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1. The Muskiverse of Madness

What it is: Twitter has become a source of entertainment for all the wrong reasons as trolls seek to expose the cracks in changes implemented by its new CEO, Elon Musk.
Why it’s attracting a lot of negative attention: Musk declared that under his leadership, Twitter must become “the most accurate place in the world for information.” The internet has taken this as a challenge to make Twitter less trustworthy than ever before. For example, Twitter implemented a verification badge program that allowed users to pay $8 to opt in to its coveted “blue-check” status. This program was immediately hijacked, with users verifying their accounts before changing their names to impersonate public figures and publicly traded companies. This activity had wide-ranging repercussions as stocks (including Twitter’s own) plummeted. Even young people who never cared about Twitter before might be watching as the platform experiences what some are calling growing pains and others are calling its death throes.

2. Survey Says

What it is: The Pew Research Center has released new data on how teens say social media strengthens their friendships.
Why there are some caveats: As caring adults, it is worth understanding that social media doesn’t make all teens feel terrible all the time. For some, it is a source of joy and connection. Eight in ten teens surveyed say that their social media makes them feel more connected with what’s going on in their friends’ lives, and a majority also said that social media makes them feel more accepted. These numbers held across a number of different demographics. Still, three in ten said that social media sometimes made them feel left out. Teen girls were more likely than teen boys to say social media caused them distress, including getting overwhelmed by online drama and feeling worse about their own lives. Every teen’s response to these questions will be different, so it’s worth taking this survey as a take-home assignment to ask your own teens how they might answer.

3. A New Line of Questioning

What it is: A book excerpt in the Atlantic encourages families to chat with elder members about what history has looked like through their eyes.
Why it’s essential: At Axis, we’re always supporting parents by providing conversation starters geared at teens. But as we gather with older relatives for the upcoming holidays, it’s worth thinking about turning the tables a bit and encouraging young people to ask their relatives about their experiences. The Atlantic recommends simple questions about what they could see through their windows growing up, what they spent their summers doing throughout their childhood, and what they learned from their first jobs. These questions can make a grandparent or senior adult feel seen, valued, and cared for. When it comes to better understanding the past, what better place to start than with a loved one who was there? Conversations like these prevent history from being lost to time, and give us all a new perspective on our current moment.

Song of the Week

“Major Distribution” by Drake and 21 Savage, ft. Lil Yachty: as the second song on the album Her Loss and the second most popular song on Billboard and Spotify, “Major Distribution” is a strange blend of piano, profanity, and pop culture references. The chorus is just Drake muttering the phrase “Go stupid” over and over. As of this writing, the song had 49,927,188 plays on Spotify alone. It might be worth asking your teens why they think the song and album are getting so much attention. Is it because of the rappers’ name recognition, because people genuinely like it, or just because it’s what everyone else seems to be listening to? For the song’s lyrics, click here (language).

Translation: Survey Says

According to Pew’s survey (which included 1,316 U.S. teens ages 13 to 17), 32% said social media’s effect on their lives has been mostly positive, only 9% said it has been mostly negative, and 59% said its impact has been neutral. For some parents and caring adults, this may seem hard to believe. (It’s a little hard for us to believe too.) A first reaction might be, “So now teens can’t even tell what’s positive and what’s negative?”

But we should let this be an opportunity to ask questions and try to understand. If social media has truly become a mostly positive experience for the rising generation, we should celebrate that, and thank God for it.

Part of the complexity is that when one teen says “social media,” they mean BeReal; when another says “social media,” they mean Instagram. The structure and experience of these platforms can differ vastly. Still, in section 3 of Pew’s survey, apps like TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram were all mentioned by teens in neutral to positive terms. Perhaps the overall experience of these platforms truly is changing for the better—or perhaps many teens have simply learned to adapt to their hazards.

Of course, even if every bad side effect could be completely mitigated, it would still be possible to have too much of a good thing. As Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend write in their book Boundaries, “The Bible and all of psychological research affirm an important reality about healthy, fulfilled, happy people: they have something called ‘self-control.’ Galatians 5 tells us that it is a fruit of the Spirit, and we are called to develop it.” It remains possible to use social media in compulsive, absent-minded ways—or in deliberate, purposeful ways. Whatever this survey might reveal about social media usage in your teens, wisdom principles like these can still make all the difference.

We recommend familiarizing yourself with the study. As always, here are some questions to spark conversation with the teens in your life:

  • Are you surprised that more teens in this survey said they see social media as positive rather than negative? Why or why not? What would your answer be?
  • What do you think they mean by “positive”? What makes something positive?
  • What’s one thing you wish more adults understood about social media?