1. Into the Spooniverse
What it is: An online community of young women who live with chronic pain, called “spoonies” drew attention this week for the ways they post about their illnesses online. #Spoonie has 867 million views on TikTok.
Why it’s something to have on your radar: Many “spoonies” are people who don’t appear to be physically sick. They take their name from Spoon Theory, a popular metaphor about living with a chronic condition that other people can’t see. Spoonies who post about their symptoms can get a lot of affirmation and attention. In private, some spoonies admit that they would rather have strong symptoms and the clout that comes with those symptoms than actually get better, reports Suzy Weiss for Common Sense. Authentic friendship and support groups can be and often are borne out of these types of posts. But parents and caregivers should be aware that these posts can become competitive as spoonies try to showcase their suffering in exaggerated ways.
2. Beast of Burger
What it is: YouTuber Mr. Beast launched the first brick-and-mortar location of his burger joint at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey.
Why it drew a crowd of 10,000 people: Imagine, if you will, the boy-band mall meet-and-greets of the 1980s and early 90s. For today’s teens, especially boys in middle grades and early high school, Mr. Beast and his crew are equivalent to that level of mega-celebrity. Getting even a glimpse of these YouTubers and Twitch streamers is equivalent to getting attention from a rockstar, and being one of the first to eat at this restaurant is a cool story to share with friends. For some background, Mr. Beast has 100 million subscribers. He is philanthropically-minded, and many of his videos center around giving out massive amounts of money to people through zany, elaborately-staged challenges. Let’s just say that sleeping on the floor of a mall for a burger is probably one of the milder acts of devotion when it comes to what these fans are willing to do.
3. Billion Dollar Ring
What it is: Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings of Power, debuted last week on Amazon Prime.
Why it’s got some negative attention: The Rings of Power drew 25 million viewers on the day of its premiere. Initial reviews from critics deemed the show—the most expensive show ever made—as meandering and meh. Some amateur reviews were less obliging, and the show was immediately review-bombed by fans unhappy with Amazon’s decision to diversify J.R.R. Tolkien’s original vision for his mythic elves, dwarves, and harfoots. As far as content goes, the show feels similar to the Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson and released in the early 2000s. The cinematography is stunning, and the script is what one might expect from a high fantasy where men fall out of the sky and war heroes sail across the sea into immortality. Three episodes are streaming now, with five more dropping weekly until October 14.
Song of the Week
“Tití Me Preguntó” by Bad Bunny: still orbiting the top of music charts alongside Bad Bunny’s other major hit “Me Porto Bonito,” this song is about having a lot of girlfriends, and swapping them out whenever he gets bored. Toward the end, Bunny says he wants to fall in love, but can’t, because he’s addicted to the novelty. The song is almost entirely in Spanish, and the title roughly translates to “Auntie asked me,” as in, “Auntie asked me if I have a lot of girlfriends.” For the (Spanish) lyrics, click here; for a video with Spanish and English side-by-side, click here.
Translation: Into the Spooniverse
A few months ago we were talking with some students about anxiety—how it’s a common issue and that getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Some of the students pointed out to us that we were actually a step behind. Mental health issues are now so widespread among Gen Z that in many circles, it’s abnormal to not have a mental health issue.
In other words, if the first phase was about normalizing illness—affirming that it’s okay not to be okay—the current phase is almost exactly the opposite. There’s a need now to normalize healthiness—to let the rising generation know that it’s also okay to be okay. This has been true for mental health for some time, and now may be becoming true for physical health.
The health issues that spoonies have are real. There are issues like multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, but also harder to diagnose issues that manifest differently in different people, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and endometriosis. Spoonies feel supported by their online communities where participants share symptoms and workarounds. But after poring over hundreds of spoonie accounts and groups, Suzy Weiss found (as reported in her Common Sense article) that “they seem to think of their pain as something to be combated—but also nurtured.” In the article she spotlights Morgan Cooper as an example, who found that when she posted pictures of herself looking sad, or holding pills, or in a wheelchair, she would get way more likes than when she posted pictures of herself looking happy and healthy.
When Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm,” it’s saying that we become like the ones we surround ourselves with. To be clear: people with health conditions aren’t fools for seeking support, and we shouldn’t lump them all together broadly. Our point is simply this: if someone’s social approval is linked to their (mental or physical) illness, how motivated will that person be to actually pursue health? Probably not very.
This is a complicated conversation that’s well worth having. Here are some questions to help get it going with your teens:
- What do you know about spoonies? Do you think there are any at your school?
- Do you know anyone who seems to almost brag about having mental health issues? What about physical health issues?
- Where’s the line between supporting someone who is sick and encouraging them to pursue health?