I think it's attention, people observe that by acting in certain ways, performing certain actions they are able to gain a slight amount of attention.
Now whilst this seems perfectable acceptable; humans beings are by very nature socialites who need to interact with other human beings often with one or a few being the central focal point of the interaction.
However what we have now developed is a state of attention seeking, and it doesn't matter (as The Simpsons so well points out) "...it doesn't matter if it's good attention for say geting good grades or bad attention for say turning Homer here into a jack in the box"
The problem is that the situation is not improving, at younger and younger ages our awareness of how nice getting attention feels is improving whilst at increasingly younger ages our capability to actually recieve that attention is being reduced (mainly by becoming isolated instead of interacting in a social enviroment)
This is the cause, the effect is the increasing disillusion and almost disrespect for society that we can currently see on a global scale.
Ultimatly people need to feel wanted and that's simply not happening in an age which is becoming increasingly reliant on individuals rather then communities.
Solutions to this problem would appear to be present in interaction over the internet, this is however not the answer and in many cases only adds to the disillusion, invoking additional problems of Paranoia and in more severe situations Schizotypal and Dependent personality problems.
Have things always been this way and more importantly can and should we fix this?
It's obvious that the problems have only become so severe in more recent times however they have been with us since the first hermit found a nice quiet cave to live in.
Can we fix this? Yes, it will not happen overnight or even possibly within this generation but a concerted effort to drive people into having to interact with each other (simply by knowing the names of your neighbours and if they drink tea or coffee may be enogth) would be a first step.
Should we fix this? Is our issolational behaviour merely a reflection of where we go next as human beings?
I don't know, but I hope not and I think that we should make efforts to start resolving this problem.
What's the worst thing that could happen? We get to know our next door neighbour that little bit better, and that's never a bad thing.