Our culture and world has been shifting dramatically in the last few decades. The internet has opened huge amounts of communication and information to anyone who wants to spend time focusing on any particular topic. We can see ourselves, others, what we like, what others like, and how it all fits together in a way that has never before been possible. We can live as we like and find a similar community online to share our lives with, find acceptance from, and explore what is possible.
The internet, along with many other factors, has created the space for what has been called our third nature. Steven Pinker explains it this way in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, “our third nature consists of a conscious reflection on these habits [motives that govern life and ingrained habits of a civilized society], in which we evaluate which aspects of a culture’s norms are worth adhering to and which have outlived their usefulness.”
This can be seen in the United States today with how quickly prohibitions against gay marriage and marijuana have been demolished. It can be seen in the demise of men’s suits. It can be seen when high school students turn the idea of a prom king or queen into a joke (or even turn prom itself into a joke). Across our culture we are deciding which formal traditions can be upended, and which should stick around. A major part of this is a major informalization across many aspects of our culture. It is leading to new possibilities, new opportunities for many, but also a great number of difficulties. Many people have trouble accepting the changes and the cultural stances which are sometimes quickly abandoned. While many have welcomed these changes, others have found them disconcerting. Hopefully, these changes will in the long run lead to a continued decrease in violence.