Decades can be summarized by the trends of the times. Parachute pants and big hair conjure up the ’80s. Fanny packs and Beanie Babies rewind us to the ’90s. But there are some current cultural trends that need to end.
Our society is driven by popular culture, so trends and fads not only define decades but also hold a mirror up that reflects our weaknesses. Some trends are devastating relationships by pulling apart marriages, families, and social stability. Here are 4 cultural trends that need to end now.
If one trend was worsened by social distancing, it was our addiction to phones. It’s funny to call this trend a “phone” addiction since we use phones so infrequently to make actual phone calls. It should concern us that the screen time that dominates our day is precious time we give away to companies that do not have our best interests at heart. I recently watched the documentary The Social Dilemma, and it opened my eyes to the ways I sacrifice myself to the business interests of master manipulators. One tech leader said, “If you aren’t paying for the product, then you are the product.”
And so it is with social media. That black hole full of memes, cat videos, and dance challenges sells me to advertisers. I give them time I could have invested in real conversations with real people. Think it’s harmless? Computer science expert Edward Tufte said, “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’—illegal drugs and software.” After watching this movie, I started checking how much screen time I was devoting to all kinds of apps. Awareness is key, and there are lots of ways to monitor and limit time on apps for you and your family.
Years ago, the cable news channel you chose to watch reflected your worldview, but you could bounce around the channels to broaden your perspective. Today, the echo chambers are created for us, reinforcing our own limited view of the world. This is among the cultural trends that need to end. But social media and search engines are set up to manipulate me into thinking that the rest of the world thinks like I do, lives life like I do, and gets mad like I do.We have to be willing to engage with different ideas and with people who do not share our perspective.
That’s not a healthy or accurate view of the world. It’s a myopic tunnel vision experience that leaves no room for grace, love, and understanding. We have to be willing to engage with different ideas and with people who do not share our perspective. Otherwise, we are left to retreat into our own “tribes” and just keep drawing up battle plans in our culture. That mentality reduces marriages and families to rubble.
Hand in hand with these first two trends is the tendency we have to assume the absolute worst of people who disagree with our politics. Marriages are breaking up, friendships are falling apart, and generations of family members are shutting each other out based on how people voted in recent elections.
When we take our heads out of our screens and expand our sights out of the tunnels we’re in, we can learn to appreciate the sincere convictions of others, even if we disagree with them. I’m convinced that we need to recapture a sense of human dignity that assumes the best instead of the worst in others if we are to overcome the demonization of those who vote differently than we do.
Disrespect Across Generations
All these cultural trends that need to end are reflected in this one: Generations are often increasingly dismissive of and antagonistic toward each other. The young can learn so much from the experiences and wisdom of the older. The old can learn so much from the adaptability and perspectives of the younger. But that only happens if they are listening to each other. A common example I often hear from folks my age about younger people is that millennials are entitled. But is that always true? No.
All my children as well as about half of Family First’s staff are millennials—but they are dedicated, hardworking individuals. Generalizations about an entire generation are undeserved and hurtful. Many older adults assume the young have no desire to connect with them, and I believe they’re wrong. The young actually crave the kinds of connections that older generations can provide, for their emotional needs, for guidance, for authenticity, and for patience. We just need to look past some of their defensive sarcasm, like the popular “OK, boomer!” meme of recent years.
These trends are ultimately destructive because they pull us away from each other by creating monsters in our minds. We have to turn off our phones, pull off our blinders, stop defining each other by our politics and ages, and engage with each other. That’s where our hope lies for the future.
Sound off: What other cultural trends need to end?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How much screen time do you think kids should get each day?”