Maybe. Let’s talk about it. Recently, we looked at the relationship between selfies and self-centredness.

No disputing it is a serious relationship. But I honestly don’t know how much technology—as such—contributes to the innate human tendency to self-centredness. The folk song “It’s Hard to Be Humble” premiered in 1980, long before the Internet was the Biggest Thing on the Planet.

Maybe I just need more lines of evidence to be sure.

Meanwhile, a friend kindly writes to say that he stumbled on a whole contemporary pop culture phenomenon of nihilism, promoted in the fashion industry and in movies (In the Dust of This Planet). I’ve noticed it too.

The key problem in dealing with pop culture nihilism is that it is often dressed up as cool beliefs or hot beliefs or “other cultures’ beliefs,” therefore sacrosanct. That is, don’t be narrow-minded.

But are these really such cool beliefs? Such hot beliefs? “Other cultures’ beliefs”? Yes, the presenter is Glenn Beck, but listen anyway:

Here is all I know that is true: When my parents were young, people were not nearly so attracted to stories about vampires and robots and why we should all kill ourselves, except as monsters or bad ideas to be slain/replaced with better ideas.

Somehow, over the years, and I am not clear about all the reasons it happened, everything changed. Here are three changes I have noticed, to start:

1. Science came to be about “Your mind is just an illusion” rather than “The Americans have landed on the moon.” For science, that change matters a lot.

2. Art came to be about expressing oneself, not connecting with people, with this type of result (“Anders Tinsbo piece [supposedly famous great art] mistaken for construction rubbish”). That certainly would not have happened to Michelangelo’s David.

3. Education came to be dominated by concerns other than teaching students life skills—at the very time when life became more challenging.

Feels good has sure trumped works well. Wealthy Western countries have ended up scoring lower in rankings than comparatively poorer ones as a result. The main victims are the students, who waste years feeling good but not doing well, in an increasingly international marketplace.

I don’t have a big solution, but would definitely suggest thinking more carefully about pop culture. For example, why is abortion hot? Why is suicide cool? Why is every religious figure ridiculous—except the ones you could be killed for criticizing? Who makes these rules anyway? And how did they get to be rules for us?

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...