"Debt is like any other trap, easy enough to get into, but hard enough to get out of." — Henry Wheeler Shaw
Anne Helen Peterson has written about this, and I don't think I can articulate it well, but there's something at the intersection of economic precarity and belonging. In her book on millennial burnout, AHP writes about how a lot of Americans feel like (or literally are) one accident or illness or bit of bad luck away from catastrophe. This precarity leads to all sorts of consumerist behaviors that are geared toward performing belonging or feeling like one belongs in the "middle class" (again, AHP goes into depth on a lot of these) or that one has made it or that one can survive in the US. At the same time, there's a debt of actual belonging and, to the SoulCycle bit, a debt of meaning. Others have brought in issues around secularism too (hello from The Nearness and CtK's work) but I think that precarity itself is the signal. If we're all too busy churning, hustling, grinding in order to stay above water there's all sorts of debt happening beneath. Add in profound inequality, add in social media and performative belonging, and it's a rather good recipe for a feeling of "I can only belong if...". On the flip side, the pandemic has encouraged a lot of us to reject this hustle and grind so that might be a good thing? Of course we should ask *who* gets to reject the hustle and grind, and who doesn't.
I can't think of any stressor that affects as many people across as many demographics as debt does.