More Lonely, Fewer 'Friends', Less Sex - Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?

Tyler Durden's picture

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis...

The Atlantic's Jean Twenge asks the most crucial question of our age... "have smartphones destroyed a generation?"

...Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, [teens today] talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data - some reaching back to the 1930s - I had never seen anything like it.


What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was after the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and had a starker effect on Millennials trying to find a place in a sputtering economy. But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.


More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.


There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives - and making them seriously unhappy.


You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media.

The allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009.

Today’s teens are also less likely to date. The initial stage of courtship, which Gen Xers called “liking” (as in “Ooh, he likes you!”), kids now call “talking”—an ironic choice for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. After two teens have “talked” for a while, they might start dating. But only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent.

The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity. The drop is the sharpest for ninth-graders, among whom the number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1991.

Even driving, a symbol of adolescent freedom inscribed in American popular culture, has lost its appeal for today’s teens. Nearly all Boomer high-school students had their driver’s license by the spring of their senior year; more than one in four teens today still lack one at the end of high school. For some, Mom and Dad are such good chauffeurs that there’s no urgent need to drive. “My parents drove me everywhere and never complained, so I always had rides,” a 21-year-old student in San Diego told me. “I didn’t get my license until my mom told me I had to because she could not keep driving me to school.”

The number of eighth-graders who work for pay has been cut in half. These declines accelerated during the Great Recession, but teen employment has not bounced back, even though job availability has.

At the generational level, when teens spend more time on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, loneliness is more common.

So is depression. Once again, the effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.

Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. Since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased. In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.

This trend has been especially steep among girls. Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys. Girls use social media more often, giving them additional opportunities to feel excluded and lonely when they see their friends or classmates getting together without them. Social media levy a psychic tax on the teen doing the posting as well, as she anxiously awaits the affirmation of comments and likes.

The correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone. As the technology writer Nick Bilton has reported, it’s a policy some Silicon Valley executives follow. Even Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of the devices he brought into the world.


If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. Of course, these analyses don’t unequivocally prove that screen time causes unhappiness; it’s possible that unhappy teens spend more time online. But recent research suggests that screen time, in particular social-media use, does indeed cause unhappiness. One study asked college students with a Facebook page to complete short surveys on their phone over the course of two weeks. They’d get a text message with a link five times a day, and report on their mood and how much they’d used Facebook. The more they’d used Facebook, the unhappier they felt, but feeling unhappy did not subsequently lead to more Facebook use.

I realize that restricting technology might be an unrealistic demand to impose on a generation of kids so accustomed to being wired at all times. Prying the phone out of our kids’ hands will be difficult, even more so than the quixotic efforts of my parents’ generation to get their kids to turn off MTV and get some fresh air. But more seems to be at stake in urging teens to use their phone responsibly, and there are benefits to be gained even if all we instill in our children is the importance of moderation. Significant effects on both mental health and sleep time appear after two or more hours a day on electronic devices. The average teen spends about two and a half hours a day on electronic devices. Some mild boundary-setting could keep kids from falling into harmful habits.

Read the full report here...

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Automatic Choke's picture
More Lonely, Fewer 'Friends', Less Sex - Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?


Future Jim's picture

It's a pretty obvious confluence of events:

  • TV is 24/7 propaganda that the smartest, most attractive, most competent, and most noble are: government, then the experts, then the media, then rich people, then ordinary people, then anti-establishment types.
  • TV is 24/7 propaganda promoting homosexuality.
  • TV is 24/7 propaganda promoting single moms.
  • TV is 24/7 propaganda promoting bitchy women.
  • TV is 24/7 propaganda that women are not responsible for their actions.
  • TV is 24/7 propaganda thatmen are stupid, incompetent, unreliable, emotionally unstable, emotionally needy ... liars.
  • Much (perhaps most) psychology is junk science.
  • Chemicals in our environment (i.e. consumer products, food, air, water) are reducing testosterone and are thus making men more obedient, submissive, and conformist -- very unattractive.
  • They are jealous that we can have the kind of good relationships that they will never have.
  • They are conditioning us to be controlled like animals in a zoo, which is not that much further from where we are now.
Putrid_Scum's picture

The kids know, instinctively, that something is deeply wrong with our world.

Future Jim's picture

Yes, but they are taught to blame their parents.

Putrid_Scum's picture

I often wonder, who to blame? For the assault against the species.

And that assault is about to intensify severely. And who to blame?


cossack55's picture

No sweat. They will all be dead before they hit 60 via EMF induced cancer. Party on!!

wee-weed up's picture



Don't blame it on smartphones...

Remember Obozo's words to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, "After my election I have more flexibility."

Unfortunately, part of that flexibility was "inflicted" on the homeland and the American people.

After 2012 was when Obozo was into his 2nd term and he and his apparatchiks doubled-down on the socialist liberal agenda & policies of the Left with a demonic passion, flaunting hundreds of laws.

He knew he was unimpeachable and he acted accordingly. He did whatever he wanted. He didn't give a shit about the economy (only putting the stamp of the LEFT on every facet of the government) and the young people suffered accordingly - worse than any generation in decades. Many could not get jobs and had to live in their parent's basements.

No wonder they're so screwed up.

In addition, and worse, their self-esteem took a huge hit when (after supporting Obozo in both elections by the millions) many of them finally came to realize they were wrong about their hero and the self-absorbed turd really didn't give a shit about them and and had left them in worse shape than before.

Croesus's picture

Jesus Christ, I see people of all ages addicted to these damn "smartphones"

Posted from my iShit

J S Bach's picture

I actually had a discussion about this with my wife the other night.

I opined that the preponderance of iPhones and other forms of anti-social media may be one of the reasons there is such a noticeable rise in faggotry and other unnatural sexual identities.  It seems that every other store I frequent has a flaming homo lisping merrily to me all of my alternative choices.  Perhaps the lack of physical social interaction between the opposite sexes has led to this abhorrent and unnatural mixup in the mental stratum of our young people.  All I know is that it's despicable... and must be abolished before we all go extinct.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Plus there is PLENTY of free, easy, access, to any and all high definition porn that one would ever want to get off on on one's phone. Why have a relationship that isn't always special snowflake satisfying when the phone porn is in one's hand at all times? The porn never bitches at you unless you click that category.

armada's picture

You're right. SEXUAL Deviancy is everywhere.

Schlump's picture

Twitter is MY only friend! So this is happening to old folks too. Sad!

847328_3527's picture

Smartphones, yes, as well as coddling parents, and an educational system where, 'everyone's a winner!" and that brainwashes instead of teaching one how ot think critically and wisely.

Eyes Opened's picture

Dude...Having read some of yer previous ZH posts ... I ain't surprised...  lol

Eyes Opened's picture

The sixth extinction will not be caused by smartfones & fruitloops....but u KNOW this... 

Personally, I have found my galaxy S5 (no ishit here ) to be a fantastic piece of tech... 

1 it connects me with u lot & so informs & educates me ....

2 it gives me access to lotsa technical educational stuff..

3 it stores lotsa stuff, fotos/pdfs/vids/ etc..

4 it keeps me updated on the weather (fishing)

5 it has great apps..

6 porn (obviously)  :-)

7 its my primary comms device... calls/txts/email...

8 its a great digital organiser

I could go on...

I KNOW all about NSA surviellence/tracking etc. but fuck 'em, I have NO intention of "self-censoring" & I will use it as I see fit.

I DO NOT indulge in facecrook/snapshit/twatter or any other of that crap.

Where I live, we have little-to-no broadband so my fone is my only internet connection.

I have had no teevee for years so MSM have virtually no influence on me.

Just my 2c on the subject... 


bluskyes's picture

Maybe this explains the big smiles I seem to be getting from good looking 20 something girls lately. I might look and act like a lot of differnt things, but a fag is not one of them.

EuroZone's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Lucretius's picture

AGREED WeeWee, the damn phones are just a symptom. Personally I'd say the disease is social decay/ROT! While Future Jim may be correct in his NWO site, I do not know. I do know that observing the rot of the civilization in the US for the lasy 57 yrs has been painful and disgusting for me! I really feel compassion for the kids, no one is teaching them ANYTHING. I'd be depressed too, if I were a useless idiot. Sad.

Putrid_Scum's picture

My meta-analysis of the average American's psychological response to Trump, and Obama, is that they're desperate. So desperate that they need a saviour. 

It's sad. Because the rational reaction to System disintegration, by the working and middle classes should have been a massive election boycott. And it's sad that Tyler didn't demand this. But he couldn't, because the System forces him to earn an income so he can service his debts. The pro-Trump articles were very popular and received many clicks.

And I'm not trying to single anyone out; the social peer pressure and system stress is the same for almost everyone who earns a living.

So there's no organised and rational reply by the masses to a System which is clearly defunct. And "they" must now assault the species. 

I doubt I'll make it. 


Billy the Poet's picture

“Signs and Symbols Rule the world, not rules and law” – Confucius


My metacomment is this. It's not about saviors, it's about symbols. Obama was a symbol for ideas preferred by liberals and urbanites and Trump is a symbol for ideas prefered by conservatives and rural folks. It doesn't seem to matter that Obama's and Trump's policies haven't always fit with those of their supporters. Because its not about the words, it's about the symbols.

Obama and Trump are nothing more or less than figureheads for the ideas on either side of the cultural divide. It is not about them and never was about them.

Manthong's picture


It might be instructive to go back to where “it depends upon what the meaning of the word is is“ and when oral sex was redefined as not sex.

Happens to be not too many years after the graphic WWW happened, the Internet was commercialized and Moore’s law really took off.

US tech was handed over to China, The CFMA eliminated law on Wall Street, and 911 was conducted.

Fish rots from the head down...


..and oh… once the back door got really opened up in ubiquitous graphics ….

“gender” identity became less significant.

We are doomed.


Billy the Poet's picture

when oral sex was redefined as not sex.


The phrase Clinton used was "sexual relations" which refers specifically to intercourse. Most listeners misunderstood his meaning which was his intention but he did not technically lie. And that shows just how consummate a liar Bill Clinton could be.


Definition of sexual relations
  1. :  sexual intercourse


Manthong's picture

OK… but if I found my daughter down giving a BJ to some punk….

He would be on the wrong side of a .40

Toxicosis's picture

I get where you're coming from, but would it be worth doing time especially if your daughter really wanted to be involved like that with that punk.  If he raped her or was raping her, yes for sure, but a BJ, unless she was forced, I dunno.

Uncle Skid's picture

Force a bj?  Isn't the risk of being bitten preclude taking the chance?

MrPalladium's picture

"..and oh… once the back door got really opened up in ubiquitous graphics ….

“gender” identity became less significant."

Thought provoking observation. Indeed, everyone has got one.

markar's picture

A massive election boycott would have put Hillary in the WH. Tyler did everyone a service with  the pro Trump articles. Most of us here understood flawed as he is, he was the last best chance to turn this putrid corrupt globalist system upside down and restore some semblance of a constitutional republic.

847328_3527's picture

Tua Luce Dirige



rccalhoun's picture

No worries   

Virtual reality to the rescue

4freedom78's picture

Social media is the evil, not smart phone or computers. Take out Facebook and the other.

Eyes Opened's picture

Exactly.... the smartphone is simply a tool, how u use it is up to u...

dark fiber's picture

Shouldn't they?  Who shaped the world?

Future Jim's picture

NO. Kids should not blame their parents unless their parents are guilty (e.g. voted for Bush, Clinton, Obama and not trying to fix the world).

Young people elected Obama ...

Schools teach kids to trust the experts, and not their parents -- not even their teachers.

Guess what the experts teach. Guess who the experts work for.

cyberfossil's picture

God did.  Did God give you your senses to feel, hear and see?  And does the earth feel, hear and see (including the freefloating birds, insects, and clouds in the atmosphere that science says is velcroed to the atmosphere despite the perfect vacuum of infinite space pulling on the outer atmosphere at unequaled force) like it is spinning at 1000 mph (rotational acceleration) at the equator as science says--not to mention going a million miles per hour as part of the galaxy flying through the universe after the Big Bang? The world is flat.

Anteater's picture

Would you call your i-Phone on 5% battery, 'wrong'?

Would you call your 275-pound frame, 120 heart

beats a minute flacid office worker body, 'wrong'?

'Right or wrong' is a false duality.  Who was more

'wrong', Jeffery Daumer or John Podesta? Who was

more 'right', Charlie Manson or Donald Trump? It's

all a question of degree, ...if you don't have one.


Sparkey's picture

Putrid Scum, we all 'know' that instinctively, but not consciously ergo cognitive dissonance in the masses!

Killdo's picture

psychopaths in positions of power == foxes in charge of a henhouse 

Maximeme Q's picture

Regarding first 6 bullets-They don't call it teevee 'programming' for nothin'.

SixIsNinE's picture

excellent wrap up FJ -


movie "Best in Show" -   animal farm


our local paper had a "big" story a couple days ago - apparently a Trump supporter had a sign in the yard and the  Trumpdenialists got the HOA (homeowners assoc) to make him take it down.  So the homeowner is getting quite upset and put up a very big sign saying that if you move to this area of his HOA you will be under censorship (i don't recall the actual wording at the moment) -   the reader comments were getting quite testy between libtards and non-libtards.


Radical Marijuana's picture

Future Jim, thanks for that link to"They" regarding the interpretation of "9/11."

"The ability to secretly create trillions of dollars out of thin air (Federal Reserve, money as electronic bits, and fractional reserve banking) exists. ... Consider that we are not allowed to know the identity of the owners of the Federal Reserve, and we are not allowed to do a true audit of it either — even though it creates our money ... out of thin air. Such far reaching control would obviously take at least a century for any cabal to acquire ..."

The article above asserting "Smartphones Destroyed A Generation"  was another typical example of the kinds of superficially correct analyses republished on Zero Hedge, followed by some more insightful comments posted under that article, which are better than the original article was. That article tends to confute with confusing correlation with causation (albeit, the author sort of admitted that.) The "Smartphone"  is a TOOL, which does NOT indicate the ulterior purposes to which that TOOL was deployed, WITHIN the overall context in which ENFORCED FRAUDS almost totally dominate everything, in ways which are becoming exponentially more FRAUDULENT.

Since the public powers of governments are primarily used to ENFORCE FRAUDS by private banks, and the big corporations that grew up around those big banks, there has been a relentless rise of the private world over the public world. The uses of "Smartphones" by younger and younger people is taking place inside the overall context where the younger you are, the more you are being lied to, cheated, and robbed by the political system you were born into!

Moreover, the degree of dominance of the increasingly psychotic and psychopath ruling classes over the increasingly incompetent political idiots in the classes ruled over, means that there are no feasible ways to stop the entrenched systems based on ENFORCING FRAUDS from continuing to get about exponentially more FRAUDULENT. I.e., technologies such as "Smartphones" manifest within the overall context of an oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, which is as unscientific about itself as it can possibly be! NOBODY else can compete with those who ALREADY have the power to legally counterfeit the public "money" supplies, that everyone else must use. Rather, the vicious spirals of all aspects of the funding of the political processes are practically impossible to counteract.

While younger people may well not consciously be fully aware of the details, I nevertheless believe that younger people are more intuitively aware of the degree to which they are being drowned in BULLSHIT, as well as more intuitively aware that there are no reasonable hopes for that to possibly get any better within their foreseeable future life time. Young people are therefore obliged to make the best of a bad situation, which is automatically getting worse, faster ...

kochevnik's picture

It is proper for intellectual people to be loners. The general population in USA (Virginia Corporation) is brainwashed and unthinking. Besides there are so many unanswered questions. Many standard answers by scientists are fake news. There are fundamental disagreements between cosmology and physics, which are mutually impossible. Dogmas limit pleasant, serious social encounters as most violently cherish their cognitive dissonance

Automatic Choke's picture

"It is proper for intellectual people to be loners."

Any visit to a pub in the vicinity of MIT will quickly show you to be incorrect.  Intellectual people span the whole range of introvert-extrovert, just like idiots do.  Pull your head out of your ass and look around instead of generalizing with stereotypes you learned watching tv.


kochevnik's picture

My brother and father graduated MIT, genius. Photographic memory alone is not intellectual. MIT makes often famously unstable roommates. Besides, CALTech is superior. I prefer relative peace of Russian universities where genius is appreciated, not stigmatized

malek's picture

"Intellectual people span the whole range of introvert-extrovert"

Nice NON-statement, as a single totally extroverted intellectual person would confirm your "statement"

Anteater's picture

We each of us have at our fingertips libraries that the ancients would have killed for.

With a little bit of random walk grey buzz training, we can hack into almost anything.

We can call up long dead or real living gurus, and literally sit at their feet, meditating.

We can laugh at a dancing baby, or developers, developers, developers, developers.

Instead, we spend all our time on FB, SC, IG, IM, RD, TW ... and ZH.

The monkey-mind always betrays you.

This will not end well!