Youth, Trust and the Erosion of Civic Bonds

Check out this report from the Center for Social Media on the quiet but potentially significant growth of civic websites designed by and for the under-thirty crowd. The following lines from the 19-page executive summary touched on an issue that has been nagging at me alot; trust. A "continuing pattern of decline in interpersonal trust" has emerged in our society, with the youth generation displaying the least social trust. Asked if "most of the time, people are just looking out for themselves," fully 70 percent of people 15-25 years old agreed, compared to 59 percent of the Generation X'ers, 49 percent of Baby Boomers, and 40 percent of older adults. It would be interesting to know if the levels of distrust within a particular age bracket have been rising over, say, the past 50 years, or whether they have remained at least proportionately constant; i.e. the younger you are, the more you distrust people, no matter what era you live in. After all, the Gen Y crowd isn't the first to be cynical about people; anyone remember "Never trust anyone over thirty"?

If we really are witnessing an erosion of trust as a social capacity, particularly among the younger members of our society, what results can we expect? What aspects of public and private life shrivel away from the lack of trust? And -- the all important question -- how do we begin to rebuild trust at both the private and public levels? This is an issue I expect to come back to time and time again, because I am convinced that Christians are uniquely equipped to facilitate the restoration of civic bonds, trust being one of the most significant.


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