Five Golden … Themes!

The Top Articles of 2022

Todd Brewer / 12.23.22

Instead of the usual weekender, today we offer something of a year-ender, 2022’s five golden (or not-so-golden) recurring themes we here at Mockingbird have observed throughout the year. Parsing through all the articles featured this year, several topics we couldn’t get enough of rise to the top of the ledger.

1. Parenting Predicaments — If you’re in need of new parenting tricks to get your kids to not ruin their lives, then this was the year for you. The last time I say this many parenting articles rise to the top of my feed we were debating the merits of being a “Tiger Mom.” I imagine the resurgent interest in the topic has something to do with being stuck at home with our kids in 2020. That, and the widespread distrust of how we were raised by our own parents can make the whole enterprise feel like an unproven social experiment. If we weren’t looking for parenting advice, then we at least wanted a sympathetic ear who understood the highs and lows.

In humor: “I LIVED IT: I Agreed with the Teenager’s Parents in a Coming of Age Movie” and “A Boat Surrounded by Sharks Is a Childcare Option I’m Seriously Considering

2. The Chase for Digital Hearts — Who’d have thought Elon Musk would become such a flashpoint in the culture wars this year? The articles about social media were so ubiquitous this year that we had to put a mild embargo on the topic simply to give space for other issues. This year, a broad consensus seems to have emerged. Social media was a terrible innovation that’s made the world worse. Not that anyone is ever going to actually log off of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram …

See also: “Unfortunately We Can’t Hire You After Seeing That 2010 Photo of You Drinking a Beer When You Were Sixteen

3. Forgiveness Has a Moment — We’re always on the lookout for articles on grace and forgiveness. It’s sort of our thing. But this year, forgiveness became something of a phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the (necessary) chastening of some of the excesses of cancel culture. Or maybe a rudderless post-Christian society is finally grappling with its Christian inheritance in productive ways.

Either way, it was a welcome development all the same. Because in the tool box of Christian ideas, forgiveness is the only one that can’t be sentimentalized or emptied of its meaning. If “Grace” often becomes a synonym for niceness and “love” — even unconditional love — can have very few concrete implications, forgiveness puts a finer point on

4. Will the Doctor See You Now? — It was bound to happen at some point. The backlash to the mental health boom in previous years finally arrived. Understandably so, really, I can’t think of anything else that so rapidly moved from stigma to taboo to righteousness. Leave it to humans to take something good and turn it into its opposite.

The issue, to my mind, isn’t whether everyone should go to therapy (how could anyone know the answer to that in advance?). The real question at stake here is what therapy is actually for? Is it meant to lighten the weight of normal, everyday suffering? Or is therapy best utilized for acute, diagnosable illnesses? Or is it something in between and we should just be happy anyone goes to therapy? You got me, but this isn’t the last we’ve heard from this debate.

And, “New research shows the thing you’re doing to cope with your depression is the cause of your depression.”

5. Self-Care Your Way to Serenity — Short of going to therapy, everyone seems to have their own ideas for how to make life more bearable. Usually for a price, of course — and no small amount of effort. Set boundaries, have a little “me time,” get a Theragun! … whatever it takes to move the needle toward a bit more happiness. Lots of places publish the standard “how-to” articles or employ a regular advice columnist. But maybe — just maybe — we’re beginning to realize the limits of self-help?

On the lighter side: “Mattel Introduces New Barbie Whose Whole Thing Is Setting Boundaries.”


The above tabulation, as I see it, is also something of a social experiment. A barometer of sorts for where we are now. When you siphon off all of the political drama that consumes so much of cultural discourse, what remains? When you set aside the partisan rancor, the propaganda intended to make you angry or afraid, and the urgent vitriol of the 24/7 news cycle, you’re left with the issues and concerns that more directly reflect daily life.

Add it all up together and the patterns become tiles in a broader mosaic. Assembling the pieces, the picture that emerges is a little bleak, in the same way that most diagnoses can appear. It seems that everyone is struggling to stay afloat with very limited resourced. The optimistic, upwardly mobile ambitions of yesteryear seem long gone at this point. We’re all just looking for help from anything we can find.


Stray Themes:

The Home Office Backlash. Hybrid and full time work from home arrangements became more of the norm for white collar work, but we’re still figuring out what that means. The pandemic grace period is unofficially over, so distrustful companies and bosses have utilized out new ways to monitor their workers. Unsurprisingly, this had the opposite effect, giving rise to what one writer deemed “performative work.”

See also: “Tom Brady Spends First Day Of Retirement Studying Tape Of People To Learn How They Work

Everything Nick Cave. The man was on an inspired run this year in his Red Hand Files. Easily the most-quoted author this year, we’ve been more than happy to have led the Nick Cave bandwagon. We featured him here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

And Cave’s reflection on the meaning of Christmas is well worth your time.

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One response to “Five Golden … Themes!”

  1. […] as it has some interesting commentary on our culture today.  I especially like how it highlights “5 golden themes” for this […]

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