Every teenager today was born this century. Trust is different for digital natives.

Growing up online is different to the world I grew up in.

Ben Longstaff
Aug 19 · 4 min read
Photo by Werner Du plessis on Unsplash

As a teenager last century I trusted doctors, banks, media and the government. After all these institutions are the cornerstones of society.

Somewhere along the line that changed.

The media focused on ratings, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). After that’s what gets the eyeballs.

The silent majority has become the exhausted majority.

Maybe the world was always this messed up, the gate keepers of old media kept us safe by drip feeding us outrage. Now we are drinking from the social media firehose, always on, always connected, constantly fatigued.

Over time trust in our institutions has eroded.

Doctors have to compete with Google and deal with antivaxxers. Banks keep ending up in front of judges, yet no one seems to go to jail. The President of the United States labels reporters he doesn’t like as fake news. Governments only seem concerned with political point scoring.

Trust is confident vulnerability.

The media keeps showing us why being vulnerable is dangerous.

Choose your channel and pick your side, you’re either with us or against us. All those complex issues boil down to a binary yes or no, this is what defines who you are, are you good or evil?

The fabric of society has changed.

That change is reflected in how we communicate. Words matter, a lot. Each year some of the dictionaries identify a word of the year from how language is used online. The available data is skewed towards digital natives. The changes offer an interesting insight into their collective psyche.

When I started writing this article I included a definition for each new word, then the list got to big. Instead I have compiled the words across multiple years and multiple dictionaries.

Toxic, fake news, deep fakes, me too, gaslight, cakeism, techlash, broflake, white fragility, newsjacking, alt-right, brexit, trumpism, snowflake generation, post truth, glass cliff, shaming, decision fatigue, mansplain.

This is the language of our world today.

What stands out to me is the negative undertone.


2018

Merriam Webster Dictionary

— Justice

Runners up: nationalism, pansexual, lodestar, epiphany, feckless, laurel, pissant, respect, maverick, excelsior

Macquarie Dictionary

— Me Too

Runners up: big dick energy, deepfake, single-use, algorithmic bias, crisper, dark kitchen, earthing, hodl, incel, hygge, intimacy coordinator, video assistant referee, vertical farming

Collins English Dictionary

— Single-use

Runners up: backstop, floss, gammon, gaslight, MeToo, plogging, var, vegan, whitewash

Oxford Dictionary

— Toxic

Runners up: Gaslighting, techlash, Incel, Gammon, Big Dick Energy, Cakeism, Overtourism, Orbiting


2017

Merriam Webster Dictionary

— Feminism

Runners up: complicit, recuse, empathy, dotard, syzygy, gyro, federalism, hurricane, gaffe

Macquarie Dictionary

— milkshake duck

Runners up: big sugar, bike sharing, daigou, dark state, dopamine dressing, endless, framily, makerspace, plandid, poke, subtweet, technology doping, text neck, transhumanism

Collins English Dictionary

— Fake news

Runners up: antifa, corbynmania, cuffing season, echo chamber, fidget spinner, gender-fluid, gig economy, insta, unicorn

Oxford Dictionary

— youthquake

Runners up: Antifa, Broflake, Gorpcore, Kompromat, Milkshake Duck, Newsjacking, Unicorn, White Fragility.


2016

Merriam Webster Dictionary

— Surreal

Runners up: revenant, icon, in omnia paratus, bigly, deplorable, irregardless, assumpsit, faute de mieux, feckless

Macquarie Dictionary

— fake news

Runners up: alt-right, bubble soccer, enby, fatberg, filter bubble, greige, halal snack pack, patient navigator, plyscraper, racebending, rumbler alarm, shoefiti, standing desk, youlk

Collins English Dictionary

— Brexit

Runners up: Hygge, Mic drop, Trumpism, throw shade, sharenting, snowflake generation, dude food, uberization, JOMO

Oxford Dictionary

— post-truth

Runners up: alt-right, glass cliff , hygge, chatbot, adulting, Brexiteer, woke, coulrophobia, latinx


2015

Merriam Webster Dictionary

— ism (socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism, terrorism)

Runners up: marriage, hypocrite, respect, inspiration, minion

Macquarie Dictionary

— captains call

Runners up: lumbersexual, desco, wombat gate, abandoned porn, price baiting, listicle, Frankenfruit, cool burn, grolar bear, fitspiration, dox, fur baby, slackpacking, selfie drone

Collins English Dictionary

— Binge-watch

Runners up: dadbod, shaming, corbynomics, clean eating, ghosting, swipe, contactless, manspreading, transgender

Oxford Dictionary

— : 😂

Runners up: dark web, on fleek, Brexit, sharing economy, refugee, they, lumbersexual, ad blocker


2014

Merriam Webster Dictionary

— Culture

Runners up: nostalgia, insidious, legacy, feminism, je ne sais quoi, innovation, surreptitious, autonomy, morbidity,

Macquarie Dictionary

— mansplain

Runners up: lifehacking, binge watching, bamboo ceiling, crash grazing, drip pricing, emoji, share plate, green electricity, loom band, decision fatigue, ambulance ramping, typosquatting, defund, urban exploration, selfie stick

Collins English Dictionary

— Photobomb

Runners up: Tinder, bakeoff, normcore, devo max

Oxford Dictionary

— vape

Runners up: bae, budtender, contactless, indyref, normcore, slacktivism


The evolution of trust is going to be harder for the teenagers of last century to adapt to.

For kids growing up in the post truth era, fake news is the new norm. Hopefully it leads to a generation of critical thinkers.

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Ben Longstaff

Written by

Playing at the intersection of privacy and personalisation. Fascinated by the state of trust in a world with leaky data.

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