How do we adapt to a world in which it is so much harder to understand one another?
“The Righteous Mind” was a game-changer for me and how I view people, including myself (I’m a philosophical conservative and a classical liberal). It has informed a lot of my interactions with people, and helped me build bridges with folks that social media and the MSM would prefer I stay divided.
You (and Greg) have put out some truly great stuff and I look forward to seeing more of your work here and in your future books.
I'm a huge fan and look forward to every word. I consider you to be, what we call in the traditional Jewish world, a "Gadol Hador" - a great person of the generation. (A title generally reserved for revered rabbis. :) ) Wishing you much success with the substack and your upcoming books!
Congratulations, Jon, on this new initiative and all your fantastic work. Please allow me a comment on the substance of your thesis concerning the connection between social media use and mental health.
I will call this the Twenge/Haidt thesis. I don't doubt the adverse impact of smatphones and social media. However, I was observing some really worrying trends in Australia, particularly for teenage girls, long before 2010. These need explanation.
Here is some public health data I published in a report called "For Kids' Sake" (2011) and which had never before been released. It is on hospitalisation rates for self-harm among teenagers. We found a 66% increase per 100,000 in self-harm by 12-14 year olds between 1996 and 2006, with girls self-harming at six times the rate of the boys. Among 15-17 year old girls, there was a 90% rise in self-harm incidents for girls in the same ten year period, and the prevalence was four times higher than for boys. Note, these are incidents of self-harm that required admission to a hospital - so very serious. There were similar very large increases over just a few years in other indicators of distress. For example, the rate of hospitalisations for binge drinking by young women aged 15-24 more than doubled per 100,000 between 1998 and 2006.
More broadly, the rate of increase in removals of children from parents due to abuse and neglect rose very rapidly from 1999 onwards, despite enormous efforts in family preservation and increased resources. We are really struggling to find enough foster homes or people willing to adopt.
All of these trends have continued in the same upward direction in more recent years. A key factor in all of this, I believe, is the increase over a similar period of children experiencing their parents living apart from one another by the time they are 17. This is not due to the breakdown in marriages. Marriages continue to be relatively stable in Australia and divorce rates have long been declining. No, the massive increase in the proportion of children who experience parental separation is mainly due to the increase in de facto relationships and births to mothers without a father in the home. Parental separation clearly impacts, across the population, on teenage mental health. So I am wondering whether social media has exacerbated already existing upward trends in teenage mental illness, rather than being a primary cause.
Jon, "The Righteous Mind" was one of the most impactful and clarifying books I've ever read; I'd observed the existence of the "Babel split", but hadn't been able to understand it, and why it was growing. Thinking in terms of moral foundation matrices suddenly made it click into place why we couldn't understand each other. I'm genuinely excited to see what you come up with here; this is the first Substack I've ever subscribed to, but it was a tremendously easy decision to do so.
Thank you for putting into words what we are all feeling and can’t express adequately enough.
Very excited to be hearing from you more frequently as you work towards your next books, I have absolutely loved each of your previous ones and can confidently say they've had a huge impact on the ways I view the world and other people.
I'm particularly interested in your work on teen mental health as I myself am just on the cusp of the generation hit hardest by this (born Dec 96) and have two younger sisters who have certainly felt the effects of the world in which they grew up. So your insights and awareness raising on this topic I have especially appreciated and are a major reason I'll be donating to help you continue this work.
Thank you for your hard work so far Jon (and Zach), I can't wait to see more of it.
I believe one of the biggest contributors to our current polarization is the fact that social media algorithms provide us with information and articles based on what we already read and like, further confirming our biases and making us more entrenched in our views. The echo chamber of us seeking out and following those we like on Twitter, then getting recommendations based on these preferences, further adds to that.
Delighted to support these projects and your valuable work. ‘The Righteous mind’ is one of the most important books I have read to help me understand the world a little better. Thanks
I've been teaching "The Righteous Mind" in my Leadership in the Policy Arena course for a few years now -- it's a great way to get students talking about the fundamentals of human interaction and influence rather than "positions." I'm also pleased to share that, at my school at least, the students are braver and more open to real debate than many of their elders--they just need a space that encourages it.
Thanks for this beautiful initiative! Greetings from a Brazilian who shares your concerns and looks for solutions for a better society.
I like the term I've heard lately, Zoomers. I've started calling them Zoomers, till a better name comes along. Not sure where the precise birthyear dividing line is between Millennials and Zoomers. It's probably not quite clear yet even to the world's best generational experts like Neil Howe. (It was Howe who first called Millennials Millennials, around 1990.) Gen Z strikes me as a bit of a placeholder name, like Post-Boomers was for us GenXers back in the 1980s until the term Xers came along. GenZ is a tad silly just cuz all it means they're two generations after us Xers. There was a time when Howe called them Homelanders, but that didn't quite catch on. I'm going with Zoomers for now. In time a better name may come along.
Jon Haidt: "Wrestling is probably the best antifragile sports there is... Wrestling is really going to be about developing your antifragility, your strength in the face of adversity, testing your strength."
Thank you so much! I have learned so much from your work. I regularly reference ideas from The Righteous Mind, The Happiness Hypothesis, and The Coddling of the American Mind. Your work has changed my parenting and my teaching.
Your work regarding social media for our young children and what you have shared thus far have helped inform my decisions about social media for my teenage daughter. Her peers and teachers are regularly shocked that she has not had social media until recently when I had to relent on Facebook as it is the main way a team she is on communicates with team members and parents. Ugh!
I can't wait to read these books that you have introduced here. Thank you for your work!
I've been following your work for years, read all your books, and listened to many podcasts you've been on (I especially liked the questions Tim Ferris asked you on his). Your work has greatly influenced the way I think about things and introduced me to philosophies like Stoicism which I now liberally share with friends. Long story short, thank you for all the contributions you've made to the public discourse, and I hope Substack proves to be a valuable resource in enhancing the quality of your next 2 books!
Jon, I have loved your work and these projects are invaluable. I am a board member of the local boys and girls club and a scoutmaster here in central Virginia (Outside of CVille) and I am shocked on a daily basis by the mental, emotional challenges for this genZ generation. The challenges of 15 years ago seem almost quaint when faced with the devastation kids face today. I don’t think the ill effects of lockdowns on these kids can be overstated as it appears to have doubled the extent the challenge.
There's a lot going on that is hard to make sense of lately. Enter the brilliant Jon Haidt!! Thank you for your tireless work and for sharing these early findings with the world. I will savor every nugget!