Jonathan Haidt's book presents stark data on the negative effects of smartphones on youth

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Yes but Haidt is a notorious bullshit artist. This is not his first moral panic. The last time his name came up, he was tr*lling the Academy for better cultural balance in the science journals, with quotas and Affirmative Action to ensure full representation of Conservative Science & right-wing culture (to correct the liberal bias of reality).

For purposes of Kayfabe, he presents himself as a liberal, albeit one who concedes the personal superiority of conservatives.


Conservative Liberals have been a thing for too long.

Just to confuse things, Liberal Conservatives are usually to the left of them, while still being obviously right wing. There haven’t been any of those in the Republican party for years.


Oh the joys of being both old enough to see patterns of history repeating itself and being young enough to laugh at the old farts who are once again going make themselves look like fools Dark Dungeons


You missed Jenkem


I very much look forward to learning about this when I hear it from someone whose name I don’t already recognize from crap like quitting rather than answering a diversity-related question. And, you know, if no better source ever corroborates it…well, that would say enough about it on its own, wouldn’t it.

Not everyone deserves a platform.


It is not correct to call Haidt a “social scientist”; he’s more of a “public intellectual”. That is, he has no influence within the research community, where everyone knows his reputation for making shit up and lying about the literature. He writes popular books instead.

This is enough to make him a go-to source for churnalists. They can rely on him to support their pre-written narrative: Liberals should work harder to understand and sympathise with the right-wing reprogrammable meatbags who want to kill them, but never vice versa. Et cetera.

  1. This post rustled my jimmies, so I came straight to the comment section
  2. Bless you, fellow BoingBoing commenters. You all are my cohort, and the “LOOK AT THIS PROFESSIONAL CONCERN trolley CLUTCHING HIS PEARLS” makes me feel right at home.

A child of the seventies, I was strictly limited to 30 minutes of television per day because, you know, that television crap would rot my brain, in some vague, unspecific way.


Shooting the messenger, aside (I have never heard of him but from what’s been posted here it sounds like he deserves it), the primary purpose of smartphones for most young people is social media.

For the past few weeks The Guardian has been running several articles a week about using one’s phone less and escaping the clutches of social media and doomscrolling etc. Below is an almost random sample. The theme has been “Reclaim Your Brain” - the last link is a list of such articles.


Crivens, it’s 2011 again.


I read Haidt’s book “The Happiness Hypothesis” in 2007, and liked it. Then he contributed to some books on positive psychology, and they seemed like pretty positive books, but not really science books. More pop science and feel good things, but not directly useful.

Then I got “The Righteous Mind” in 2012, and he pissed me right off. It fit right in line with NPR’s shtick of being Nice Polite Republicans, the seemingly endless supply of mooks identifying as “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” {{gag}}, and credulous NY Times writers who believed the fascists could be talked into decency if only we listened to them better. A team of fools helping the Right weaponize liberal compassion against liberal beliefs. I stopped paying any attention to Haidt in 2012, but color me unsurprised that he continued down the professional concern trolley path.

I’m not as good as I’d like to be at seeing bullshit early, but it’s good to see that other folk had his number, too. I think part of what ticked me off was that his early work resonated with me, so it was extra irritating when he decided he’d rather be a clown.


Real scientists don’t present important data in books. They present it in peer reviewed papers and meta-analysis reports.


Next you’ll be saying that Jared Diamond isn’t a good historian!


But academia has been infected by the woke mind virus and suppresses research that disagrees with liberal ideology! /s


I don’t know the extent to which smartphones are to blame for these issues, but the data doesn’t always tell a consistent story. Teen suicides peaked in 2017 and have gone down a bit since then, and it’s not like teens use phones less now or have less-addicting apps than they did back in 2017.

Also, for what it’s worth, the increase in teen suicides since 2000 is almost exactly the same as the increase in adult suicides over the same timeframe:


The only evidence the linked article mentions is that the mental health data abruptly “falls off a cliff” around 2012-2013. Your graph is of course only one type of measurement for that, but given there isn’t any jump there at all, I can’t help but feel skeptical.

But of course there’s no other possible reason teens have to be depressed these days, right? Everything was peachy in 2008 and has remained so, with a bright future ahead for everyone. So it must be the phones. :unamused:


world turns to shit and kids know about it these days, because they carry the world in their pockets? news at eleven.


From the WaPo’s review:

a 145 percent increase in depression among teen girls from 2010 to 2021

Reading that, I immediately thought that those years are bookended with Trump’s birtherism & the end of his POTUS administration.


I disagree with a lot of what Jonathan Haidt says and does… but some of his ideas have value, and I’m glad he’s popularizing the idea that we should work harder to reduce the use of smartphones and social media.

Yes, the concerns in The Coddling of the American Mind are entirely made up, based on “Some people are saying…” scaremongering and on anecdotes that fall apart the moment you start looking into the details. And; Yes, like Chenille pointed out, Haidt quit the Society for Personality and Social Psychology because they asked him to evaluate the impact of his work on equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. (The answer “There isn’t any” would apparently have been acceptable, but he refused to do even that).

However… I liked The Happiness Hypothesis; It actually helped me to improve myself and my life. And I liked The Righteous Mind, because it helped me to understand where conservatives are coming from, to appreciate that there is (at least a little) more to conservatism than selfish greed and/or the ignorant belief that society is meritocratic. So, I’m very glad that Haidt exposed me to those ideas.

And; Yes, I’m sure that a lot of The Anxious Generation is BS. For example… From his article in The Atlantic:

During that crucial sensitive period for cultural learning, from roughly ages 9 through 15, we should be especially thoughtful about who is socializing our children for adulthood. Instead, that’s when most kids get their first smartphone and sign themselves up (with or without parental permission) to consume rivers of content from random strangers. Much of that content is produced by other adolescents, in blocks of a few minutes or a few seconds. This rerouting of enculturating content has created a generation that is largely cut off from older generations and, to some extent, from the accumulated wisdom of humankind, including knowledge about how to live a flourishing life. Adolescents spend less time steeped in their local or national culture. They are coming of age in a confusing, placeless, ahistorical maelstrom of 30-second stories curated by algorithms designed to mesmerize them. Without solid knowledge of the past and the filtering of good ideas from bad––a process that plays out over many generations––young people will be more prone to believe whatever terrible ideas become popular around them…

This sounds very similar to my own childhood and adolescence in the 80s and 90s, and to my parents’ in the 60s. Of course young people have their own culture, and spend most of their social time immersed in conversations with friends that are awash with absolutely terrible ideas. Right? This does not mean that you lose sight of role models like parents, teachers, or the exemplary people you see in books and movies and TV shows. Youth culture is not a perfect insulator against values passed down from previous generations. Part of growing up is learning to reject the terrible ideas around you, learning to look beyond just friends and celebrities when deciding what kind of person you want to be.

However, the rest of the article makes some compelling points. It talks about how kids spend many hours a day on average on social media and are interruped by phone notifications every few minutes… There is a compelling picture of addiction-like behavior. I think it’s worth paying attention to.

I think the most surprising bit to me was the following. I’d be curious what your thoughts are:

Surveys show that members of Gen Z are shyer and more risk averse than previous generations, too, and risk aversion may make them less ambitious. In an interview last May, OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman and Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison noted that, for the first time since the 1970s, none of Silicon Valley’s preeminent entrepreneurs are under 30. “Something has really gone wrong,” Altman said. In a famously young industry, he was baffled by the sudden absence of great founders in their 20s.

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There’s something ironic about this, considering all those articles are on their website. The message seems to be “Use your smartphone less, unless you’re visiting The Guardian.”

Indeed. xkcd: The Pace of Modern Life