1. What TikTok Did
What it is: The legacy of TikTok may be the total implosion of social media—or at least a marked, permanent difference in the way people use it, argues Kate Lindsay in The Guardian.
Why it’s worth reading: Like many other tech observers, Lindsay traces the success of TikTok to the way it leverages its proprietary algorithm. But she also connects the rise of TikTok to a permanent shift in the social media landscape. Facebook and Instagram tried to duplicate TikTok’s ability to capture and max out users’ attention—but by using this strategy, the tech giants diluted their own appeal. Facebook, once “a place for friends,” will now recommend posts from strangers. Instagram will hide posts from accounts with fewer followers and highlight sponsored reels made by influencers. It’s contributing to another phenomenon, called “ghost watching,” where thousands of users passively consume social media content and nobody who isn’t an influencer already wants to post anything on Meta-owned apps. (If you missed our 7 Minute Video on Meta’s newest app, Threads, check it out here.)
Start the conversation: Have you heard of the term “ghost watching”? How often would you say that describes how you use social media?
2. Rage Against the PR Machine
What it is: Last week, singer Joe Jonas filed for divorce from a Gen Z favorite, actress Sophie Turner. Early news reports were suspiciously quick to suggest the marriage ended because Turner was irresponsible and a bad parent. But the internet actually took Turner’s side.
Why it’s more than celebrity gossip: For decades, celebrities have been able to control their public persona through paid professional spokespeople and PR agencies. But an entire counterculture of social media influencers have emerged, and they are devoted to “debunking” this type of spin. They teach their viewers how to spot the tells of PR-planted stories and planned paparazzi walks. In this case, said influencers went deep into the archives of talk shows and interviews with Turner to provide “receipts” that suggest a dedicated smear campaign against her. If there ever really was an engineered hit on Turner’s reputation, it completely backfired on whoever planned it. It’s an example of how being truly “in the know” on today’s most famous people requires a level of media savvy that past fans would never dream of.
Start the conversation: Is it wrong to gossip about the private lives of celebrities?
3. Not So Fast
What it is: Newly published data from the Pew Research Center suggests that the majority of Americans see job satisfaction and close friends—not marriage and family—as the essential elements of a fulfilling life.
What we know about it: Getting married and starting a family with children have been long viewed as the hallmarks of reaching adulthood. But today’s young people see marriage and kids as things that need to wait until they feel financially secure. If they don’t become financially stable, they may even pause on marriage and family indefinitely. (In a different survey published by ChangeResearch this week, only 37% of younger adults said they felt confident they would ever have enough money to have kids at all.) Pew’s data showed that making a lot of money is more valuable to people of all ages than it used to be, but particularly among young people. Their data report states, “Younger adults (ages 18 to 29) are more likely than other age groups to say having a lot of money is extremely or very important for a fulfilling life: 35% say this, compared with about one-in-four or fewer among older age groups.”
Start the conversation: Is there a “right” amount of money a person should have to get married and support children?
Song of the Week
“bad idea, right?” by Olivia Rodrigo: Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album “GUTS” is out in the world, and its second single “bad idea right?” is currently sitting at #2 on the Spotify USA Top 50 and #5 on the Apple Music USA Top 100. The lyrics describe a scenario where Rodrigo is questioning whether or not to see an ex late at night. Her better judgments are being drowned out by what she names as loneliness and sexual desire. (Yeah, it’s probably a bad idea.) These sort of lyrics mark a shift for Rodrigo, who, despite being pretty explicit in terms of language, often avoided more sexual lyrics in her previous album, “SOUR.” “bad idea, right?” is par for the course musically, with her signature blend of fast rhythms, guitar-forward melodies, and a callback to some of the female-driven pop-punk and grunge of the 90s. For lyrics, click here (language).
If there is a level playing field created by social media, it might be in the equal opportunity for ruin. It seems impossible to make it big, but it’s not hard to make someone small. The average user is aware of this, so ditching any attempt to compete with the who’s who of the algorithm in favor of “ghost watching” is the lowest-risk way to engage.
In a culture like this, where many of us default to thinking of our interactions in terms of risk versus reward, it’s no wonder that young people seek fulfillment in work and friends over marriage and children. To an extent, our jobs and social circles can feel like they are under our control. In contrast, a spouse and a family can come to seem like going all in on uncertain odds. Social media has taught us to fly under the radar and stay on our toes, but starting a family demands the highest levels of vulnerability and commitment. To some young adults, it can feel easier to accept a life that seems “happy enough” than to risk exposure to high-stakes failure in our relationships.
Mark 10 recounts the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus how to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says the man has to give up his wealth, and the man leaves because he won’t. Before Jesus answers, though, Mark tells us that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus saw the man for who he was, and saw that he was lost. Jesus didn’t want poverty for him, but real satisfaction. The man left because he couldn’t accept that finding ultimate security in his wealth and fulfillment in Jesus’ love were mutually exclusive.
Our culture is one of isolation and uncertainty. Jesus offers us certainty and relationship, but it can’t be on our own terms. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving up financial stability to have a family, but it does mean laying our desire to be comfortable at Jesus’ feet and taking what He gives us in return. When we come to him in need, He looks at us and loves us. We can trust whatever happens next.
Here are some questions to open up conversation with your teens:
- How do you think social media has changed the way we invest in one another?
- Do you ever stop yourself from taking risks in your relationships? Why?
- What kinds of risks do you think Jesus asks his followers to take? Why would someone risk something for Jesus’ love?