Some of The Altantic’s Most-Read Stories of 2022

Many of the stories our readers spent the most time with this year spoke to a desire for reflection—about the way we treat one another, our changing relationships with social media, and the meaning of democracy at home and abroad.

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Illustration by Nicolás Ortega. Source: "Turris Babel," Coenraet Decker, 1679.
Illustration by Nicolás Ortega. Source: Turris Babel, Coenraet Decker, 1679.

Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid, by Jonathan Haidt
Social media has dissolved the mortar of our society and made America stupid, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argued in our May 2022 issue. And it’s not just a phase.

torn strip of white paper with quote "We need to take away children" in black text on red background
Oliver Munday

An American Catastrophe, by Caitlin Dickerson
The story of the U.S. government’s family-separation policy is one of both cruelty and incompetence. Staff writer Caitlin Dickerson spent a year and a half investigating how it came to be, and who is responsible.

two "Best Friend" necklaces, each with half a heart, hanging side by side with all text except "End" crossed out
Oliver Munday

It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart, by Jennifer Senior
The older we get, the more we need our friends—and the harder it is to keep them. Staff writer Jennifer Senior asks: What does it take to keep a friendship thriving in middle age?

a man in a grocery store near the checkout lines in the early morning while the rest of the store is mostly empty
Max Mikulecky

The Nocturnals, by Faith Hill
While most people are fast asleep, some ultra-introverts are going about their lives, reveling in the quiet and solitude. They challenge a core assumption of psychology: that all humans need social connection. “I talked to people who painted me a magical picture of their nighttime world,” Faith Hill, an Atlantic senior associate editor, wrote in February. “Of exquisite, profound solitude; of relief; of escape.”

The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site, in southern Germany
Marc Wilson for The Atlantic

Monuments to the Unthinkable, by Clint Smith
Over the past year, staff writer Clint Smith traveled to Holocaust memorials in Berlin and at Dachau to examine how Germany remembers the Holocaust and what America can learn about memorializing the sins of its history. “The aim of some [memorials] is to educate the next generation and forge a sense of collective experience, while others are born of guilt,” he writes. Other monuments are intended to attract tourists. “The messy truth is that all of these ostensibly disparate motives can find a home in the same project.”

Illustration of three elderly people sitting on a large, elongated smiley face
Jan Buchczik

The Seven Habits That Lead to Happiness in Old Age, by Arthur C. Brooks
Your well-being is like a retirement account: The sooner you invest, the greater your returns will be, our happiness columnist advises.

an unsmiling black + white portrait of author facing a smiling portrait with illustrated colorful scribbles on black background
Illustration by Gabriela Pesqueira; photograph by Devin Christopher for The Atlantic

I Gave Myself Three Months to Change My Personality, by Olga Khazan
“I’ve never really liked my personality, and other people don’t like it either,” staff writer Olga Khazan admits in this article from our March 2022 issue. Here’s what happened when she attempted to change it.

Adam Tooze stands on Columbia University's Campus outdoors.
Brian Finke

A Crisis Historian Has Some Bad News for Us, by Annie Lowrey
“The revelation that Tooze is now putting forth is that we might not be emerging from crisis. Indeed, we might be in a worsening one,” staff writer Annie Lowrey wrote in July, in her profile of Adam Tooze, a historian of economic disaster. “Given that possibility, our most distinguished crisis historian finds himself very busy.”

Illustrations by Eric Yahnker
Illustration by Eric Yahnker

Why Is Marjorie Taylor Greene Like This?, by Elaina Plott Calabro
No one saw Marjorie Taylor Greene coming—not even Marjorie Taylor Greene. Staff writer Elaina Plott Calabro reports on the people and places that made the Georgia congresswoman, who was reelected to her seat in November.

Afghans camp near Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, on August 24, a week before Joe Biden’s declared deadline for the evacuation of allies. A U.S.-military C-17 transport aircraft takes off overhead. (Andrew Quilty / Agence VU’)
Andrew Quilty / Agence VU’

The Betrayal, by George Packer
Joe Biden didn’t prioritize the evacuation of Afghan allies in the run-up to America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, staff writer George Packer reported in our March issue. His months-long investigation revealed that the president allowed concerns about optics to get in the way of saving lives.

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