Whenever I hear people complain about society these days, as opposed to in the past when things were better, I’m skeptical. I get this skepticism even when the complaint is one I share, such as “the kids don’t look up from their phones” or some such thing.
Why am I skeptical? Because whenever a complaint like this comes up, there’s always someone who actually knows their history who comes around and shows us how history wasn’t how we assume it was, and how the rosy picture of the past we have in our minds was in reality much crazier, and makes the present seem mild. Don’t like that kids these days won’t look up from their phones? Well (and I’m making this up, but this is the kind of thing I’ve grown accustomed to hearing) in late 19th century England, kids used to huff ether all day long and bury their noses in pornographic drawings of anthropomorphised cats, and then play a game where they’d go around with hot pokers and burn the eyeballs of any kid who didn’t have the latest smutty cat drawings.
On the other hand, I start to doubt whether these examples are worthwhile arguments against complaints about the current state of things. There is a lot more of the past than the present, so it’s possible to cherrypick examples of all kinds of things from the past to show how mild the present is. Although I’m accustomed to seeing these examples trotted out to make the present seem mild, I don’t recall seeing anyone show how the examples captured society-wide long-term trends.
On the other other hand, maybe the whole point isn’t to show that present conditions are tame, but that present conditions are always dynamic. The horrible state of things you lament now is a passing phase, on its way to something else. Similar to what they say about the weather in Cleveland: if you don’t like it, wait five minutes.