Feb 8Liked 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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Feb 8Liked 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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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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Feb 8·edited Feb 8Liked 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 8Liked 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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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'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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Feb 9Liked 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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Feb 8Liked 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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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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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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Feb 9Liked 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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