Social Media, American Culture, and Parenting

These comments from the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show reflected so powerfully my own thoughts on this issue that I am posting his monologue.

At some point when they grow older and mature, they have to get serious, and certain things have to be revered, including certain cultural things. There have to be “guardrails,” to borrow a term that I once saw on a Wall Street Journal editorial about just out-of-control pop culture. Morality, the sense of right and wrong, personal responsibility, all of those things are fundamental. Who teaches that? The schools are not.

RushSocialMedia2PIXSocial media is, of course, obliterating those concepts. It’s just exact opposite. The role is more important now than ever, and it’s really up to parents.


After a bunch of years of this, it’s gonna lead to some really psychologically messed up people. It is abnormal to start telling everybody everything about yourself, every moment of the day — where you are, where you’re going, when you’re gonna get there, when you’ve arrived, how long you’re gonna be there, and then when you’re leaving, what you think about this, when you’re wearing, all of this. This is not normal.

It’s all rooted in a desire for fame, and people associate fame with the Hollywood red carpet, and with fawning media coverage that actors and actresses get. People like Beyonce and Jay-Z and the Kardashians. They think that’s fame, and it’s gotta be really cool. So they start trying to do things to become famous or become notorious. I can’t put my finger on it yet, although I’ve got a little closer, and I actually think it’s gonna lead to some deeply rooted psychological problems, ’cause let me tell you one aspect of it.

This is primarily a cautionary tale to you parents out there whose youngsters are all over this social network stuff. There’s a downside to this that I don’t think a lot of people are thinking about. I used to have the same attitude about TV shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. What was that show? That show was basically (chuckles) telling you everything you’re not and never will be, and I think all this social network stuff is like that.

Social Media, the Hookup Culture — and the Insidious Quest for Fame

RUSH: As you know, ladies and gentlemen, I constantly use the phrase “on the cutting edge of societal evolution.” One of the things I mean by that is that if you are a regular listener to this program, in many cases, you will hear things discussed long before they reach the mainstream, long before they reach the popular culture. One of those areas that I have been — I don’t know if “warning” is correct, but at least I’ve been — highlighting, is the phenomenon of social media.

One of the things that always bothered me about it was the pop culture’s temptations. People, young kids are desperately wanting fame, doing anything they can to get noticed or to become famous, thinking that it’s glamorous, that it’s fun, that it will make them rich. It has, in fact, given rise to all kinds of gossip networks, television newspaper columns, you name it. Even though gossip’s been around for a long time, it’s now become mainstream.

Entertainment programs, starting actually with Entertainment Tonight and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, were programs that created an impression that if you became famous, that the world was your oyster. Everybody wants to be noticed and everybody wants their life to matter, and everybody wants to be cool, and everybody wants to be hip. So with the advent of social networks on computers and mobile devices, it became possible for young people to start connecting in any which way they wanted to.

It was a phenomenon I noticed many years ago. Young people were just giving up every bit of information about themselves they could. They were violating their own privacy, seeking fame, wanting everybody to know everything about them, publishing nude photos of themselves, lewd photos, you name it. As one that’s concerned about the overall culture, I happen to believe that a society’s culture is a harbinger of what kind of country you’re going to be.

Now, I’ve always had to avoid and be cognizant of the fact that as people grow older and then look at other generations, they think, “Oh, my God, this is horrible! It has never been this bad, this raunchy, this debauched. The country’s finished.” You have to avoid that because every generation looking at young people thinks that. So you have to be constantly vigilant that you don’t become an old fuddy-duddy when looking at these things. At the same time, you have to be honest about it.

I really am governed here by love as I do this show each and every day. When I say these things, I mean them. I want a great country. I want people happy. This has got to be a great country if we are to continue to provide the opportunity, both economic and spiritual, for freedom that this country has always provided, more so than any other country ever. A great country is only as great as its people, and at some point people have to get serious.

At some point when they grow older and mature, they have to get serious, and certain things have to be revered, including certain cultural things. There have to be “guardrails,” to borrow a term that I once saw on a Wall Street Journal editorial about just out-of-control pop culture. Morality, the sense of right and wrong, personal responsibility, all of those things are fundamental. Who teaches that? The schools are not.

Social media is, of course, obliterating those concepts. It’s just exact opposite. The role is more important now than ever, and it’s really up to parents. If you happen to believe, for example, that the culture is out of control, and if you would phrase it in a way to say, “The genie is out of the bottle,” how do you put the genie back in the bottle? You don’t. You never can put the genie back in the bottle.

But what you can do is start anew with a certain generation and try to raise them/educate them in ways that send them in different directions than the temptations that exist now. And they’re always there. I don’t want to be misunderstood. This kind of thing has gone on as long as the country has. But, however, there are factors now that exist that didn’t. I’ve always been… Without being able to put my finger on it, I’ve been worried about what is going to happen to people who just dive head first into this anything-goes, no-judgment culture where there is no more privacy.

There is no concern for it, and people just want everybody to know everything about them every minute of the day — what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, where they’re going, when they got there, how long they’re gonna be there, when they’re leaving. There are apps for such things for people’s mobile devices, and one of the things that has been around for a while (I first heard of it way back in the nineties) was the notion of “hooking up,” something that scared particularly mothers like crazy.

It’s just the notion of having meaningless sex — and not even for the sex, not even for the enjoyment. It’s just to say you’ve done it, just to be able to brag about it and so forth and taking meaning out of it. These kinds of things take place when you’re young, and as you get older and grow up, everybody looks back on things when they were younger. Some people get embarrassed. Some say, “Gee, I wish that didn’t happen. I wish nobody knew that.” That’s gonna be tougher and tougher for people to pull off. Because as young kids get exposed to all the social media, they’re telling everybody everything they’re doing.

I mean, we’re getting to the point now where I think it’s gonna be common that candidates for political office will have posted nude photos of themselves (or worse) on social websites.

Anthony Weiner — who, by the way, is gonna run for office again. He’s gonna run for mayor of New York, and you ought to see the New York Post. Their Web app, if you have an iPad and you get the New York Post… This is not on their website, and I don’t know that it’s in the newspaper. I don’t read newspapers. It may be in the printed edition, but I know it’s in the iPad version. There’s a column by Andrea Peyser on Weiner, who is the husband of Huma Weiner. Hillary’s Huma.

She just rakes him over the coals as most everybody’s doing, and then there’s a sidebar called “the Twitterati Response,” and it’s people on Twitter issuing comments about the potential reemergence of Weiner. It’s hilarious, some of these comments. I didn’t print it out. I’ll do it; I’ll share some of it with you. Well, the reception is all across the gamut. He’s getting a warm reception in some places. Everybody’s happy. “Weiner’s rising again!” All the typical things.

But the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is lamenting, “Oh, my God! Woe is us if this guy wins. Oh, it’s our bad if this guy wins.” Why is he saying that? Anthony Weiner is a perfect liberal. Anthony Weiner is an ideal liberal. He’s a combative liberal. He will take conservatives to the back alley and beat ’em up every day. If he hadn’t posted the nude photos of himself and his member to the babes, he’d be right in there. He’d be on the ladder cruising to the top of liberalism.

At any rate, this morning on Fox Martha MacCallum had a guest who has written a book about this phenomenon called hooking up, and the guest was Donna Freitas.  And I think that’s how she pronounces the name.  Her book is: “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.” And Martha MacCallum said, “Where do we go from here?  How does this affect, or does it affect these kids’ relationships as they go through life?”

FREITAS:  One of the things that I think we really need to talk about as a culture is what is the meaning of sex, given hookup culture.  You showed those words that students will use, “regretful” and “empty” and “ashamed,” you know, that 41% of students, you know, and how they respond to hooking up.  But there’s another middle group, about 30% of students, who are really ambivalent.  And I think that group is getting bigger because I think students are getting much better at hooking up, which means they’re getting better at having ambivalent sex.  The sex isn’t about fun or even really about pleasure.  It’s about getting it done and being able to say that you did it.

RUSH:  That’s right.  And that last part is the key.  Well, she went out there and she did surveys of these students.  She talked to the students, I guess. (interruption) Well, I don’t know, she did a book on it. She talked to the students and the students told her, and that’s what she based her book on.  Any, here’s what Martha MacCallum said in response it.

MACCALLUM:  That’s the whole thing, just documenting, ’cause we live in this media culture where it’s like, you know, the numbers and just doing something just to say you did it or to take pictures of the event and then put it out there online so you can prove to everybody that you’re having a great time.

FREITAS:  They’re getting better at hooking up.  You know, when they’re better at being able to walk away and say, “You know what, I don’t feel a thing. I don’t want to see that person again. It didn’t really mean anything to me.”

RUSH:  Now, this has been going on, this hookup business, for years, folks.  And it is meaningless, and it is just a belt notch.  But you know one of the most dangerous things about all this social media is?  And I think it’s gonna be a big challenge for anybody that has to deal with kids and young adults.  It’s not just this quest for fame and giving up all the privacy.  Most kids are insecure, it’s safe to say.  And when they read all of this social media, what they are really seeing is all the stuff they are not doing.  They see all the stuff other people are doing and they say, “I’m not doing all that,” and they’re gonna get inferiority complexes over this, which creates its own set of problems.  They’re gonna set out trying to fix this.  It’s a snowball effect.

RUSH:  I tell you, all this stuff is not good, folks.  Look at what feminism has done for women.  Look what feminism’s done for everybody.  It’s just confused everybody and made most people miserable.

RUSH: Now, I want to close the loop here on the hooking-up business, but for me it’s much more than that. The hooking up is just one characteristic of the phenomenon that’s happening. The hooking up business has been going on a long time. Tom Wolfe wrote a nonfiction book called Hooking Up in 2000. He said a lot of kids that are hooking up don’t know each other’s names. So it’s not just this babe that talked to the students, Snerdley. It’s Tom Wolfe. Are you gonna tell me Tom Wolfe doesn’t know what he’s talking about?

I do think that it’s a phenomenon. I don’t question that it’s happening. Look, Bill Clinton didn’t ask Monica her name ’til the sixth date. This hooking up can happen. It’s happened throughout. I know. The sixties, the free love and the free sex. But look what that begot us. That’s my whole point. I mean, we are living some of the trash that happened in the 1960s, and some of those people — many of them — assumed office, political office, high power in the Clinton years. It’s demonstrably problematic. There’s no question that it is.

The disintegrating values? The idea that the IRS, all these institutions can be used to intimidate political foes? That stuff has roots in the sixties. That’s actually a very good point about this. But I want to bring it down even more locally than that, and not just tie it to what happens when people end up into politics from this. I’m actually more concerned just about their lives in general. I’m telling you, this willingness that these kids have to just vomit everything about themselves to everybody and give up their privacy, and give up their anonymity…

It’s not so much just that; it’s why they’re doing it. This quest for fame, I’m telling you, it is insidious to me. It’s copycats. You know, fame by itself is how you get Kardashian. Now, people who become famous after having done something — a major achievement, major accomplishment — that’s one thing. But fame for its sake is a pursuit that is empty, and it’s endless, and it’s never satisfying. But the big problem with all of this social media in addition to the obvious, and I think one of the most dangerous things about it…

Look, I don’t have kids, but I’ve got nephews and nieces. More than that, I really do care. All of this concern for me is about country. When I tell you that I want a great country, I mean I want self-reliant, rugged individuals taking care of themselves and their families. That’s how you get Norman Rockwell communities and neighborhoods and towns. That’s how you get decency and respect and a common, valuable culture. I think that you have that crucially important.

Yeah, it may sound old-fashioned and it may sound like I want to go back to the fifties and the Donna Reed shows. No, no. That’s not what I’m talking about. The stuff I’m talking about is timeless, and these characteristics are the things that used to be commonly taught. Honor, valor, honesty, integrity. That’s all I’m talking about. It’s things like this that people laugh at today, but people are just willingly abandoning any hope, any chance of having those characteristics about themselves.


The debasement of the language is part of that; you see that now in prime time TV. The debasement of the language is happening really quickly. Taken in isolated chunks it isn’t any big deal. But the cumulative, year-after-year impact of this is not good for the country. That’s always been my concern. It’s my concern with politics: Its effect on the country and the people. The people of the country are what matter to me. Having the continued opportunity to do what they want, to fulfill their dreams.

Have the desires and dreams be things of importance and substance, rather than fleeting, fly-by-night things that really don’t offer any substantive satisfaction. It’s a real change for parents today, I would think. I’d think it would be a real challenge, especially for parents of young girls. I just think it would be an absolute nightmare out there today, constant concern, worry. You start talking about hooking up stuff, just one thing. But the biggest danger, I think — or one of the most dangerous things — about all this is not just this quest for fame and the giving up of all privacy.

daddaughter2CALLER: I heard your comments on social media, and I had to call in. You hit the nail on the head. These kids have no idea what they’re giving up in way of their privacy when you put this stuff out there. I’m actually the director of the IT department for a manufacturing group. So I’ve done a… I thought I did a good job at educating my kids. I have four kids: Two girls, two boys. The girls being the oldest. One’s a teenager, and she dabbled in social media.

She kinda went around my back a little bit to dabble in it, and when I found out, I showed her with just her e-mail address all the information I can pull up — on her Vines account, her Instagram, her — and I said, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

These days kids don’t know what they’re giving up, and I think what’s worse is the parents don’t know what their kids are doing or what their kids are giving up. And we’re doing a terrible job in the schools. They’re not educating kids.

RUSH:  Well, that’s another aspect because the kids are so far ahead of parents on what you can do online.  Parents have no concept.

CALLER:  No.  And Facebook, I know a lot of the teenage kids today, they don’t want Facebook ’cause mom and dad are on it.  So they’re finding other things, and my only advice to parents is, “Know what your kids are doing. Talk to them about it.”  You know, I use the stuff.  I like social media for its positive aspects.  But Rush, you and I know, you can take the best tool in the world that’s made for good purposes, and turn it for evil things.  And that’s what happens with the social media sites.

RUSH:  That’s a good point.  I’m not preaching.  I don’t want anybody to think I’m preaching, and I don’t want anybody inferring that I think this stuff should be shut down.  Far from it.  That’s not at all a possible solution, not even something I contemplate.  It’s a reality that has to be dealt with.  You’re right, it’s a challenge for parents in raising kids.  It just gets harder and harder to do.  There are just more and more distractions. More temptations, and do what you can to provide a solid moral foundation.  And after a certain point, you’re done. There’s not much you can do, and then, it’s true, people have to live. They have to live their lives. They have to make mistakes to learn from ’em, and you hope that the foundation you gave ’em is sufficient that when they do screw up, have embarrassing things happen or whatever, that there is a foundation from which they can learn from it and not repeat it.


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