Fragility: The Biggest Problem Facing Gen-Z

Fragility: The Biggest Problem Facing Gen-Z

Gen Z, or those born after 1995, are facing a mental health crisis. The cause of this crisis is thought to be twofold.

  1. Over-reliance and overuse of technological devices, especially for communicative purposes (social media)
  2. Invented fragility, i.e. the idea that it is the duty of those around you to keep you mentally healthy by abstaining from doing, and, more importantly, saying certain things.

The data point strongly to Gen Z’ers, especially those entering college, having a significant deterioration of general mental well-being in a few different ways.

  1. Q: Do you have a psychological disorder? 126% increase in ‘yes’ answers from 2012 to 2016 for boys, and a 150% rise in the same time-frame for girls.
  2. Number of boys who experienced an episode of depression jumped from 4.5 to 6.4 , number of girls who experienced one went from 13 to 19.
  3. Between 2011 and 2016, the % of college students who self-reported injuring themselves increased by 30%.
  4. Most troubling of all, suicide rates of 15 – 19 year olds spiked 46% between 2007 – 2015.

Higher rates of social media consumption, especially those over 2 hours a day, coincide with higher rates of depression and ‘feeling left out’. Exercise and face-to-face interaction with peers coincides with lower rates of depression. Over-using these mediums in your down-time, in other words, has been clinically verified to result in depression.

This pandemic isn’t just stirring the pot; it’s pouring gas all over it and striking a match.

To say, however, that social media themselves are the problem would be like blaming hungry lions for eating people who wander into hungry lion territory.

While the lions are the ultimate end, they are not the ultimate cause. You ought not to blame a creature for following its nature and you ought not to blame social media for doing what it’s designed to do, e.g. showcase people at their best and help people communicate via online messaging.

This would lead us, just as it led the author of the Scientific American article above, to seek deeper causes. The author lands on an article (which is now a book) published in The Atlantic entitled ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’.

The authors, in their book, posit three great ‘untruths’ which are paraded as wisdom to a young and impressionable population hungry to unclothe the inevitable bogeymen they’ve been taught to believe reside among them as normal, occasionally misguided people.

  1. Being fragile – “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker”
  2. Emotional reasoning – “Trust your feelings”
  3. Us vs. Them – Life is a battle between good folks and evil ones

According to both articles, there’s a sort of ‘call-out’ culture in vogue today, where those perceived as saying potentially offensive things are called out and publicly shamed because what was said rubbed somebody the wrong way (think of the recent HuffPost article calling out Rudolph as ‘sexist and racist’). This has morphed into the more pervasive ‘cancel culture’, whose origins can be seen as far down the pipe as when Huff post called out Rudolph for being ‘racist and sexist’.

In the midst of seeming online and social-spherical bedlam, I’d say that this fragility is the biggest problem facing children in the first-world.

(Obviously, hunger, famine, poverty, climate change, human rights, teenage prostitution, slavery, child-labor and a cornucopia of other things are bigger problems in many places, but these issues are so clear to see and so well-articulated by humans rights groups that my own voice is pretty dull and insufficient compared to theirs, so I put my focus elsewhere).

It’s too easy to downgrade the severity of these mental and emotional untruths and problems. When you’re operating with faulty blueprints or an obfuscated map then everything you encounter is going to be perceived through some testament of this wrongness, including your very self.

What this constructed fragility of not only identifying offense but personalizing and allowing it to become an affront to your ego does is give a bunch of random people power over you they couldn’t otherwise have.

That’s right. When kids let print media and people on the internet get under their collective skin because of a few ill-thought words then they’ve given those folks a foothold in their mind, and a negative one.

If we reverse the untruth hierarchy and reason from 3 to 2 to 1 it’s easy to see how this faulty worldview constructs the fragility of mind that has served to double the incidence of teenage psychological disorders and spike the youth suicide rate.

Resultant chain of logic for three above-named untruths

  • There are evil people and good people.
  • Evil people have certain characteristics and can be identified by certain behaviors and statements.
  • Intolerance and speech attacking any certain marginalized group are characteristics of evil people.
  • It is OK and actually imperative to publicly expose (i.e. ‘call-out) these evil people.
  • A good indication of speech that is aligned with the ‘evil intention’ of the above is how it makes you feel.
  • Tonality and subtext of speech often carry more meaning than words themselves, so your feelings become your surest radar for identifying speech and action of this type.
  • Since such speech is characteristic of evil and evil is necessarily wrong and bad, hurt feelings are natural and shouldn’t be avoided.
  • Since hurt feelings are natural, you don’t need to try and become tougher. Instead, those people need to stop doing the things that hurt your feelings.

I remember a kid from one of my college classes saying that he was intolerant of intolerance in all forms. I think this is the type of logic that helps perpetuate the second and third tiers of the logic above.

People, even (supposed) racists and sexists and bigots and those with offensive humors are not evil. They’re often receivers of a dogma and doctrine of systemic unfairness (not to them, but to the disenfranchised) which stems from historical facts and events that they weren’t privy to.

They’re steeped in misinformation. On some level they truly believe the things they say, no matter how wrong they may be.

We don’t call people who tout what they truly believe evil. At best we call them religious and at worst misguided.

In other words, ignorance and evil are not even close to being the same thing.

An evil person needs to be purposefully aware of the moral iniquity of their actions to be truly evil, and there’s no reason such things should be offensive anyways. As says the delightfully evil Milady in The Three Musketeers, ‘When I am offended I do not faint; I avenge myself!’

What I’m saying is buying into this world view of a fragility brought into being by supposed evil which manifests in speech and acts to offend the listener to the point of pushing them into a safe-space is absolutely wreaking havoc on mental-toughness. And without mental toughness of some sort, Gen Z kids are going to have a darn tough time dealing with life’s little annoyances and contrivances.

As stated in the Scientific American article above, we should prepare the child for the road and not the road for the child.

I could probably go on a 10,000 word diatribe on this but you get the idea. The most dangerous thing is being unprepared for danger.

Mental and emotional preparation is at the forefront of all other forms of preparation. When you can be rattled to inaction by the words of strangers which aren’t even directed at you personally then you’re woefully unprepared to deal with the inevitability of much tougher happenings down the road, because the road can never be fully prepared for you.

One Reply to “Fragility: The Biggest Problem Facing Gen-Z”

  1. Your article makes so much sense and explains much of what I’m seeing. Too, the “need” for a socialist gov’t by these people makes sense as well. There is no bigger “nanny” state than a socialist gov’t. This gen appears to need someone in “power” to tell them what to do, where to go, what to think, as long as it’s masqueraded as “good” and “acceptable” by EACH OTHER, they are satisfied. One of the things I think they’re finding out is “this won’t make them happy”. Its easy for their so called leaders to bring them to a deeper state of dissatisfaction by pointing at yet another enemy, your neighbor, your parents, the police, etc. Who ever has started this manipulation/brain washing has done a good job, and right under everyone’s noses.

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