I remember only a few male teachers in the schools I attended and I was taught by female teachers apart from my last year before moving to secondary school. I don't think this bias towards female teachers in the earlier years of education was unusual, it always seemed to me that male teachers gravitated to the subject specialisms of secondary education and dealing with younger children was seen as 'women's work'.

In the UK there has been a steady increase in the number of male teachers in primary education since the 1980s.

I find your hypothesis more a red herring than a white elephant

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Here I largely agree with Aunty Fragile. Your concept of feminization is vague and contradictory, with the exception of a few very conservative tropes popping out here and there ("reduced the traditional role of the father", "active blurring of gender roles".)

You attribute a whole host of different developments to one cause and paint them all as negative. This is not a well reasoned argument, and it does come across as rather sexist.

That being said, there are a few points where I agree with you in part. What we do have is a culture that paints any form of disagreement as bullying, and a sense of entitlement in many - but by far not all - youths that being affirmed in their opinion or identity is a human right. What we also have is parents having a greater need than before to see their kids protected to an ever greater extent - which also includes a probably unprecedented degree of parental control for many kids, btw. This need undoubtedly is informed by technological and scientific advancements. (Contrary to popular belief, we do not live in a demand driven economy. Our economic system is supply driven, and supply finds ways of creating demand.)

Throw in a healthy - or unhealthy, rather - dose of esoterics as has been permeating social sciences and large parts of the middle class since at least the 00's, probably even the 90's, together with ideological shifts within esoterics that now postulate self agrandizement and self realisation above all...

Also throw in irregular hours, a blurred line between private life and work, increasing economic pressure on large parts of the middle class (and even more so on blue collar workers), and terribly underpaid and overworked teachers in not just the US school system.

How is that not supposed to affect the relationship betweens children and their parents, parents and teachers, and the self image of kids themselves?

Add social media to this and you have a perfect storm, as social media tend to exarcerbate conflicts into bouts of mutual hysteria, and promote the sanctity of everyone's self image above reality - which of course affects children and teenagers a lot more than adults.

Atop of that we should also look at this phenomenon as a largely middle class crisis. Certainly kids from blue collar families experience an increase in mental health disorders as well, those disorders are just not as attention grabbing as those of kids articulate enough to spell them out. Working class kids largely have other things to do than think about themselves all day long, and who cares about them anyways. (Hint: This is sarcasm.)

It's just that no one really looks at these phenomena as potentially class related anymore because, according to both woke-ism and conservativism, class doesn't exist anyways, it's all about beliefs and so called identities.

Could changes in gender roles potentially play a role in that? Yes. Our society hasn't exactly figured out how to deal with being not as patriarchal as it was a generation and a half ago. But this would primarily affect the wellbeing of boys and young men who do not yet have roles that reflect these changes. (And calling for "traditional roles" won't bring them back.) Now, we see that effect in many statistics, not just in the Anglosphere, btw. Curiously, though, what we see is a rise in mental health problems in girls more than in boys, so most likely other and more important factors play a role in this young generation's mental health crisis - which is, to repeat myself - most likely almost exclusively a middle class phenomenon.

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I think this is an important part of the puzzle, but also that it ties into a much broader historical unraveling that has been accelerating in recent years as a kind of culmination of this historical trajectory. Central to this entire problem is the absence of the father. We pretend that the sexes of the parents have no significance, but this is untrue and untrue at a very profound and deep, even metaphysical level. People, and this includes children, relate very differently to fathers than they do to mothers because they are very different people (both human, but meaningfully different with important social consequences). Patriarchy is not an arbitrary construction. It follows from human nature itself. In the absence of patriarchy, society loses its essential social structure, and we are social animals who need society to flourish. It is by the common good that we come by other goods. Without a patriarchy, it is difficult to speak of a robust common good.

This makes the vitriol and hatred directed at 'the patriarchy' all the more interesting. If patriarchy is so central, then why the hatred? Shouldn't we expect a longing for its return? Well, this is where human psychology starts to become interesting.

First, the miserable young, raised in a world devoid of patriarchical structure, even ignorant of what it is, are miserable because without the father, they are never taught self-mastery. Thus, self-indulgence becomes the ethos of such people. The pornography epidemic is a great example. So are crime rates among boys raised by single moms. As Augustine said, a man has as many masters as he has vices. But a man addicted to his vices also hates whatever would pull him away from his perverse affections. And so, whatever residual patriarchy exists becomes an object of hatred, a threat to these perverse pleasures. I don't think I have to give examples of people foaming at the mouth in a state of blind rage at the mere mention of moral principles as traditionally understood. These youths are also taught to blame their misery on the patriarchy, something they can be easily persuaded of because young people are more likely to love indulgence and hate anyone who might suggest self-denial.

Second, subconsciously, the hatred for the patriarchy may also come from a place of grievance for it having failed to do its duty and fulfill its obligations. The young may dislike paternal discipline at a carnal level, but spiritually, over time, they learn to resent the father who indulged them instead of setting moral limits and demonstrating moral character through his deeds and his demands.

Third, the fatherless envy those who have fathers. Our culture is boiling over with envy and "slave morality". Families are being attacked by the state, and in some places, even physically by bands of "feral teens". The envious person is interested in one thing: to deprive others of what he himself doesn't have.

Our men failed us, and instead of putting them on proverbial trial, we indulged them and handed over the reigns to women.

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I agree that we need fathers. Perhaps 'patriarchy' is a misnomer; Riane Eisler in her book 'The Chalice and the Blade' contrasts the 'dominator' model of society's organisation 'in which human hierarchies are ultimately backed up by force or the threat of force' versus the partnership model. I thoroughly recommend this book for its examination of previous societies in our history and prehistory.

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Levinas talks about something similar as totality versus infinity: that I can try to control you, to force you into my frame of reference and make you an object of knowledge, but there’s an endless and ultimately unknowable alterity to you—and if I pay attention, it is this alterity that calls me to ethical responsibility.

That strikes me as really fundamental, and it’s why I love Levinas, despite his writing in the impenetrable manner only permitted to French philosophers.

I’ll be sure to check out Eisler—it sounds like her work touches some of the questions I’ve been having lately.

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Feb 15, 2023·edited Feb 15, 2023

> without the father, they are never taught self-mastery

It’s a more delicate balancing act, maybe, when the one with the breasts also has to be the bad cop at times. I would assume it’s similar for single fathers who are the primary caregiver.

I will say, though, that many of the young men I’ve known who were raised by single mothers have achieved success and fulfillment in both work and love, the latter at least in part because they didn’t develop quite as strong an identification with the masculine attitudes and behaviors that so often lead boys to belittle and/or objectify the women around them. A woman who manages children and life on her own can be a formidable example of self-mastery and moral character, you know.

As for patriarchy—I’m sorry, but it’s overrated, it really is. It’s effective as a blunt instrument, and it’s ancient, but so are a lot of other aspects of human nature that you wouldn’t be keen to recommend.

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The children of single parent households are more likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to enter drug rehabilitation counseling. They are more likely to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

They are less likely to graduate high school or attend college. They are more likely to be incarcerated.

Undoubtedly there are exceptions to the rule. But in terms of populations the rise of single parent households has been a disaster for wider society.

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Riddle me this: if patriarchy is so natural as you claim, why then, historically, did it need to be forced on anyone? Please take as long as you like with your answer.

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A small niche talks about the effects of this, Peter. Lots of men’s groups, men’s therapists and speakers talk about how this culture leads to passivity and shame in men. One book I recall is No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover which was written as a side effect of this culture shift.

Anecdotally, I believe this is only getting worse. Meeting younger boys and hearing from grade school teachers, there’s less of “boys will be boys”. They aren’t fighting each other and causing trouble like they used to. I’m concerned about a large uptick in young adult male mood disorder and suicide rate once this generation of boys gets older - these passive traits really don’t fare well for men in the real world.

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Is it passivity not to fight and cause trouble? I agree that in our patriarchal world of 'dog eat dog' kindness and sensitivity don't lead to getting on up the ladder. But I think it is possible and desirable to change the system we are all born into. Feminists did a lot of consciouness-raising in the '70's to unpick what is learned behaviour/conditioning and what is innate; a few men's groups did some work but I think there is a lot more scope for men to work out: what is positive about masculinity and what is a result of toxic patriarchal systems. I quite agree that it has a negative effect on boy's self-image to be told, in effect: 'woman good, man bad.' Men need to inform us what is positive about the masculine archetype.

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Yeah, this is an insanely complicated issue and let's say: The social construction of female roles has been much better understood than the male side. There is certainly a social and political angle to that, and it may very well have to do with many men not really being interested, because, guess what: As long as at least relatively come out on top of hierarchy, you aren't generally that interested in how this hierarchy came about in the first place. Is it only that? Not sure. But I think the finding out part is more of a job for academia, which, sadly seems to have lost much of its ability to do so in the past 20 or 30 years. (Which correlates very closely with feminist studies being replaced by gender studies and "identity politics" taking over many social sciences.)

Now, where I am a bit critical is how educating boys not to be violent seems to start being handled. Mind, I'm not a fan of just letting it slide, and usually some sort of intervention is called for. But what's starting to happen now is that boys or adolescent boys are increasingly treated with the assumption they should have known better in the first place. Nah, not true, at least not the first time around (there is a reason we send kinds to school). Plus, with puberty, male hormones take over and it takes us about a decade or a decade and a half to know how to handle them. (No excuse for being violent, it's just that some of us can't handle it, apparently) How to get a grip on male violence without stigmatising or alienating the boys concerned - for instance with overly harsh disciplinary action in school - is a very, very thin line.

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"I agree that in our patriarchal world of 'dog eat dog' kindness and sensitivity don't lead to getting on up the ladder."

A patriarchal world is a world where the comfort, security and safety of women and children is prioritised (even to the point of restricting their freedoms) and it is men's job to provide resources and protections to women and children (even to the point of sacrificing their own comfort, safety or lives).

In other words patriarchy = 'women and children first' ...... or in modern post feminist lingo: 'he for she'.

In a patriarchal world men being kind and sensitive towards women = higher social status for those men... especially if that means sacrificing themselves in some way eg laying his coat on a puddle, rescuing a woman from a burning building, walking a woman home at night (before walking home all alone himself), or going off to fight a war.

Every book, play and fairy tale throughout the entire history of the 'patriarchy' judged men's character by how kind and sensitive (and self sacrificing) they were to women. If you want to show that a man is the villain, you just show him treating women badly. If you want to show him as the hero you show him saving or protecting women.

Also, dogs don't eat other dogs. The idea of 'dog eat dog' (brutally self serving social hierarchies with no concept of cooperation) came from the same psychopathic social engineers who invented feminist theory. It's pure projection on their part (defining all of society as psychopathic).

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Anyone who has done more than a superficial analysis of hierarchies in societies knows that no system of dominance is a one way street. A patriarchal system would not be stable if women and children just had to bear the brunt, and every conceptualization of societal roles comes with its own contradictions, limits and paradoxical effects. The same goes for matriarchal societies, such as they are, as well.

I'd like to illustrate that point with a different societal model. That will perhaps make it a bit clearer, because we are not involved in it any more. Feudalism is a strictly hierarchical system. No one would argue today - or to my knowlegde argued back then - that it was really a system from which serfs and peasants had most of the advantages. It is clear to everyone that they were at the bottom of the pecking order, and most of us would agree that this was grossly unfair.

Does that mean that the lives of serfs and peasants consisted entirely of exploitation by nobility, church and royatly? No. Both groups had distinct rights within the system. Those rights differed in detail, depending on time and place, but these were rights the could sue their overlords for in court - and frequently did so. They, for instance, had a right to be protected by their overlord. If he failed to provide protection he could even lose his liege-dom. Also, we could argue, that for the most serfs and peasants were excempt from strict social codes that developped in medieval Europe. This is where Common Law Marriages come from.

So, this system provided some advantages for them. But there can be no question that they were not free in any modern sense of the word, and that it was they who provided the labor whose fruits others enjoyed. So they were dominated, not domineering.

The same can be said about women in all patriarchal societies. Yes, they enjoy a few advantages in some areas. But that comes with a heavy price tag. It is not a fair tradeoff by any stretch of the imagination. Also, what you describe is patriarchy in a distinctly Western and modern context. This does not apply to all patriarchal societies today - it is very different in, say, Afghanistan. It also just partly applies to Western patriarchy in earlier times.

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"Yes, they enjoy a few advantages in some areas. But that comes with a heavy price tag."

The exact same thing can be said of men though! (By the way, thanks for chiming in). The reason feminism resonates with so many people is that we are all hard wired to prioritise the safety, comfort and wellbeing of women (studies show that both sexes are biased in favour of women). And so whenever assessing gender roles (either now or throughout history) we tend to focus on the privileges enjoyed by men vs the suffering endured by women. That's obviously not a fair comparison!

I've never heard a feminist (or anybody else) name any period in history where swapping gender roles would have actually made life easier, safer, more comfortable or otherwise preferable for women. That's because there isn't one. As a rule of thumb, whenever women had it bad, men had it worse. If women were 'chained to the kitchen sink' their male counterparts were 'chained to the coalface' or 'chained to the railroad tracks'.

If men had taken on household duties (which was a full time job for most of history) and women had built the roads, fished the seas, mined the coal etc (bringing home a wage each week to support the family) nobody would say women were privileged and men were oppressed. And yet feminism teaches us that traditional gender roles were patriarchal oppression of women.

Every manifestation of male / female gender roles throughout history was the best possible scenario for women at that time, given the constraints of technology, resources and living standards at that time.

Even today we talk of how unfair and sexist it is when boys get an education in the developing world, but girls don't. But we fail to point out that the boys who get an education invariably use that education to leave the developing world and get a job in the developed world where they send money back home to support their wife, children, in-laws etc.

If we swap the gender roles and educate the girls instead, and have them work abroad and send money home to support their husbands and extended family we'd call that oppression of women. But when men do it we call it the 'male privilege of having an education'.

So when UN women wade in and provide 'free' education for village girls, so they can all become lawyers or engineers in the west, it invariably destroys the family, and the local community. In effect it's a form of ethnic cleansing. The boys end up unmarried - living on the street of joining gangs or militias. And the in-laws and elderly relative lose the support system of a family home that they relied on.

Do you remember when Boko Harem kidnapped all those girls from a school and there was this massive campaign here in the west to 'save our girls'? This event was presented as an attack on girls. An attack on femininity itself. But not one of the media outlets or politicians or virtue signalling celebrities pointed out that while the girls in the school had been kidnapped, the boys in the school had been brutally slaughtered in the classroom. In fact, Boko Harem had been murdering boys for years, but nobody paid attention, so they decided to kidnap girls instead so they could finally get some media attention. And it worked because we care about girls being kidnapped more than we care about boys being murdered.

And the reason why we care about females more is biologically hard wired. Females are the limiting factor in reproduction. If a tribe loses half the young males the tribe can still maintain birth rates, but if a tribe loses half their young females birth rates will plummet and the tribe may even go extinct. All gender roles are based on giving women and girls priority access to resources, comfort, safety and wellbeing (given the constraints that exist at that time).

Feminism calls that 'oppression of women by men' because feminism measures women's oppression relative to an idealised fantasy of female utopia which is detached from all practical considerations.... rather than measuring women's oppression relative to men's oppression which would be a much more scientific and fair metric.

"This does not apply to all patriarchal societies today - it is very different in, say, Afghanistan."

Would Afghani women and girls today benefit from a swapping gender roles with their male counterparts?

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I am quite sure that life under the Taliban today is horrible for the men too. That is why it is the system that needs changing (there, and in the industrialised North for different reasons.) You seem to think that the only options are: either women carry out their stereotyped role and men theirs, or it's reversed and women carry out men's stereotyped roles and men carry out women's. But this isn't the only alternative!

Our society is very individualised and we have been able to choose what we want based on our individual preference, largely, and since feminism. There are men who stay at home and care for children as well as women who are the sole breadwinners. (Also most households cannot manage on just one wage coming in any longer.) Men and women are not that different, apart from our biological roles. We are all different.

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You write about what should be, not what is. Also you are using the term 'patriarchal' with a different meaning to the one it is used as in feminist theory: ie. that our society is based on and advantages dominance (as opposed to partnership and equality). For more on this sense see Riane Eisler who talks of dominance versus partnership models of societies in her book 'The Chalice and the Blade.'

Obviously our society is very complex and there are many men who act in this chivalrous way towards the women in their lives - great. But the business world does not operate like that. It is very much based on dominance, getting an advantage over the competition, etc. and although I have had as little to do with this world as possible I've seen enough films and talked to friends who depict the same. I do see our society as psychopathic, I have even heard the trope that psychopaths make good businessmen because they are charming and ruthless.

The phrase 'dog-eat-dog' is a very well-used phrase and I am well aware that dogs don't eat dogs any more than humans literally eat humans. As to your last couple of sentences about 'psychopathic social engineers who invented feminist theory' - wtf? Have you ever read any feminist theory?

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"you are using the term 'patriarchal' with a different meaning to the one it is used as in feminist theory"

Yes that was exactly my point :) The feminist definition of a 'patriarchy' and 'traditional gender roles' has no connection to reality, history, biology or anybody's actual lived experience. In fact, feminism owes its success to the deep gynocentric hard wiring that we all have (men AND women) .. the same hard wiring that also gave rise to patriarchal societies and traditional gender roles.

'Women and children first' (patriarchy) is the same dynamic as 'he for she' (feminism), except that feminism has taken children's vulnerabilities and needs out of the equation and directed all of society's attention onto women only (how's that for competitive, dominant behaviour!).

"that our society is based on and advantages dominance (as opposed to partnership and equality)"

Society isn't one thing though, it's composed of multiple 'spheres' (family, business, relationships, public, private etc). The rules are different for each sphere. Women's traditional sphere was the marriage and the family where resources are shared according to need, there's no competition and everything is based on a partnership of collaboration and trust. Women's temperaments suit a communal environment like that.

But in the wider world ('the jungle', as it were) those rules don't apply. It's survival of the fittest, the most ruthless and the most competitive. This is true whether it's battling a harsh environment, or wild animals, or hunting prey or competing in the world of business. This is the sphere men have been operating in for hundreds of thousands of years. This is what testosterone is designed for!

I listened to Riane Eisler and what she describes is a very feminine (caring, sharing) dynamic which is perfectly suited to domestic (communal) life inside of a traditional household (family unit). But she is either being naive or disingenuous when she suggests this attitude can apply to society at large.

For a start women don't want equality or fairness when it comes to selecting a mate. Women (like most large female mammals) encourage men compete with nature and with each other, and the men who are the most successful (the ones who survive!) get picked as suitable mates. The rest either get killed along the way, or they are left to live solitary lives with little to no mating opportunities (incels).

Women want a ruthless bastard at work earning loads of money and climbing the social hierarchy .... and then a caring sensitive man when he comes home to his wife and family (with a big fat pay check). And men are actually pretty good at performing these dual roles. Men are also very good at not taking the 'battle damage' of a competitive or hostile environment personally. Women are pretty rubbish at this (in general - obviously there are exceptions on both sides). This is why feminism's social experiment of putting women into leadership roles (boss, politician etc) has created so many casualties (women who just can't cope with the slings and arrows that come with the territory).

The problem with Riane Eisler's idealism is that what she is describing is not natural to men or women. Feminist women have spent a century competing fiercely to get resources from men, via the state (men with guns). Men pay the overwhelming majority of taxes, which get spent disproportionally on women (he for she). Also, married men tend to earn more than their wives, but married women spend more on average than their husbands. Wherever you look the flow of resources goes from men to women (he for she). Men are competitive and driven because women want men to be that way!

Where are the feminists demanding equality in this respect? Where are the feminists urging women to financially support their husbands/ boyfriends so that men can have the LUXURY of not having to be so competitive, ruthless and driven at work? Feminists complain of the gender wage gap, yet they don't realise it's driven by women's thirst for resources. If men earned less, it would be women's standard of living that would drop!

Feminism is basically a mutant form of traditionalism, with the state (men with guns) assuming the role of husband and provider to women. So all this talk of caring, sharing, non competitive behaviour doesn't really wash when it's coming from feminists.

The only feminists who had real integrity were the dungaree wearing, short hair (mostly lesbian), man-hating feminists of the 70's and 80's who did actually create empowered wymin's spaces (feminist communes) where they all learned how to do plumbing and roof repairs and growing their own vegetables and so on. They didn't wear make up. They didn't play the victim. And they didn't demand resources and special privileges from the state.

If there is a 'true feminism' that was it. The rest is just cuckoldry, with feminists having a fling with the state while constantly berating and belittling ordinary men to keep them subservient (manspreading, mansplaining, manexisting etc). Feminists' constant denigration of men is another form of dominance!

"But the business world does not operate like that. It is very much based on dominance, getting an advantage over the competition, etc."

But feminism (selling women's victimhood) is itself a multi billion dollar industry. Playing the victim and highlighting your feminine fragility (while over selling men's privilege and invulnerability) is a passive-aggressive form of social dominance which is biologically hard wired in women (due to women's need to 'bid for resources' during pregnancy and motherhood). Feminism has taken it to a whole new level. A level which is actually traumatising to those women who actually believe their own sales pitch.

" I have even heard the trope that psychopaths make good businessmen because they are charming and ruthless."

Well (and this is sad) feminist ideology defines men as psychopaths. Think about it.... if men have historically oppressed women, that means they've oppressed their daughters, their mothers, their wives..... and only a psychopath would be capable of doing that. This is why feminist theory is traumatising to young men and women. How can women negotiate natural courtship and mating behaviour if they believe men to be psychopaths? And how can men do the same if they believe themselves to be psychopaths? Go and look at old films from before the 60's (or even before the 90's) and you'll see an innate TRUST and PLAYFULNESS between men and women that just isn't there today. Feminism has killed it.

I would argue that psychopaths are actually quite rare (about 3% of the population I think) BUT the ruling class is full of them, and they knew how to 'seduce' 20th century women who were finding themselves suddenly liberated from housework (by mod cons) and how to fill their heads with misguided thoughts and ambitions that would help to destroy the innate partnership between men and women, and destroy social cohesion, which would in turn keep the ruling class safely on top of the hierarchy. It's actually very sad.

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I think you should be very careful about deciding what is 'hard-wired' or innate and what is a result of being conditioned by the societal values etc. that we have been brought up in. There is room for endless debate.

On the 'nature red in tooth and claw' I think that is one way of looking at nature but there is also equally co-operation and mutual tolerance which fits reality just as well. Eg. the symbiosis between fungi and plants. It is also vital that we as a society radically change our attitude to nature - which is, after all, us as well, and cease the war we are waging on her, with our pesticides, herbicides, extractivist mining and deforestation (to name a few.) Not to mention our wars, which as well as killing humans and wrecking lives create ecological devastation.

The point I am trying to make is that: it doesn't have to be this way; but will not change if everyone believes that violence and dominance are hard-wired into us as human beings (whether or not you exempt women from that.) There are societies which are living today, which operate very differently; but they are not well-known-about and often unfortunately thought of as 'primitive' (although even if you see them that way you still have to recognise that peaceful co-operative living is possible for humans.)

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Well, I think Haidt shows rather clearly we have a problem. I really like his approach to create an inventory of what the set of causes could be. When we have that set, we can gather evidence or refutations for each one.

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Boys will be boys culture led to epidemics of sexual assault. See: Trump. Good riddance. I don't think that gender roles is really the thing here. The kids have the right idea that gender roles are fluid, sexuality is fluid, etc. Like the article mentions a few times, social media itself may be a large part of the culprit; the extreme gender "ideals", and various toxic things shared on social media. Cyberbulling is bullying on steroids and that has often driven kids to suicide. Not "feminization"

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"Boys will be boys culture led to epidemics of sexual assault."

Talk about throwing out the baby w the bathwater!

If there were any such thing as "boys will be boys culture" it also has to get some credit for creating and building almost all of Western civ, especially the parts that required sacrifice, stoicism and fortitude.

And this is just pure propaganda regurgitation:

"The kids have the right idea that gender roles are fluid, sexuality is fluid."

Kids have no ideas! These were all indoctrinated into them by educators steeped in gender theory, for better or worse.

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Implying that females in traditional roles lacked “sacrifice, stoicism, and fortitude”? Hilarious!

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hey, i never said or implied that females lacked any of these things.

that would be stupid

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I, for one, was indoctrinated by David Bowie, who was positively Nietzschean and had the added advantage over Judith Butler of several really killer albums and a live concert film.

I’m almost certain the fears over gender theory in the classroom are overblown. Know why? Because kids are making a big thing out of it. If teachers were talking about it, it would immediately become boring and uncool. I’m serious.

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30 years ago if you wanted to be a rebel you mocked organized religion.

Now if you are young and rebellious you say "nigger".

I think the young have a pretty good handle on what constitutes modern blasphemy.

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You mean the very western civ thats killin the environment and all the nice things we take for granted eh. Sure. Credit where credit is due. Kids have ideas I feel bad for your kids if you have any. Their bodies arent your battleground; people can be whatever they want to be. Regardless of what people like you think.

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hey i would never say western civ isnt guilty of many crimes, including environmental despoliation, but that doesnt mean it is pure evil and has created nothing of value.

as for "people can be whatever they want to be" this may actually be the essence of all western thought, the whine of the entitled child who believes the universe exists to feed his ego and everything that doesn't needs to be destroyed.

it's important for all of us to recognize how easy it is to become the things we hate.


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> people can be whatever they want to be

What if someone wants to be an asshole?

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While I reject the feminization explanation as much as you do, you just re-iterate a couple of phrases that are just devoid of meaning and that cause just as much harm. Isn't it funny that the crew that contiuously spouts out "gender is fluid" ("gender roles are fluid" only ever comes up when the first is called out) is the same crew that advocates the most regressive gender roles around, appropriates even the dead for neat little gender boxes, and essentially has ressorted to calling women with short hair "trans men" that just don't know it yet. (So much for self identification) Gender roles change, and fortunately they have softened up considerably. But telling kids they are "fluid" just achieves the opposite: It reinforces them. And as for "sexuality is fluid": Sorry, this just doesn't have any basis in science. And this exact phrase is used by male bullies to exert pressure on lesbians to have sex with them lest they be called transphobic.

So, sorry, your answer is at least as weak as Peter's original thesis.

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I think Haidt tries to create an inventory of _possible_ causes and then line them up and refute or find evidence. I think the only thing clear is that we do not know what the cause is, and likely there are several causes. Ignoring the massive societal change of the influx of women in the workspace (and leaving the homemaker role) seems scientific negligence?

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It seems so at best. This is not exactly a new phenomenon, and there is no reason why this should have become such a major problem in 2012 and not before.

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In the era you speak of, women had very little power outside the home, as I remember all so well, and yes, I had suicide ideation, anorexia, and of course, cutting. To blame the feminization of culture seems bizarre, considering the extreme sexism that females endured for so much of their lives just because they were born female. There is much stereotyping in society to fit into groups culturally by entertainment and media, which can be toxic to individuals of either sex. You comment how different the world is now than when you grew up 60 years ago; it was a white man's world females as minorities were not able to bask in the glory. We are all supposed to be equal, or so they say, yet this threatens many.

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"In the era you speak of, women had very little power outside the home"

Winning gender equality with men has meant having to give up that (not inconsiderable) social, political and economic power and join the un-empowered ranks of the average wage slave/ tax paying man.

The 'oppressed' women of the pre-feminist age had the power to stay at home all day and pass on their cultural, political and moral belief systems to their children. They were able to participate in all manner of community projects and political / social advocacy work. And they always had the option of entering the workforce to supplement their husband's income (an income which was enough on its own to support a household).

Gender equality got rid of all of that power (at least for the average working/ middle class woman).

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Feb 15, 2023·edited Feb 15, 2023

This convo is totally proving Mr. Haidt right. “Reputation management”, good or bad, is an essential appeal of social media (and the online world in general). Whatever the latest online “revolution” is is not a revolution at all, just more of the same battle of the sexes, battle of the races, etc. Using this new “media” as a tool to “teach the children right from wrong”, as the loudest mob sees it, is as bad and wrong as it was when they were doing the same thing with books, then movies, then television. Social media is particularly insidious in that these kids are enmeshed in it 24 hours a day, and the public nature of it all introduces personal humiliation as an enforcement tactic for the “new rules” that any mob thinks up. Respect for anyone is a good thing and not a zero sum game, but arguing about it publicly online for “the audience” isn’t going to change anyones mind, it’s just going to make people more entrenched in their positions to avoid anymore humiliation. This is not teaching kids right from wrong. This is performance art in the extreme. The medium is STILL the message.

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That certainly is a major factor here, probably the single greatest factor. It's not the only one tough. The whole reputation management thing would be less of an issue were it not underpinned by changes in discourse, or societal changes in general, that preceded social media.

I.e., we have large parts of the middle class that have been thoroughly penetrated by bastardized versions of postmodernism and hence are convinced there is no such thing as truth. When it comes down to that, any statement is to be judged on the "values" and "identity" of the one making it, and its imagined impact on the feelings of others.

This, together with a left that has abandonded the very idea of societal progress, has resulted in discourse based on the most sensitive of all human beings imaginable - not for forget Judith Butler's invocation of being as performance - and the idea that each and every one of us is super responsible for each and every utterance we make or don't make, for every raising of our eyebrows, looking at someone, not looking at someone etc. etc.

So, how could social media not have become the constant performance mill it is, with its desastrous effects on kids? This forms a framework that makes seeking approval and belonging for them - two very important behaviors - insanely difficult, if not impossible. Plus, this whole performance approach has effectively blurred the line between childhood and adulthood. On social media and beyond, kids are held a lot more accountible for what they say and do than they reasonably can be. (There are factors other than postmodernism and queer "theory" contributing to this, but particularly the latter has desastrous effects because it declares each and every act the concious decision of someone obsessed with thinking about him- or herself.)

The interesting question here is why it apparently took half a decade for social media to have this detrimental effect on children's and teenagers' mental health.

Also, I think this is much more of a middle class phenomenon, i.e. that this affects kids from middle class families a lot more than kids from blue collar families. This, apparently, has not been thoroughly researched, though.

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I notice you posted this with your initials and not your name. I think that’s wise—one of the virtues of anonymity online is that I can be a clown or a gadfly if I think someone is asking for it.

> This is performance art in the extreme.

(>‘_’)> bingo <(‘_’<)

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This is such a cheap, easy, baseless remark ==>>" giant elephant in the room that everybody wants to avoid talking about?"

This is just wrong and I don't think you have any foundation for claiming no one is talking about, except maybe it sounding cool to you (If you just don't ready, don't talk to people and haven't been on social media lately, then go on twitter and search for "feminization"). Everywhere I look and all over social media and the news, see men claiming they're being victimized by women efforts to take back some power in society.

Naturally, any movement is going to having growing pains, but women's efforts to have financial freedom, to not be raped and harassed, to get a voice in the room, to share parenting is something absolutely critical to our well-being and our human rights. If you don't agree with it , that's fine. But your (in my opinion) baseless claims that it's hurting men are certainly not going to stop women from building a movement towards a better life for ourselves.

Yes, it's true that since we don't depend on a mate to have an income, we're able to be more selective, choose a mate that's kind, intelligent, takes care of himself and has good hygiene (for example), who wants to give us our freedom that we so crave, and have always craved. Or to choose to be single, because that works better for us and is truer to who we are at this time.

Yes, we want to lead. We want to create projects. We want financial freedom. We want to be able to make choices about our own body. Don't you want that too, as men?

Many women embrace feminine traits, and others embrace that less. That should be our right and prerogative, not yours.

If men don't like this and feel like it's having a negative impact on them, than I'd advise them listen to women, learn what they want and work with that, rather than complaining we're claiming more power in society. Whether you like it or not, we're taking back our power, it's a better world for us and we'll keep working for more into we're equal members of this society.

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

I have a couple of comments. Regarding the critics at the beginning, this criticism is an entirely different claim than all those tweets through the years. This isn’t “kids these days are lazy.” Haidt is claiming “kids these days are sicker than ever.” The fact that the lead paint and gas issue was brought up makes an apt analogy.

Also, I’m a psychiatric medical provider, and I have wondered whether some of the increase in non-fatal self harm is a cultural meme spreading via social media (especially TikTok and Snapchat). I’m reminded of the story about the streaking problem in UK soccer games. They decided to stop giving it any air time, and the problem went away. I know this is a different problem altogether, but it makes me wonder if the ability and willingness of teens to share their struggles also creates a meme that can catch on. Just a thought.

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yes! social media facilitates social contagion, and this is known to happen more among girls.

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I think that's a really good point. Kids are definitely 'self identifying' into mental health issues.

Gender dysphoria is the current most visible fad but there are plenty of others around, notably the Spoonies.

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Thanks for highlighting this vital perspective. Our school system is thoroughly broken. Spending so much time away from family, the overemphasis on peer culture, the single age classrooms, little time for play and recess is leading to a culture that is literally killing our kids, through mental illness and addiction.

Ironically, people think homeschooling is anti-social and school is necessary for socialization. How is this system actually leading to children's well-being?

Research shows that communities that unite around shared values are better for children's well being. Yet parents are so often excluded from school.

If interested, we wrote a whole post comparing homeschool to school for socialization. There's lots that schools can learn from these vibrant, diverse, inclusive communities that are uniting around a shared value of education.


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The emphasis on peer culture is an interesting thought. I’ve been wondering for a while whether focusing on community might leave children feeling confused and empty when without a friend to project their feelings onto. Children and adults have difficulty sitting alone with their fears and emotions. People confuse being alone with loneliness. It’s up to parents to teach their children how to embrace their feelings, even the negative ones, and explore them.

If adults struggle with social media addiction and its influences, I can't fathom how putting those platforms in children's hands could have a positive outcome. A kid sitting alone in her room, navigating threads and feeds, collecting dopamine, suddenly gets hit with an insult, and she crashes, the high gone. She’s embarrassed and afraid to share her feelings, even with her parents. She isn't mentally equipped to handle such emotions. Left to her own devices …

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You might be interested in reading Gabor Maté and Gordon Neufeld's book "Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than peers"

The emergence of a peer culture has only really emerged in the last 50 years. Kids don't know how to socialize, so how are they supposed to learn it from peers. They learn to socialize well by building secure attachments with primary caregivers, by modeling their behaviors and getting guidance from mature parents who can help them navigate relationships with kids their age, older and younger.

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers Paperback – August 15, 2006

by Gordon Neufeld (Author), Gabor Maté MD (Author)


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I don't know. I think I learned a lot about how to socialize from spending time with peer groups rather than my parents. Isn't the decrease in time kids spend interacting and solving problems without parental oversight one of the problems Haidt describes in The Coddling of the American Mind? I can see that there are downsides to peer culture, like bullying, but I'm skeptical of the idea that you can learn all the social skills you need from your parents. At a certain age kids naturally pull away from parents and seek the feeling of independence that comes from interacting with peers.

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Feb 15, 2023·edited Feb 15, 2023

At the same time, it’s kind of sad how kids get turned off to learning from their time in the classroom. So much of it is memorizing pointless facts that never come up in real life, things like “the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell” or “the average retail price of a single banana is around 25 to 50 cents”.

As far as socialization is concerned, there’s always siblings, cousins, etc. to provide opportunities for learning, and there’s also the community of homeschoolers, other who are willing to lend a hand to the common cause of helping their kids learn valuable lessons they won’t forget—cute and memorable things like going to a farm together to see what the chickens look like, or learning a new recipe for stew. It might seem lacking in rigor compared to the classroom, but does in fact give kids a social foundation that’s solid as a rock.

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I'm not sure how old you are but by the time I got to elementary school in the 90s public education had moved far beyond memorizing pointless facts - though I'd challenge you on labeling those facts pointless in the first place, as I recently read a very interesting book on the neuroscience of mental illness that spent a lot of time discussing mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell! We also went on several field trips to farms, among other things.

Lots of kids don't have siblings and only have cousins that live far away. I see where homeschool advocates are coming from but the situations you guys describe aren't realistic for most families outside of certain religious communities, and I would imagine that's a big part of why homeschooling has not widely caught on outside such such communities.

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Lucille, certainly the argument is not that ALL social learning should happen with parents and none with peers. That would be a silly thing to suggest. Children being part of a community with, diverse opinions, multiple mentors, adults and kids of all ages is vital to their growth and development. Also, there comes a time surely when kids start to form an identity separate from their parents (though this often happens more violently in us culture with no formal rite of passage) However, the book points out that there is an over-reliance on peer culture. Kids need to form a secure attachment and loving relationship with their primary caregiver. Adults have a key role to play in facilitating relationships with peers. I think it’s good that we avoid framing ideas this way, jumping to words like “all the time “ or “only” when discussing nuanced concepts like this.

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That is a really good book. We went from having a common culture for parents and children to having completely separate cultures for young children, preteens, teens, young adults, adults, and the elderly. There is a huge divide that didn't exist previously, thereby removing connections between different ages in society.

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The division seems universal, especially in the U.S.

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Flexibility and finances. I just started freelancing, so if that picks up—when it picks up—and I can leave my other job, perhaps I can revisit the idea. I wonder, though, how willing my daughter would be to accept the concept at, say, age eleven or twelve.

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First of all, I would suggest you only do it if your daughter wants to. Her opt-in is very important.

Otherwise, it sounds like you have a childcare challenge, not an education challenge.

I invite you to read this post I wrote about childcare. Homeschooling provides the possibility of building a curated childcare schedule that works for your family and your budget.


homeschooling on a budget is easier than you might think, and it also provides much more flexibility than school (which only offers childcare from 9-3pm nine months of the year. With homeschooling, you can curate a childcare plan that works for you.

Hope it helps. Happy to help and support you in any way I can.

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I facilitated her remote learning for a year, what we called “dad school”, and she often says how much she misses it. Still, like most children, she is attached to her friends. The concept of me homeschooling her is more of a fantasy (I bet you've heard that before). It's a premature regret: an “if I had only done … differently.”

I appreciate your insight and will read your post(s).

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Dad school is the best:) Best advice I got from Nir Eyal...try it for a summer and see how it works? Maybe she'll meet some new friends she likes even more.


Every family has to make their own decisions. We're so lucky to have options available to us, but the FOMO is rough:)

Stay in touch and good luck to you. It's great you care enough to be thinking these things through.

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That sounds like a great read. Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely read it.

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I've been a homeschooling advocate for many years, but had my own reservations like many. The views in this book were the final piece for me in fully embracing this parent-led, child-led form of learning.

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I wish I could homeschool my daughter. I am without formal education but am well-read: autodidactic. Still, I think I could do a better job than our public schools.

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It amazes me that the issue of homeschooling and socialization is still being debated. I began homeschooling back in 1990 (I can't believe it's been 33 years!), and it was THE question. Surely by now it's been answered. By all measures, the majority of homeschooled kids have better social skills. You see it in how they treat their younger siblings, how they are able to carry on conversations with adults with ease, and how they manage themselves in all kinds of social situations. It's way past time to put this issue to rest.

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People feel very threatened by homeschoolers because they are taking their children’s education into their own hands.

Claiming that homeschooling isn’t social scares parents and so it’s an effective propaganda for maintaining institutionalized education.

This is a post we wrote about homeschool and socialization which you might find interesting


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I started reading this earlier while on the city bus. I'm about to finish it.

I agree with you on the nefarious propagation concerning kids without institutionalized education lacking social skills. I got so tired of hearing the “kids need school to socialize” argument during Covid’s early stages when most children were learning remotely. Society has shaped homeschooling into a negative word as if people want homeschooled children to be perceived as outcasts.

I don't believe social skills can only be taught in schools. More, I'm not that fond of the social skills currently being peddled in U.S. schools. My daughter spends half her days being coddled and maybe a quarter of it on academics.

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Here's an interesting article regarding different school types:


This includes data from a survey of 8000 people. It’s not concrete and lacks information in places. Still, it is an interesting read and gives a good perspective on social skills, among other statistics, which compares people schooled in religious, private, and public schools and homeschooling.

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That was quite interesting. As you have said, it's not broad enough to draw any conclusions, but fascinating anyway.

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I caution drawing too many conclusions from that analysis. That survey was conducted on ssc readers which tend to be quite different than the general population.

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I am aware. I thought I was clear about that in my comment, but I now see I could’ve been more specific. However, I didn't say anything about drawing conclusions, only that it is an interesting read.

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"Our school system is thoroughly broken."

It's not broken. That implies it got that way through incompetence or chance.

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Feb 8, 2023·edited Feb 8, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

We are unquestionably facing a teen mental health crisis of Epidemic proportions in this country and I am incredibly thankful to see your work. Until we truly grasp the size and scope of this issue it is difficult to advocate adequately for the help teens need.

Having practiced pediatric medicine both before and after the “social media revolution” my perspective/bias is that this it is far more than just a online media problem.

I suspect, but cannot prove, that a far bigger impact is the “SLE/CRT/anti-bullying” programs that are so ubiquitously used across the country starting in preschool and kindergarten. I believe that unintentionally our Schools are CAUSING mental health issues FAR more than they help.

Anecdotally - this is how I have seen this progress.

Long Gone are the days of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”

Relentless taught now is the idea that words ARE abuse.

To say something hurtful to anyone IS DEEPLY HARMFUL.

As an example in kindergarten they actively and repetitively teach kids that it is deeply unkind and bullying behavior to not include everyone in an activity. This is very common and you can easily see this type of SLE lesson instructions for elementary schools everywhere.

Remember - they also teach that to be bullied by someone is to be terribly victimized.

So what happens when eventually little Suzy has a sleepover and can’t possibly invite the entire class? Amy who wasn’t included is DEVASTATED. She has been taught by the school that this is one of the worst things that can happen to her. On and on it goes.

In the schools attempt to teach children to be thoughtful and kind, they have emphasized the “devastating” effect that words have, and while perhaps that does make kids more thoughtful in their speech it ALSO leaves them much more vulnerable to speech that is unkind.

And then… they go online.

So yes absolutely social media is devastating to the mental health of kids/teens, but how much of that is because they have been preprogrammed to be hurt by our school system?

A one two punch so to speak.

Another example:

Children across the country are openly taught that if they are white, they ARE racist bullies by definition and no matter what they do or how they act, they can never atone enough for the deep and profound harm that they are PERSONALLY responsible for. Knowing that they already learned in kindergarten that bullying is one of the worst things a person could ever do, are we surprised that they are mentally devastated by the realization that this is who they are?

Children across the country are openly taught that if they are BIPOC, they ARE and ALWAYS will be the never ending victim of racist bullies by definition and no matter what they do or how they act, they will NEVER overcome the deep and profound harm that they must personally endure in all aspects of life. Knowing that they already learned in kindergarten that being bullied is one of the worst things that can ever happen to a person, are we surprised that they are mentally devastated by the realization that this is their fate?

And then they go on TikTok - and reinforced ad infinitum is again this idea that all white people are racist/bad and all BIPOC people are victims/bad and we act surprised that the inescapable mental anguish they feel becomes too much? Why?

There are many more examples.

I didn’t touch the easily predictable, reliably caused gender confusion.

Or the absurdly enforced notion that it is some how abnormal for teens to be worried.

The SLE teaching seems to expect that for every middle and high school child, every single day is to be filled with nothing but sunshine and happiness AND IF you deviate from this there IS something fundamentally wrong with you.

So why do our children and teens have mental health issues at an unprecedented rate?

Because that is EXACTLY what we taught them, and THEN we gave them access to an endless supply of social media negative reinforcement and isolation.

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

I think a big part of this (could be a joint symptom or a cause) is the decrease in adolescent employment. Since 2000, the percentage of students with a job DURING SUMMER BREAK has decreased from 51.7% to 30.8%! For the non-summer months? 43% to 27.5%.

Source: https://www.zippia.com/advice/high-school-job-statistics/

Teen jobs build character, especially for those that need it the most. It's also a productive use of time. An adolescent with a summer job will spend several hundred hours in a given year doing something productive that in many cases would be spent on less worthy pursuits. It teaches valuable life skills including (germane to this conversation) the self-control necessary to put down the phone. Bosses generally don't take kindly to you scrolling through social media.

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My ten-year-old daughter has yet to touch social media. I want to keep her off of it until she graduates high school. I recently spoke with a mother on another Substack who had successfully kept her children from using social media until turning 18. I imagine my daughter’s revolt would be ferocious, making the ban more challenging. How her mother and I present the idea to her will, I think, play a big role in how she perceives the decision. Regardless of how she might handle it, I believe it would undoubtedly be worth it.

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yes, its hard for individual parents. I'm hoping that we can set research backed norms that schools can encourage and most parents can follow. I'm now thinking:

--no phones before independence

--independence (some free range) by age 8

--light phone when you get independence

--no smart phone until high school -- get all this stuff out of middle school

--no social media until 16

but i'll be adjusting this advice as i write the book

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The challenge is to get teachers on board as well. France, Australia, and some U.S. states have removed cell phone use from schools, but it is only effective if all teachers enforce the rules. Within homeschooling circles it is easier to follow the guidelines you suggest (in one of my co-ops we had 60 students and a no phone rule, powered off, no notifications, etc. and it worked perfectly). I recently wrote an article "TikTok brain cure with three ingredients" https://humanitasfamily.substack.com/p/tiktok-brain-cure-with-three-ingredients

which focused on the role of parents, school, and getting real.

Looking forward to more of your advice on this topic.

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I meant to add: Has anybody else tried this? If so, what were the results?

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I have no children but one of my best friends is a tech exec who kept his son off all social media till he was 15 (my friend knew the dangers of the product he was selling as much as any tobacco exec knew about the dangers of tobacco).

Last time I saw his son he speaks multiple languages, plays multiple instruments, is in a band and is a voracious reader.

Now, of course, he did grow up wealthy which is probably the main factor here, but at the very least he is an intelligent young person who can engage in conversation, not another anxiety-addled screen addict.

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You will find many youths like your friend's son in homeschooling circles. Most come from single income families - thus not wealthy - and know how to converse with anyone ranging from toddles to seniors. How can you pick out a homeschooler in a room full of teens? It's the one who meets your eye and does not bury their face in their phone.

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your comment reminded me a bit of this excellent piece:


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That’s what I want for my daughter, not to get wrapped up in social media and cliques and just focus on developing her brain and character. Books play a massive role. I didn't start reading until I got sober five years ago (at 37), and since have read an insane amount. It has changed me in ways nothing else ever could.

Unforusnteky, my daughter is severely attached to watching television, an issue that I cannot trace back to how it started. I used to be addicted to TV. It was all I did with my free time. I haven't watched it in two years, notwithstanding movies with my daughter on the weekends. If that ends up being her main screen addiction, though, I can live with that. I can ameliorate that issue easier than the diabolical abyss of social media.

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While my kids did get phones in 7th grade because of traveling with school sports, they do not get social media until their junior year in high school and then only because it is a requirement in a AP class as a method to turn in assignments.(that really blew my mind) . I make strong use of the parent controls on the iPhone wit restrictions set for what they can download on the phone, what websites they can access on internet and screen time limits and downtime. I also make them plug their phones in my bathroom at night until they are 17. I have 2 kids who are old enough to have reached the age that I have removed restrictions. One of them continues to plug the phone in my bathroom instead of his room because he cannot stand all the notifications at night. I believe my older 2 are well adjusted. They have friends, do well in school and hold down part time jobs as well as participate in “risky” American football.

I will say that no matter how hard you try to shield them from things, you will never be able to control what they see from friends’ phones, TVs,streaming platforms, etc.

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I think your active engagement with your children makes a big difference. My daughter is now 17 and also manages her own phone use without any restrictions on our part. Through experience she decided to not use any screens at least one hour before she goes to sleep and reads a book or writes instead. She has not social media apps on her phone by her own choice - her and a group of friends decided to delete all apps and only use text functions to arrange meetings. I also agree with your final point - this comes down to helping them grow a backbone when confronted with images/texts they don't want to engage with. My son runs an RPG group and one of his rules is that all players must place their phones in a box outside the room - so phones never even enter their conversations.

Very challenging territory to navigate; staying engaged, interested, and forgiving is essential.

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Hi Corey,

Yes we have also kept away phones and social media. My daughter started university early at 16, and that is when she got her first phone. I wrote an article recently that details our approach -TikTok brain cure with three ingredients https://humanitasfamily.substack.com/p/tiktok-brain-cure-with-three-ingredients.

Definitely worth your efforts!

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Those are great measures to take. My daughter doesn’t have a phone. Though she’s only ten, most of her classmates have one. It has been a source of many arguments.

I look forward to reading your post.

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Feel so privileged to receive these posts in my inbox - hot off the press! Keep up the good work!

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As a clinical psychologist working with young adults at the university level for the past ten years, I have had a seat in the first row and witnessed this transformation of mental health decline. You have certainly captured many important factors in your work with the coddling hypotheses. There has been a dramatic shift amongst young people going from “stigma” against acknowledging struggles with mental health to an embrace of expanded notions of trauma, harm, anxiety, depression, etc.. The bright side is that there exist wonderful treatments that can help - but we have to first loosen the grip on treating victimhood as a necessary virtue. And in this - our profession (in particular the APA) is fully complicit.

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This was an insightful article. Thank you for the substack.

Is it the case that psychology as a field of study, with larger student intakes, has grown in the last century with the growth of what Carl Trueman calls the “psychological self” (‘Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’).

Given the increased visibility and accessibility of mental health services, what research exists to show the effectiveness of psychological intervention in teenagers and young adults? What other methods did previous generations have for managing mental health struggles that we no longer have? Today we simply ask for “more mental health care” available.

One obvious difference for my grandparents generation was they had a more connected social life (which was eroded by the self-sufficiency that electricity brings, by the mobility motor vehicles brings, by the isolation television and the internet brings, and most recently by mobile phones).

I’m sure phones and social media must be part of the reason for the spike in issues in the early 2010s.

But my question is: how are phones and social media connected to a string of other technological and social changes through the 20th century, that each eroded community cohesion, and also psychologised human identity?

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I think we have a (strange form of) hyper-individualization going that has preceded social media. There were significant shifts in esoterics for instance in the early 2000's and a little before from group structures to individual experiences of salvation, guru-hood and consumption. In itself that may not be that important because it only affects some parts of society, mainly in the middle class. But it is a symptom of larger economic and societal changes - such as we also see with "Diversity Management" departments in organisations and corporations. If you think this through, they effectively make the whole employee a more or less marketable commodity, and what idividual employees sell or rent out is not just their labor anymore but effectively their entire selves.

Social media entered the scene when these changes were in full swing already, which in part explains why they work they do. Undoubtedly, though, social media have also accelerated those changes considerably.

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I'm wondering about how far back the data actually goes, as your starting point may miss a 'cycle' so-to-speak, rather than a unique recent spike in these categories. Moreover, I'm also wondering about the influence of the following (assuming this recent spike is indeed rather unique):

- The concurrent increased proliferation of the drugs and (for lack of a better term) weaponry with which kids cause themselves harm.

- The concurrent increase in health knowledge, healthcare access, and diagnoses that would inform an increase in self-reporting (and diagnosing) of any one of a myriad of mental health conditions, rather than either suppressing it or simply not previously understanding ones condition.

- The concurrent reduction in stigmatism surrounding mental health conditions (which plays into the same aforementioned increases in reporting/diagnosing)

- (and one might even say the attractive uniqueness) of various mental health conditions on the part of kids who have always yearned for uniqueness of identity.

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Hey Salamano, these are all great questions. We address many of your questions in our newest post: https://jonathanhaidt.substack.com/p/the-new-cdc-report

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Your bullets 3-5 seem to be addressed in the article's description of increases in hospitalizations and, especially, suicide.

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Feb 9, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

I am a big fan of your work. I am also a hard-nosed skeptic and generally seek the truth. I wonder, at what point did you become convinced that social media is the cause? And what would it take to convince you otherwise? The fact that boys are less on social media and their increase in suicidality predates 2010 weighs against the social media explanation. Some of the other graphs also show upticks well before 2010 but more gradual. It's also difficult to know what to infer from the graphs without seeing the trend before 2004. For me, knowing exactly what convinced you and what your strongest data are, and how you have ruled out alternative explanations, matters a lot.

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right, for boys the connection to social media is not clear. i'll be sharing a post on boys in a few weeks, with a new google doc just about boys. for boys it might be more like 2008 or 2009 that things start getting worse.

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I'll also be very interested in serious attempts to evaluate plausible alternative hypotheses. One thought came to my mind about economic crises and their impacts on kids...but I'm not well versed in the data so I don't know if that could possibly explain any of the patterns we're seeing. Anyway, very appreciative of all of your work and looking forward to your future posts on this important topic!

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Hi, we begin to address alternative hypotheses in our current post and will continue to do so in the future. Thanks for the feedback and critiques!


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Feb 12, 2023·edited Feb 12, 2023

That is a good point, as I noticed that before the 2008 crash, in 2007 there was a downturn in the graph showing the prevalence of MH issues.

I also am wondering about the issue of climate change and how that is perceived by the young. It is an existential concern. I sometimes think that all the stuff coming up now about gender is possibly a distraction from that.

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Many games are designed today to be highly social and communal. There are intense pressures to spend time in the game so as to not disappoint friends, as well as accumulate status in the game. Today's games are designed with psychologists to increase engagement and pressure on the players to spend money on microtransactions.

I would include video games as social media for everyone, especially mobile games. Most revenue today for game companies come from "free to play" games that induce the player to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on many small purchases in lieu of spending enormous amounts of time. There is a reason China has limited game playing for youth.

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

Thanks for pre-posting.

I have one possible counterargument that you should prepare an answer for.

First, somebody will argue that the increase in teen suicide and non-fatal self harm is simply part of the larger trend of increasing deaths of despair across age groups. Old people are killing themselves too, quickly with conventional suicide or slowly through drinking and drugging themselves to death. The teen suicide epidemic is a broader suicide epidemic if you zoom out of that narrow age group.

The best data I could quickly find on deaths of despair came from a 2019 Senate committee and has data through 2017. Based on the time and age of the graphs in Section 5 of your post, you're talking about the 5-14 and 15-24 age brackets in the Senate committee's full datasheet. The increases between 2010-2017 for those age brackets are:

Age Overall Suicide Alcohol Drugs

5-14 79.98% 94.65% N/A (all 0s) N/A (all 0.1s)

25-34 44.76 37.52% -25.13% 58.67%

So when you breakdown the data, the 5-14 bracket bolsters your argument. No other age group gets close to their 94.65% increase in suicide. In fact, it is the primary driver of the increase in deaths of despair for Zoomers (although I am suspicious about the alcohol table being all 0s.)

The age group I can't make sense of combined with your charts is my own, the younger Millennials/some old Zoomers in the 15-24 group. The 37.52% increase in suicide is only modestly higher than the older age groups (the 35-44 age group is down 33% compared to us) and only 60% of what is is for the core Zoomer demographic. Both my age group and the younger one share the factors you identify as the culprits in youth suicides, smartphone and social media use as a teenager. Almost everyone had a Facebook account and a smartphone by the time I was a sophomore. Yet, it seems that the younger group suffers far more than us and you don't have an explanation for that.


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Hey Dave, check out our newest post. We respond to your question directly: https://jonathanhaidt.substack.com/p/the-new-cdc-report

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i'll reply up above, thanks for this

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Interesting data.

A thought on why it hasn't affected your age group as much as younger kids: You were (much) older when social media became the big thing.

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This is so helpful for me. I'm absorbing info about mental health for a documentary. It's wild how many direct links there are between the built environment & anxiety/depression. Something as boring as infrastructure has the power to heal or harm. Most Americans live in places where our kids aren't free to be physically active, a natural medicine for our brains.

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Another possible explanation is that we *are* simply diagnosing these kind of mental health issues better – due to decrease in stigmatization and/or more attention to it – but that our treatment is worse than doing nothing, and is leading to higher rates of self-harm and suicide.

I have no idea if that's the case – and if it is a factor at all it probably doesn't account for all of it – but it seems something worth exploring. Certainly in my own teen years I benefited more from the occasional swift kick in the backside and being told to "man up" than treatment with school counsellors and such. Not that counsellors are bad, but sometimes you can take things "too serious" which can make matters worse, in spite of being well-intentioned.

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Martin, thanks for this comment! We address it in post 2: https://jonathanhaidt.substack.com/p/the-new-cdc-report

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Hmm, that could play a role but even if it did, it would not necessarily account for all of it. Seems a model is needed that plugs various things in, including changing attitudes toward mental health. Also since not all kids do use / access social media, there is a control group...

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Very interesting.

I noticed in the graphs you showed that, preceding the spiking from 2010 onwards (the subject of your hypothesis) there seemed to be a 2006-2008 reduction almost across the board. Whilst in no way as significant as the following rises, is it possible that looking at this period as well might assist in reaching your conclusions?

I'll posit a very tentative theory: the early opportunities to create online communities were indeed positive and genuinely supportive; they were smaller, organic and self regulating and did not attract the attention of 'bad actors' from 'outside' the interest group.

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this is a great idea! i had seen that in a few of the graphs and thought it was just a fluke. i ignored it. Zach and i will look closely at data from other countries. if we see the same dip, then i think yours would be the leading hypothesis. thank you.

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I was around back then and MySpace (and YouTube) was used massively by teens already (there was even MyDeathSpace to count those who died) and there was far more abuse between kids and even by adults of kids than I've ever seen on that scale online ever afterwards.

In fact Facebook rise was partly due to MySpace infamy dating back as early as 2006 [Scenes From the MySpace Backlash https://www.wired.com/2006/02/scenes-from-the-myspace-backlash/].

There were many articles with headlines such as

MySpace: Your Kids' Danger? [https://www.cbsnews.com/news/myspace-your-kids-danger/]

or just reports of the site being blamed for exposing or desensitizing kids to violence, bullying, drugs, sexual exploitation as well as suicide (Megan Meier in 2006) such as:








I do not think the retroactive idea of an idyllic time for kids online agrees with reality.

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I should have said thanks for evidencing that as well. Good refs.

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Thanks. That's very informative - I was totally outside all of that and had no idea!

I like this approach of putting an idea out there, getting other people's experience and knowledge back and adjusting my ideas accordingly.

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And I appreciate your contribution to the debate -- there's nothing wrong with voicing a good idea such as yours only to find out it does not hold up when one digs deeper for evidence. It certainly happens to me all the time.

In fact much of science is really the gradual elimination of the plausible until only the most plausible remains... after which one attempts the hardest part (proving causality).

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Feb 9, 2023Liked by Jon Haidt

What I find interesting is that you don't see the late 2000s emo scene in the self harm statistics. There was quite a lot of discourse about self harm at that time (mostly cutting), but from the statistics you posted, it looks like it was based more on anecdotes than facts.

I think that's very surprising, actually, because emo as a sub culture was very present and reliant on using social media. Emos also, in a way, pioneered posting performative sadness and depression on social media.

I guess you can argue that the slow uptick in self harm after 2009 might be blamed on emos, but the self harm statistics do not get over the baseline until 2012.

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