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NoSpace is the place to be, teens are connecting over the broken chain emoji, and romantic love is not (yet) dead. But first:

Slang of the Week: “Dusty”

“Dusty” can mean multiple things, but luckily, they all share the word’s original meaning: to be covered in dust. For many young people, the term has evolved to refer to someone who is maybe a little older or slightly out-of-touch. They’re “dusty” like a cup in the back of a cupboard that’s been forgotten. It also refers to someone who is past their prime or out of practice.

Three Big Conversations

1. Hyperlinked

What it is: An emoji depicting a broken link in a metal chain is taking on all kinds of new meanings.

Why it’s taking hold: The “broken chain” emoji was introduced across platforms about a year ago. Its depiction of one chain link failing in the middle of a sequence has proven to be surprisingly versatile shorthand for things breaking or coming apart. The emoji could be shorthand for exhaustion after a brain-breaking activity. It could refer to plans that had to be canceled. It could be a reference to a breakup, or to an infamous Fleetwood Mac performance. It could mean feeling like you, personally, are the weakest link and need some reassurance. When an emoji starts trending like this, its possibilities are (excuse us), unchained.

Continue the conversation: What is your favorite emoji?

2. There’s No Place like Noplace

What it is: A new social media platform called “noplace” is currently the most popular app on the Apple app store.

Why it’s attractive to Gen Z and Gen Alpha: The trend of nostalgia for the 2000s continues to grow, and MySpace and other early forms of social media might be the next vein to tap. Enter “noplace,” which seems to be trying to refocus on social connections instead of today’s social media, which leans heavily on being entertaining. Noplace gives users a customizable profile, a wall for friends to post on, and a feature where users highlight their “top ten friends.” While noplace can be used to connect with your friends you know in real life, it also encourages users to connect with strangers based on shared interests (i.e. anime or skincare). While this does hark back to a time before Instagram, many adults might remember how truly precarious that internet period was.

Continue the conversation: Do you ever wish you grew up in the early 2000s? Why or why not?

3. Love Lost

What it is: Freya India’s latest Substack, on Gen Z’s cynical relationship with romantic love, gives some illuminating (if not exactly hopeful) perspective.

Why it’s a great read: India gives myriad examples of how Gen Z is taught to think about “real” love,” arguing that the problem isn’t that they have high expectations for partnership—but that they have no expectations at all. She points out that they are a generation that calculates the ROI of every relationship, whose radio anthems preach the value of self-love over romance, whose algorithms are tuned to regurgitate therapy-speak from non-experts about trauma, attachment styles, red flags, and boundaries. The result is a generation who believe love to be a game, and a losing one at that. But for India, the idea that her entire generation could miss out on deep and lasting partnerships because of cynicism is tragic. “For anyone older who has found this type of [lasting] love,” she implores, “Please remind young people it’s real.”

Continue the conversation: Are you and your friends skeptical about real love?

Let’s go a little deeper on this one…

Actually, You Can’t Hold Your Own Hand

Freya India’s piece about how Gen Z sees relationships reminded us of Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Meditations in an Emergency,” In it, O’Hara declares, “I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.”

It’s a simple enough desire, but it would be impossible for any one person to fulfill, as the poet well knows. O’Hara then describes companionship as an essential part of what makes life worth living, despite the emotional turbulence he feels when a relationship doesn’t work out, writing, “Each time my heart is broken, it makes me feel more adventurous,” though he does note that one of these days, there will be nothing left of said heart “with which to venture forth.”

For O’Hara, loving recklessly was part of the point. But for many of today’s young people, who are encouraged to view every relationship as a transaction and to never, under any circumstances, end up on the losing end of the deal, loving recklessly is for losers.

Miley Cyrus won her first Grammy this year for her synth and strings-infused song, “Flowers,” which feels like her generation’s version of the disco classic, “I Will Survive.” But instead of echoing Gloria Gaynor’s proclamation that a willingness to love again will keep her alive, Cyrus nixes the necessity of being loved by someone else at all. Her lyrics insist that “I can love me better than you can” as she dances with herself in an LA mansion that, for all of its luxury, looks pretty lonely.

Like O’Hara, teens and young adults may ache for “boundless love”. But they may also feel uncertain that type of love is something they’ll ever get to have. It’s not wrong to want “boundless love.” In fact, we were made to long for it—but not from any earthly person.

God proclaims to His people in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” His love isn’t a game to win or lose. It is a well that never runs dry. And we know that this kind of love is real and accessible, because He showed us on the cross.

For a full “translation” of everything in this issue, check out our Monday Roundtable podcast. In the meantime, here are three questions to spark conversation with your teens:

Do you think teens are giving up on finding love? Why or why not?
Who do you know that is a good example of romantic love?
What is your favorite love story?

PS: This week we released a brand new video on True Crime. Check it out here!