1. Crying on Main
What it is: TikTokers are going viral with teary breakup posts.
Why it’s taking off: The impulse to document yourself crying in front of a camera might seem strange to adults—but for Gen Z, it’s just a part of the experience. Videos tagged #breakup have over 24 billion views. These posts aren’t just for internet clout, either (though we are sure that for some people, that’s part of the impulse to post). Content that portrays a low moment or intense emotion can be a way to reach across the internet abyss and feel connection and encouragement from others. For previous generations, writing in a journal was an acceptable way of documenting and processing things that felt big and hard. But for Gen Z, creating less private, more consumable content to process their lives is a natural outgrowth of their preferred mode of expression. Part of the way they experience the world is through making media about it, and heartbreak is no exception.
2. All Eyes On Mastodon
What it is: Users are leaving Twitter and flocking to an open-source competitor called Mastodon.
Why it’s a lot different: Mastodon appeals to Twitter’s users because of its steady, stream-of-consciousness vertical feed and free-for-all microblogging format. But Mastodon is decentralized, meaning that its source code can be adapted and repurposed by the tech-language-savvy. It also means Mastodon can never be owned by a tech magnate; hence the great migration from the bird app. Users who sign up for Mastodon accounts choose a “server” (based on an interest, like anime, or a region) that hosts their content. The content does appear in a feed, but it functions in a similar way to email or an old-school internet forum. Mastodon has attracted 500,000 new users in the past few weeks, doubling its reach and wracking some small-scale havoc on the platform, which was not equipped for the influx. As of this writing, Mastodon is also not equipped with the same content moderation tools that Twitter has, so parents should be aware that cyberbullying and abusive language can proliferate on the platform.
3. Party of None
What it is: In the US, Tuesday’s midterm election results saw Gen Z breaking hard for the Democratic party, with pundits wondering if these younger voters stunted the Republicans’ anticipated landslide.
Why it’s a lot to unpack: Some political observers believe that student loan forgiveness and concerns about abortion access brought the youth vote out in droves. This demographic bloc was the group most likely to vote Democrat, and that might have been enough to blunt the force of a strong red turnout. It’s important to understand that these statistics don’t necessarily mean that Gen Z is deeply dedicated to the Democratic party. Today’s young people are suspicious of institutions and looking for candidates that, from their perspective, represent idealism and empathy rather than towing the same-old party line. Talking about politics with your teens can be tricky, but it’s worth noting that today’s teens are voting based on their hope for a better world—even if that idealism means voting differently than their parents.
Song of the Week
“Rich Flex” by Drake, ft. 21 Savage: reaching #1 on Apple Music’s Top 100: USA chart, this four minute medley is about how much money, power, and sexual prowess Drake and 21 Savage have achieved. Over murky beats, the pair raps their way through various acronyms, numbers, and crass sexual remarks (some of which seem to be poking fun (language) at Megan Thee Stallion). “Rich Flex” is the first song on Drake’s new album with 21 Savage, titled Her Loss. For the lyrics to this song, click here (language).
Translation: Crying on Main
In the 13th century, the Persian poet Rumi wrote: “You left the ground and sky weeping, mind and soul full of grief. No one can take your place in existence or in absence.” In the 21st century, TikTok account @things_get_better_hub writes: “POV you find out you didn’t mean anything to him 💔” and posts it with a video of a girl starting to cry. Though the sentiments may be expressed differently, they are trying to convey a common and even unifying human experience: heartbreak.
Older generations may criticize Gen Z for the very public way they express their emotions, but these same older generations often looked to poets for a similar purpose. From T.S. Eliot to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to William Shakespeare to King David, poets have long held the honor and responsibility of expressing human emotion at its most raw. Now, with social media as the most powerful tool for the dissemination of content ever created, the practice of public emotional expression for the sake of community and relatability is something most teens will have done at least once in their lives. Teens might look to TikTok as a way to pour out their own feelings and connect with the feelings of others in the same way other generations might have picked up a volume of Keats in times of trouble—or perhaps even penned a few stanzas themselves.
Speaking of King David, no-one in Scripture was better at writing poetry about heartbreak and pain. Roughly half of the Psalms deal with the topic of lament. But David did not express his suffering and leave it where it was. He carried it to God, the only one who could take that pain, redeem it, and bring comfort. As Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God knows we will go through hard times, but He bids us not to go through them alone. And while creating community around grief can be good, nothing can truly make us whole like Jehovah-Rapha: the God who heals.
Questions to spark conversation with your teens:
- What do you do when you’re going through something painful?
- What are the benefits of being emotionally vulnerable on the internet? What are the potential drawbacks?
- How can we let God into the difficult parts of our lives so He can help us heal?