His theory was that the body-snatching was happening through their phones

Friday, September 15th, 2023

All the sudden disruptions of long-running economic trends in America led people to wonder,What the heck happened in 1971? Now Erik Hoel looks at all the sudden disruptions of long-running social trends in America and wonders, What the heck happened in 2012?

Of course, we should expect it to be harder to measure cultural tipping-point years rather than economic ones, since what makes for healthy psychologies and cultures is often immeasurable. Still, if you look at charts about people’s psychology, or culture in general, like how people use language, you often consistently see a major shift around 2012 or shortly thereafter.

This isn’t just due to the definition of the word “depression” broadening. Teenagers legitimately try to commit suicide far more now, taking off right around 2012.

These changes haven’t affected just teenagers, although they are the most intense there, as if the youth, those most exposed and dependent on the current culture, those with nothing else to lean back on (no memories of the 90s to bask in) are operating like canaries in a coal mine—it is their little lungs which go first.


And yes, psychological changes are nebulous, but there are obvious downstream real-world ramifications. For 13-year-olds across America, both reading and mathematics peaked in 2012 and then rapidly began to decline.

Around 2012, birth rates fell off. They were low anyways, which should be expected after the Great Recession, but it is precisely around 2012 where they should have started climbing back up and instead they fell off a cliff.


It’s simply impossible to dance around it: what would now be called “wokeness” came onto the main stage of culture in 2012, and this in turn began to trigger anti-wokeness (e.g., while Jordan Peterson wouldn’t become famous until 2016, 2013 was when he created his YouTube channel and began uploading). This action/reaction dynamic explains the timing differences for when each political side felt the psychological effects.


At a personal level, I remember someone in graduate school, which I entered in 2010, confessing to me after a few beers that the rise in politicalization among our peers around 2012-2013 (as my fellow grad students either suddenly bought into wokeness and started using its reasoning and language or staked out controversial or secretively resistant anti-woke positions) reminded him of “the invasion of the body-snatchers.” His theory was that the body-snatching was happening through their phones.


In fact, in terms of market saturation, the transition from 2012 to 2013 is the exact year the majority of the US switched to finally owning a smartphone.

Which would certainly explain the massive spike in pedestrian fatalities from cars following a low in 2010.

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