A study reveals that teenagers are having less sex and drinking less
In Japan, there is a type of person in the farthest reaches of society, a hermit known by the social label of hikikomori. What defines them is their fear of the outside world, their desire to remain inside their apartment, holed up with food, video games and entertainment, while the world passes them by. The hikikomori may be, in many ways, the future of the human race.
A study published in the journal Child Development came to some surprising conclusions. Cliche would have you believe that the newest generation is growing up too fast, but in many ways, they are regressing into an eternal adolescence. 8.3 million teens between ages 13 and 19, over the past 40 years, have been surveyed in a gigantic multi-generational study.
What researchers found was simple - eighteen-year-olds and younger today are less likely to drink alcohol, less likely to date or have sex, and less likely to leave the house without their parents. They are driving less, and they are getting part-time jobs less.
These trends preceded the emergence of smartphones, but the development of new technology would only push the trend further in the direction of isolation and lack of independence. The home is now a sanctuary not of silence, but of perpetual entertainment, infinite stimuli to ensure you are never bored.
It appears to be a neoteny of some kind. In biology, neoteny is a term used to describe the preservation of childlike characteristics in an adult animal. The researchers behind the study say that on the whole, today's 18-year-olds are behaving like the 15-year-olds of previous generations. That accounts for the lack of sex, jobs or independence outside of the parent's home.
“Some people have written that alcohol use and sexuality are down, so that must mean that teens are more virtuous than they used to be,” said Jean Twenge, the San Diego State University professor who was the lead author behind the study. “Others wrote that they’re less likely to have jobs, so they must be lazy or immature.”
Perhaps it's a mixture of both. Some studies have indicated that members of Generation Z, the one following millennials, may be more conservative than millennials ever were. This conservatism may be different than we understand - it may simply be an unwillingness to engage in risky behavior, or put themselves out there. A social conservatism, not political.
But what does that mean for the future of the human race? Well, as far as I can tell, this trend will continue. As virtual reality and artificial intelligence descend upon our homes, why would people go to the park and start dating more? Don't get me started on sex robots.
What if the ultimate form of humankind is a volcel NEET? Let me explain these terms to you, because they're important to the hikikomori, the Japanese shut-ins who may provide insight into the direction of our social evolution.
A volcel is merely a conjugation of the words 'voluntary' and 'celibate'. In other words, it is somebody who chooses not to have sex. Any good shut-in has to be a volcel. Also, yes, this term has taken off online, and those who patrol the internet's outer reaches see it daily.
A NEET is more uncontroversial. It stands for Not in Employment Education or Training. Basically, somebody with no role in society, who has totally fallen through the cracks. As the robots take our jobs and our sex lives, will we all become NEETs?
Stay vigilant. Big things are coming.