NYU prof argues Gen Z is too 'fragile,' causing 'national crisis'

Members of Gen Z, according to Jonathan Haidt, are experiencing a profound mental health crisis due to a number of factors.

The crisis is largely due to a confluence of social media, bad parenting, and a political ideology that emphasizes victimhood.

Jonathan Haidt, a prominent social psychologist at New York University, recently argued in a Wall Street Journal interview that Gen Z has been set up for failure due to a confluence of social media, bad parenting, and a political ideology that emphasizes victimhood.

Members of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), according to Haidt, are experiencing a profound mental health crisis because of these factors. 

"When you look at Americans born after 1995, what you find is that they have extraordinarily high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and fragility," Haidt told the Wall Street Journal. 

"He [Haidt] attributes this to the combination of social media and a culture that emphasizes victimhood," the article relates.

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Haidt emphasizes that an overly restrictive parenting style has also made many Gen Zers "fragile," unable to cope effectively with the normal stresses and challenges of adulthood.

As an example of this counterproductive parenting style, the piece describes Haidt's finding that "the age at which children were allowed outside on their own by parents had risen from the norm of previous generations, 7 or 8, to between 10 and 12."

Social media, with its corrosive and unrealistic social expectations and incentives, is cited as having had a particularly devastating effect on the mental health and capacity to be "anti-fragile" of Gen Z girls.

"Whereas millennial women are doing well, 'Gen-Z women, because they’re so anxious, are going to be less successful than Gen-Z men—and that’s saying a lot, because Gen-Z men are messed up, too,'" the piece reads.

Speaking more generally on the negative impact of social media, Haidt argues that “[s]ocial media is incompatible with liberal democracy because it has moved conversation, and interaction, into the center of the Colosseum. We’re not there to talk to each other. We’re there to perform."

As a university professor, Haidt has observed all of these issues play out with students on campus.

He points out that university students "are in the safest, most welcoming, most inclusive, most antiracist places on the planet, but many of them were acting like they were entering some sort of dystopian, threatening, immoral world."

Haidt has long studied issues at the intersection of political ideology, mental health, and social dynamics, arguing that the only solution to the above issues is to parent and educate with an emphasis on resilience and intellectual openness. 

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In 2018, Haidt, with co-author Greg Lukianoff, released the book "The Coddling of the American Mind." The book sets forth the argument that "the new problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people."

"These three Great Untruths contradict basic psychological principles about well-being and ancient wisdom from many cultures," the book description states.

With an aim of contributing to the solution to these issues, Haidt also founded Heterodox Academy, an academic organization that exists "[t]o improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement."

Campus Reform contacted Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, and NYU for comment, and will update accordingly.