3 November 2020
We live in a culture where being offended by others is the norm, and censorship and trigger warnings are rife. This attitude transcends age, race, beliefs and political stances, but is undoubtedly linked to the internet. ‘We’re over-stimulated and hyper-vigilant for any misstep,’ says Dyanne Brown, writer at The Good Men Project. ‘We wait breathlessly… ready to highlight the comments of anyone who expresses an opinion outside of our acceptable guidelines.’
For example, Gab, the social network popular with the far right for allowing extreme speech, was temporarily shut down when service providers PayPal and GoDaddy refused to work with it because of content deemed offensive. Morality has become a defining part of this censorship society. Generation Z and Millennial viewers have taken to social platforms to slam tv series Friends and The Simpsons for racist, homophobic and fat-shaming content, claiming it makes them uncomfortable. In late 2018, Tumblr banned adult or erotic content, with CEO Jeff D’Onofrio stating ‘without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.'
While many people have found safety in censorship, it has created a belief that unpopular opinions must remain internalised. This is particularly affecting young people, who feel unable to express their views for fear of disrepute. In the US, 54% of students have stopped themselves from sharing an idea or opinion with classmates, while 30% have self-censored in class because of concerns that their words will offend others (source: Fire and YouGov). ‘Feelings and experiences once considered part of everyday life, such as being offended by someone’s political views, are now more likely to be treated as detrimental to mental health,’ explains Clay Routledge, author and behavioural scientist.
To avoid confrontation, conversation or action, many of today’s adults opt out of modern commitments altogether. They stay at home instead of socialising and quit jobs when the going gets tough.
According to psychologist Brad E Sachs, the fear of missing out (FOMO) that once defined experience-chasing young people has evolved into something else: ‘FOMO is better understood as ‘fear of moving out’, the fretful feelings associated with departure from home and the need to begin journeying towards self-sufficiency.’
This is recognised in the US, with 33% of 25–29-year-olds still living at home in 2016 – almost three times as many as in 1970 (source: Pew Research Center). Even socialising with friends is being swapped for home comforts, with 55% of American consumers drinking at home because they believe it takes too much effort to go out (source: Mintel).
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