The most important cultural trends today are being driven by unmarried twenty- and thirty-somethings, not by those already hitched and starting families. At the same time, it is this very demographic that is the most unprepared and exposed to the dislocations these same currents create.
Allow me to explain.
When you think in general terms about the values of today’s educated class, about their concerns and anxieties, the devices that dominate their waking hours, their conversational go-to’s and their running assumptions as to what’s important, you can trace a lot back to the innovations, habits and longings of an age group that has yet to reach its prime.
From a surging belief in data to a higher value placed on relational networks, from binge TV watching (Netflix allowing whole series to be consumed at once) to fewer purchases of whole musical albums (iTunes allowing singular preferences to win), from unprecedented levels of social distrust to increasing migrations to urban centers, the somewhat paradoxical patterns set by this younger tier – and, specifically, the younger, relationally unattached tier, or singletons – have floated up and lassoed their betters.
Who in Mark Zuckerburg’s original circle could have guessed that the sharpest spikes in Facebook use one day would occur among retirees?
Anne Snyder is a member of the Humane Pursuits editorial board. She is currently living in Houston, Texas, where she is studying the assimilation patterns of the city’s growing immigrant population while also working for the Laity Lodge Leadership Initiative. She has started a biweekly column for the Orange County Register and freelances elsewhere. Before moving to Houston she worked in the Op-Ed department of The New York Times in Washington, DC, and before that at World Affairs Journal and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Originally from Boston but given the cross-cultural bug from a childhood spent in Hong Kong and Australia, she holds a B.A. from Wheaton College (IL) and an M.A. from Georgetown University.