Have young people become desensitised to deal with Doomerism?
The desensitisation of younger generations has been a topic of discussion since radical technologies changed the world. Now, teenagers and twenty-something-year-olds are, arguably, overexposed to content. Sometimes being used to escape from the negative phenomena that surround them, while very often also exposing them to content that results in cultural numbing. Whether this is gore in video games, real-life killings in videos, or constant negative news notifications popping through on our phones.
This generation of desensitised people is known as Doomers. Primarily, they are categorised as those who grew up when technological advances were eminent. Mainly 1990 to the early 2000s. These people have grown up in an age of extreme negativity; that is constantly available to watch and see, and as a result, expect negative events. This overload of information means they are constantly aware of everything that is going on in the world, ultimately leading to a numb view of the world.
The post 9/11 generation
One major event that illustrates desensitisation for a generation is 9/11. Older generations will be able to remember where they were when the Twin Towers fell on September 11.
However, little is mentioned about those that were too young to remember this tragedy, but have lived in the post 9/11 world filled with trepidation.
Those who are now in their mid-twenties will not remember this day that shook the western world. Despite being told to Never Forget. The disaster is numbers — the date, the lives lost, the injured. They are detached from the horror but live in an environment that is still impacted by those events to this day.
However, studies show that younger generations are more anxious than any other generation before. While being detached from the events, they are the ones that had to grow up in a world concerned with terrorism, extremism, war, and tragedy. Interconnected world events spiralled — the London bombings, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, those born after 1995 have lived through terrorist attacks, wars, banking crashes, recessions, the biggest climate emergency, cost of living crises, and a worldwide pandemic, all before hitting 30. Only for them to be lectured by older generations who reaped the benefits of social mobility and left-wing blessings, gobbled up household wealth and pensions that younger generations could only dream of.
Is it any surprise that we, as younger people, have become almost numb to the lectures, the news, and the tragedies? Is it not just a coping mechanism?
Smartphones and the decline in mental health
Smartphones and social media have heavy links to mental health disorders. This is no secret. When Facebook was informed of this, it not only ignored the findings but they decided to target the trends and obsessions of young people to increase their popularity.
Capitalism combined with the entire world holding, essentially, a mini-computer in our hands at all times has had grave effects. We are constantly comparing, being sold things, and rehashing the worse events in the world.
We read about a school shooting in a 140 character tweet. We are informed about a family friend’s death on Facebook. We are subject to war videos on TikTok.
As teenagers, we were shown violent beheadings just before class. We were sent links to the most horrific content as a joke. Now, as adults, we willingly scroll through adverts, political content, and news about school shootings, all in under 30 seconds. The effects of this on our brains have undoubtedly been cataclysmic.
Has it always been like this?
The truth is, just as the world isn’t always bad, it isn’t always good, too. Throughout history, there have been tragedies, awful world events, and unbelievable misfortunes. Yet, previous generations were largely left unaware of all these occurrences.
During the world wars, ordinary people were not updated every second of the tragedies, deaths, and anecdotes of soldiers. During the Spanish flu, people in lockdown were not informed of loved-ones deaths through a Facebook status. There were no live streams during combat. There weren’t live-tweet updates from Titanic.
The world, unfortunately, has always been filled with trauma and suffering. But it is only recently that we have been able to consume every little bit of that trauma and suffering every single day.
Have we become overly cynical?
In 2008, the stock market crashed. Since then, many in the Doomer generation have been called lazy, have been told we expect handouts and are entitled — all in a world that seemed set against us before we were even old enough to work.
Before the recession, generations were told that happiness was more important than money. Afterwards, Millennials and Gen Zers were told to take any job they could find, to be happy with minimum wage, and to be grateful that they had any work at all.
Complaints about student debt are laughed off by the very boomers who either didn’t need a degree for their high paid job or reaped the benefit of free University. The irony of the Boomers telling the Doomers that they came from “nothing” and preaching about hard work when they could get a job that supported a family with just high school qualifications. In an age where the minimum wage was high enough to have disposable income.
Doomers would love to also come from this mythical sense of Boomer “nothing”, rather than the huge amounts of debt we have to try to make something of our lives in a world that was fast becoming an uphill battle.
This isn’t new information — younger generations have screamed about our burdensome situations, and it has fallen on deaf ears. Our experiences do not match up with what it was like when they were our age, which ultimately made them invalid to them. And by the time the boomers realised that you couldn’t walk into a job with a piece of paper and a firm handshake, we had already stopped caring about their opinion. We had become cynics.
We know that we will likely never be fulfilled in work, never be a homeowner in our twenties, spend our lives paying off our student debts, and have to decide whether we want kids, just in case they don’t survive the climate crisis.
While there is a lot to be thankful for in the world, there’s no reason why anybody should be surprised at our cynicism.
The overly sensitive paradox
Ironically, younger generations are also called overly sensitive. Woke. “Political Correctness has gone mad.”
There is simultaneous desensitisation and sensitivity amongst younger generations, that is true. Younger people are suffering from an absence of emotion as a result of technology, a study found that empathy actually radically dropped in 2000. With the media displaying pornography, murder, and genocide every day, this constant bombardment of content has become impossible for younger generations to comprehend.
However, younger generations also accept more. The same technology that exposes us to tragic news and unrelenting violence has also exposed us to different people, world views, and cultures. Growing up in the media age has made it impossible for us to stay in bubbles anymore. We are more aware and so we care much deeper, basically.
Millennials and Gen Zers obsess over the problems in the modern world. We feel like the system is flawed and these cracks need to expose, that voices of minorities and women need to be at the forefront. And in an almost caustic way, this may be the reason why such polarising politics are now more prevalent than ever. The Doomer philosophy: is so hopeful and cynical at the same time.
The “triggered millennial”
The idea of the triggered millennial has become something of a meme. It’s an irrational, overly sensitive youth that rages over minor issues. But this isn’t necessarily true. While it can, like everything, be taken too far, it is a symptom of a positive world shift. Younger generations are now becoming more aware of others, are maintaining a political pulse, and pushing for positive societal change.
We, as a Doomer generation are not the cliches. We are not a saviour generation that truly believes we can rid the world of all evil. We are also not selfish cry-babies. We are a generation of humans whose formative years have been tainted by unprecedented world events. Our childhoods were plagued with terrorism and wars. Our teens were afflicted with financial crashes. And our twenties have been overrun with a deadly virus and a World War.
We are desensitised and extremely sensitive. Accepting others while deeply suspicious, too. Maybe we are a generation that is defined by contradictions, and that’s okay.