The 2000s ushered in changes in how we live, feel, and think that we have not fully come to grips with, but that have changed every fiber of our being.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, December 31, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
The Decade that Changed Our Brain Wiring
I don't really believe our brains are hardwired in the significant areas outlined below. Or else, how could they change in as little as a few years? The following seven fundamental changes in our sensibilities are U.S.-centric, but apply more or less to the rest of the world as well.
Sex. We have embarked on a reversal of centuries of Western morality around sex. Most (and an increasing percentage of) young people consider sexual activity - including homosexuality - to be their birthright. And - unlike some other patterns of behavior - reduced resources don't reduce sex. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Optimism. Americans always felt they were on top of the world, and their futures were bright. We don't feel that way now. We are worried about our futures. Young people graduate college - to what? They struggle to find a position in the economic system, to create a family, to buy a home - to settle down and grow up.
Connectivity-isolation. We expect to be in touch with everything we need instantly. In nearly every case, this means electronic communication, since people take time. We no longer have - take - that kind of time. And so the image of the 21st Century is of two people sitting at a table while each one is on their Blackberry. Call it "Facebook Nation."
Privilege. Americans have begun a long descent into recognizing that they can't have all that they want. This has positives - fewer McMansions, throw-away products, wasting energy like it costs nothing. But it will be painful, as people see scrimping, living with their parents into adulthood, delayed gratification as ways of life.
Democracy. Democracy is changing in ways we haven't gotten to the bottom of. Our highly vaunted form of representative government is failing us - as Congress is deadlocked, state legislatures dither while their infrastructure disintegrates, and local governments scrimp, save, and tax to run schools and police departments.
Health. We are on a collision course on health and our fundamental sense of well-being. Americans believe they can buy health - and current health care reform is more of the same. In fact, (a) we can't buy health, (b) we have already run out of the funds we are spending to try to buy health - only we have not yet realized it.
Mindfulness. Psychology Today and media everywhere constantly trumpet mindfulness - being aware of our minds and bodies. In fact, we are tobogganing more rapidly away from being aware of these things, as we narcoticize our feelings with meds virtually from birth and kids sit home playing video games and tweeting.
Although this decade marked the most rapid transition in American sensibilities in modern times, we are unable to comprehend what this means for us - how we live, how we relate to one another, how we govern ourselves, how we fit into the world, how we see ourselves, how we think and feel. Our inability to sense how we are changing is the one human constant.