The Conversation

A warning to the past

In response to Is Social Media Breeding Monsters?:

Another thought: there's a passage in Mark Steyn's most recent book where he muses that H.G. Wells' Time Traveler, jumping forward from the latter days of the 19th century, would have been astounded at the changes the coming half-century held in store... but then rather non-plussed about the relatively modest practical improvements of the half-century after that.  One of Steyn's hypothetical observations is that the Time Traveler would be puzzled at the sight of adults walking around dressed like children, only a few decades after it was commonplace for men to wear suit and tie on short airplane flights.  

That always stuck with me, because I remember my grandparents well enough to know that they did indeed associate rampant informality with childishness, but the modern era celebrates the extension of all things childish, as late into life as possible.  The Internet monsters you wrote of are, in many cases, conducting themselves as spoiled brats - informal (and vulgar, sometimes even pornographic) in a public space where some degree of formality would previously have been expected from adults.  The punishment for such behavior would have been shame, but we don't do shame any more.  Unrestrained self-expression - giving a loudspeaker to the id - is now considered a much higher virtue than politeness, restraint, or articulate wit.  The childish is celebrated far above the adult.  And one result is that predatory adults have become disturbingly adept at connecting with children.

Imagine sending something like the Team Dorner fan pages, celebrating a deranged murderer of both men and women as a hero, back in time, and marvel at the sheer panic and despair it would have caused among the populace, to know that so many of them would someday become such degenerates.  And you wouldn't have to send it very far back in time.


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