1. Mappiness Is
What it is: The “Mappiness Project” aimed to aggregate data from volunteers to determine which activities felt the happiest. They concluded that happiness is most often found in natural environments, like on hiking trails.
Why it’s being talked about: The conclusions from the Mappiness Project’s initial data set (which included 20,000 people) were published almost ten years ago. But a new book called Don’t Trust Your Gut, written by data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, drew on the project. In an interview with Vox, Stephens-Davidowitz points out that our gut instincts often lead us to spend our time scrolling social media or vegging on the couch watching television—activities that might seem fun but that don’t have a strong correlation with actual enjoyment or satisfaction. As Christians, it’s not surprising at all that spending time in the world God made is a shortcut to feeling peace and joy, but it is interesting to think about how our intuition doesn’t always lead us to our happiest places.
2. Character Building
What it is: Notion is a free app that can be used as a productivity tool or a journal. It’s especially popular on #studytok. Some TikTokers have been using Notion templates to hack their personal growth.
Why it is important: Some teens are hyper-focused on maximizing their progress toward what they see as their ideal self. Character-building templates like the ones available on Notion encourage this fixation, as individuals may spend hours painstakingly filling in the details of the person that they want to become. It’s worth mentioning that the idea of the “character sheet template” is taken from role-playing games in which the characters are fictional and the details as malleable as the player’s imaginations. In real life, working toward a deeper understanding of who God calls us to be can lead to growth, as well as frustration. Notion can be a great tool, and working to become better is a wonderful thing, but it’s important to communicate with teens that without a firm grasp on how badly we need grace, our efforts to become “better” are futile.
3. Twitched Out
What it is: Twitch announced that beginning in October, it will ban streams that feature unlicensed gambling websites.
Why it’s impacting the gaming community: This ban is a reaction to betting scams that have targeted Twitch users. Over the past few months, several big-name Twitch streamers expressed concern about gambling sponsorships on the platform and were threatening a boycott. Websites that host dice and roulette games, such as Stake.com, Rollbit.com, and Roobet.com are the main targets of this new policy. Twitch states in their announcement that these sites, in particular, operate without much oversight to protect consumers who are vulnerable to gambling addictions. The announcement also clarified that streams featuring sites that involve fantasy sports, poker, and sports betting will continue to be allowed.
Song of the Week
“Romantic Homicide” by d4vd: climbing 17 spots to #6 on Spotify’s Weekly Top Songs USA chart, this depressing guitar dirge is about imagining killing a lover, and feeling no pain or regret afterward. The song gives voice to some of the darkest feelings that can come with relationships—feelings of fear, disappointment, and pain. Although it’s unlikely that a song like this would lead to actual homicide, still, listen for it as a sign that your teen might be dealing with profound heartache. For the lyrics, click here; for the music video, click here.
Translation: Character Building
All of us are changing daily into different versions of ourselves. Teens are, from a physical and neurological standpoint, especially unfinished. While this may seem daunting to a teen, the better way to see it is that they are full to bursting with potential. Because of that, a lot of teens spend a good deal of mental and emotional energy trying to figure out who they want to be.
The Notion app offers a way to harness that energy and channel hopes and dreams into goals and plans. And while it’s a good thing to have a concrete vision of the future to return to when we feel we’ve lost our way, no amount of character sheet building or self-improvement template filling can beat Scripture when it comes to the questions: “Who am I now?” “Who should I become?” and “How do I get from here to there?”
The Bible certainly answers these questions many times over. But if we read the Bible like a checklist, we could be giving in again to the desire to have control over our lives; to use the Bible as a means toward control is to vastly miss its gifts. The Fruits of the Spirit are a perfect example. We can try to turn the characteristics of peace, patience, kindness and the rest into rigid disciplines if we want. We can even plug them into our Notion templates as part of our 1-year self improvement plan. But it would kind of be like dating someone to get really good at dating. While we might gain a new skill, we’d miss the point of dating in the first place, which is to get close to someone we really like and want to spend time around. When our first desire is to know God, we find ourselves growing because we know Him. We have peace because we are near to the source of peace; we are patient because He teaches us how to be patient; we show kindness because He was first kind to us.
By holding tight to the plans we make for our own lives, we miss out on the beauty of resting in God’s better plan. Matthew 6:31-33 says this: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” We can make a million plans but we cannot see the future. We have no idea what will happen, who we will meet, what we’ll be called to do. But God does. He knows and, more importantly, cares. Seek His heart and He will fulfill all His promises to us, from the ones which offer eternity, to the ones which offer something as simple as peace for a good night’s sleep. The more we know Him, the more we understand ourselves, and the more we become who we were meant to be.
Questions to spark conversation with your teens:
- What things do you wish you could plan for or change about the future?
- Do you think God has a plan for your life? Why or why not?
- How can you become who God wants you to be?