Janan Ganesh notes the millenials’ growing abstinence from use of alcohol and drugs and even physical intimacy and wonders if these typical hedonistic pleasures of the previous generation are being replaced by hits from digital tools.
“Consider the well-documented abstention of the young: America’s millennial homebodies, the near-third of British 16- to 24-year-olds who refuse alcohol, their avoidance of illicit drugs, the “sexual recession”. Thus did the shuttered nightclub become this decade’s video-rental chain in receivership.”
The previous generation “tends to an instrumental view of tech: it is there to arrange personal gatherings, and improve the time in between. The emergent suspicion is that, for younger millennials, digital contact with others is socialising.”
“The dread, as voiced by Sean Parker, among others, is a deeper re-wiring of the brain so that it registers the same stimulus from remote interaction as from drugs and physical intimacies. Hence the generational decline in both. If this is going on, it is not just hard to reverse, it is liable to accelerate. Imagine the millennials’ children.”
“History has thrown up these ruptures before: generations divided along the knife’s edge of a new invention. Think of the difference in teenagers just before and just after the advent of the pill. The world did not cave in. Nor is it clear that Generation Sensible is losing out. The internet’s “social-validation feedback loop” (Parker’s phrase) seems insidious to we who grew up without it. But teetotal Instagrammers will wonder if alcohol is any smarter a way of flooding human dopamine receptors. As for the decline in sex, teenage pregnancies have been falling in England and Wales for a decade.”
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