Alerts about young people are as apocalyptic as cyclic. In Ancient Greece, Hesiod already warned about it: "I no longer have any hope in the future of our country, if today's youth take power tomorrow," he said in 720 BC. Two millennia later, Jonathan Haidt (New York, 1963) marks a year from which the decline begins, those born since 1996, and combines these warnings with suspicion of the technology of authors such as Nicholas Carr, as he tells ABC in an interview at the Rafael del Pino Foundation. In "The transformation of the modern mind" (Deusto Edition) warns with Greg Lukianoff that social networks put democracy in check. Times are not what they were. They never were.
-Defends that those born since 1996 are weaker. Why?
-At least in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, those born in that year and later have higher rates of depression and anxiety than the millennial generation-born between 1980 and 1995-, which is just the previous one. That is, this affects "Generation Z" – born from 1995 to 2010 -. It is due to two big factors. The first is that this generation is very overprotected compared to the previous ones, all speaking from the American experience. Children learn best from direct experience, from failure and from daily challenges, and we are depriving them of these experiences. The second reason lies with social networks. When they came from 2004 to 2006, they were platforms where you uploaded your profile and little else. But between 2009 and 2013, social networks change and become more linked to forwarding and retweeting content, much of which is designed to protest or criticize others. It is in these years when "Generation Z" joins social networks while "millennials" did not do so until they went to college. Some social networks that do not speak, is criticized. This is very negative for children, and for this we see that since 2012 and 2013 there is a strong deterioration of mental health.
– What about the economic crisis faced by the youngest?
– It does not affect so much at least in the US, where the crisis was extremely severe between 2008 and 2011, but afterwards the economy improved and the unemployment rate decreased. In Spain it was different, the crisis hit with more force and the suicide rate among young people increased a lot, but in the last two years I have seen the data and it has fallen.
– Does that explain that populism has grown?
– In this the crisis is fundamental. Populism increases when society perceives that elites are corrupt and the system is unfair. The crisis showed this, and the fact that the richest recovered before and nobody went to jail in the US. Despite the seriousness of the financial crisis, it sponsors the emergence of Donald Trump.
– Regrets the rise of polarization and the lack of debate. Where is this more serious, on the left or right?
– I am very interested in how orthodoxy works in certain circles and communities whose different visions are punished. In U.S.A. Our main universities are tilted to the left. There you will see that orthodoxy is strong and dissent is punished. But orthodoxy has traditionally been more tribal and effective in cohesive groups, in this case, conservatives. We see it with reprisals to those who oppose Trump.
– How can the media fight against fake news?
–People don't go to the newspapers anymore, they read Facebook articles, at a time when the media is in debt and they care about the virals, so the transformation is complete. We have destroyed the possibility that we will ever have a shared sense of reality. In Western democracies it will be much harder to have a common conversation or solve problems together. Now, when something happens, the followers of the left have their reality, those of the right have theirs. The media and universities have to remember their professionalism and ethical standards. The behavior that is appropriate in the street is not in a classroom or in an essay. Teachers have the obligation to research and teach; journalists, to bring the truth to light. Young journalists have an increasingly political attitude and believe that their job is to defeat racism or fascism, and not to get news. This can polarize the media more.
-What difference do you see in the cultural wars of now?
-The older generation, who remembered World War II in the nineties, is no longer: a collective that had great social capital and influence. Now, the older generation are the baby boomers whose foundational experience was to fight each other in the sixties. It is a different generational context. The large amount of content to get angry and the speed at which it reaches us is harmful to democracy. It makes many people always angry and others disconnect completely. In some more conservative people it activates the authoritarian predisposition, being permanently believing that their country is being robbed or destroyed. Polarization and social networks create patterns that make it more difficult to have a democracy.
– Those who supported Brexit the most were the oldest …
– Brexit is rather a generational division. Its origins were not a populist or undemocratic movement. From having a left-to-right board, another nationalism against globalization happened. It also happened with Trump's election.
. (tagsToTranslate) interview (t) haidt