Adulting Fast and Slow

We live in a society of adult-like children and childish adults.

Kids have never had more information at their fingertips, so they’re growing up faster than ever. From a young age, they can watch violent war clips on YouTube, Dan Bilzerian videos on Instagram, and Shakira getting low at the Super Bowl halftime show.

Yet, even though they grow up fast at first, they mature into adulthood slowly. Young people today are often unable to become financially independent or walk the path of a meaningful life. As a result, we’re left with a culture of childish adults who are allergic to commitment and unable to see the light in adulthood.


Video destroyed the innocence of childhood. Before the invention of television in 1950, knowledge about full adult life was guarded from children in books. Kids were shielded from money, death, violence, and especially, sex. Kids couldn’t read until their teenage years, so adults concealed taboo topics in writing.

That changed with the invention of television, which took ideas out of books and put them on video. Text ceased to be a barrier so children were exposed to mature content from a young age. For example, kids can’t understand Fifty Shades of Grey, but because of Instagram, they know how to twerk like Miley Cyrus. As Ben Sasse wrote in The Vanishing American Adult

“Practically nothing [on television] is taboo or off limits. Because television doesn’t know or care who’s watching, the medium effectively “adultifies” children while infantilizing adults; it doesn’t judge its viewers, nothing is shameful.”

When I was a kid, ESPN ran on channel 38. Four clicks away, on channel 42, I routinely stumbled upon soft-core pornographic images like Brittany Spears’ Toxic music video.

In our video-first age, children and adults watch the same things on television, which was never true for books. 12-year-olds don’t read Hegel. By moving from a book-centric culture to an image-centric one, we created a Peter Pan Generation of childish adults who refuse to grow up.

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