1. Gas Lit
What it is: An app called Gas lets teens send anonymous compliments to one another, and, despite not being available nationwide, it’s become the most popular offering in the Apple store.
Why it’s so popular with high schoolers: Gas is from one of the same developers behind the TBH (To Be Honest) app, which was also incredibly popular before Meta—then known as Facebook—bought it and shut it down. Gas asks users to assign their friends superlatives like you might find in a yearbook, like “person most likely to make you laugh” or “most easygoing in a stressful situation.” It then presents a list of the user’s friends to choose from in a multiple choice poll. The quick and easy format makes the poll questions addictive, and the pre-written questions remove, theoretically, avenues for bullying and abuse. We can imagine, though, that users who are voting for others but aren’t getting awarded any superlatives themselves might start to feel unseen.
2. The Adulting Bucket List
What it is: An article in Vox lays out an elementary guide to basic skills young people should know before they move out of their parent’s home.
Why it’s a starting point: The advice in this piece is so basic, it’s hard to believe that anyone would really need it. What’s more revealing here are the statistics mentioned in the article: 81 percent of recent college grads surveyed said that they wish they learned more life skills during their education. In another survey, Gen Z was the most likely demographic to not know how much they spent in the last month. Figuring out the skills your children are going to need if they are to live independently and contribute to a household of their own sets them up for early success, but it takes intentional conversation to figure out those knowledge gaps and address them. Your best bet is probably to ask teens to make a list of skills they want to learn and things they are nervous about doing on their own.
What it is: eBay will no longer allow customers to purchase Halloween costumes that portray serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, a decision that reflects the culture’s complicated relationship with true crime content.
Why it’s a cultural insight: A dramatization of Dahmer’s life and crimes recently surpassed Netflix’s record for its most-watched series, a distinction previously held by Squid Game. And an adult might reason that if a young person were to aim for a creepy costume in 2022, Dahmer would be the obvious choice. After all, there is little more unsettling than an individual who was convicted of cannibalizing his victims. But for young people, dressing as Dahmer would be siding with the wrong team. The show attracted controversy for humanizing Dahmer and retraumatizing living family members of those he killed. To Gen Z, a serial killer who inhabits recent cultural memory is nothing to laugh about. Posting about not dressing up as Jeffrey Dahmer became a meme in and of itself, although not quite as popular as the “check your kids’ Halloween candy this year, I found a [random item] in mine” format.
Song of the Week
“Forever” by Lil Baby, featuring Fridayy: although not technically a single from his new album It’s Only Me, this vibey croon was the #1 most popular song in the US on Apple Music this week. Although it sounds like the sort of song that might play in a movie after someone dies, the lyrics are (somewhat predictably) about Lil Baby’s desire to meet up with a woman who has already been unfaithful for him in her current relationship. As of this writing, all 23 of the songs from Lil Baby’s new album were trending in the top 30; this song, like the rest, contains profanity and explicit references. For the lyrics, click here.
On a recent episode of our Culture Translator Roundtable, we discussed why serial killer documentaries like Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story have become so popular. One of our conclusions was that watching true crime documentaries can provide an affirmation of our own normalcy; compared to people like Dahmer, we may seem very normal and healthy and even virtuous to ourselves.
Other viewers may just be fascinated by evil—and well-edited media tends to make whatever is being portrayed into something fascinating. But as the French philosopher Simone Weil once put it, imaginative representations can be deceptive: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is always gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” In other words, imaginative representations of evil can seem exotic and exciting, while the reality is far from it; imaginative representations of good can seem boring and uninspired—but the reality is that goodness makes life worth living.
eBay’s ban of Jeffrey Dahmer costumes may be well-intentioned, but it ultimately feels like patching a symptom rather than getting anywhere close to the heart of the issue. While there are lots of conversations that could be had around the Dahmer controversy, here are what we see as three of the biggest:
- Why do you think people are so fascinated with true crime documentaries?
- Would you rather watch something that inspired you to be better, that affirmed you where you were, or that made you feel better than someone else? Why?
- Do you think eBay was right to ban Jeffrey Dahmer costumes from their store?