I come from a culture (Southern Ontarian) where people have always been fairly non-confrontational, and much politer to your face than they are behind your back. In my house, we debated frequently, discussed passionately, and poked fun at each other with heavy sarcasm. When I had friends over, it occasionally had to be explained that we weren't angry at each other; that's just how we talked. Some people got it; others did not.
When it came down to it though, people didn't seem emotionally wounded by opinionatedness whether they appreciated it or not. If you could ever manage to get people fired up, you could have controversial debates, and they would end due to apathy, exhaustion, or )in freak occurrences) agreement. Come the next day, no one was crying over it. No one was de-friending you over a single exchange.
I feel like that's slipping away. We're becoming agreeable for the sake of being agreeable. Conversations become these circle jerks in which every statement has to be prefaced with a thousand 'while I respect your opinion...' type statements. Failure to do so will see you cast off as an angry troll. Being an ass is tolerated, but telling someone they are an ass is confrontational and inappropriate.
The culture that has shifted the most in my eyes is the Americans. Keep in mind that this is going to be very broadly generalized, but my experience growing up (let's say about fifteen years ago) was that many parts of America exercised an almost unfiltered and unapologetic manner of speaking. No matter how strongly I disagreed with a person's position, I could at least be thankful for knowing where they stood.
Now I don't encounter that much anymore. I encounter more people who can be brutally loud when they have absolutely nothing to say, but when it comes down to arguing issues, it immediately becomes emotional. You are clearly attacking not only their ideas, but also them as a person. You are clearly angry and full of hate. You are clearly a bigot who is "persecuting" them.
Certainly, my interactions with Canadians, Americans, or any particular group are far from statistically significant, and my memories of how things were in the (not so) old days are probably skewed. That's why I'm asking the question here.
Who are you calling thin skinned? This offends me greatly!
Suck it up, Americano!
I knew it!
I really hope we're not terminal. We're such a young nation.
I'd say I agree with Jim (no surprise). But that is the thing. I don't believe that we are more or less thin skinned (well, maybe less). I think that individuals are less geographically isolated from ideas and cultural differences. This cause people to encounter other ideas and people more often than what has likely ever been the case. From air travel to the internet, we have increased the size of our melting pot while making it easier to abrade against many more ideas that differ from what we know locally.
And after typing this, I see Kris makes a similar point. Bah!
I suspect humans have always been thin-skinned. My extensive reading of history taught me that. Christians, because their idiocy has not been much mocked and scorned here (the Corporate States of Amerikkka), are especially prone to taking offense, Screw 'em, say I.
Oh yes, especially minorities and women (who are actually a majority often treated like a minority). It's become so easy to unintentionally offend people who are actually looking to be offended.
Just today I was riding my bike to an appointment across the river. The gates went down to prevent traffic from using the bridge while it went up to let a boat pass under it. Another rider took it personally and was giving the finger to the bridge operator. WTF!
In a somewhat related way, people (some of them here!) hide behind the anonymity of their handles and icons to be abusive in a way that might get them punched in the chops in a more personal real-life situation. They are probably cowards in everyday life.