1. Stan Mail
What it is: Teens are messaging their favorite celebs with news about their lives, never expecting a reply.
Why it’s (maybe) not as weird as it sounds: Young people spoke to Mashable about their habits of direct messaging the stars, showing screenshots of these long-winded, one-way conversations. It’s not that different from the concept of fan mail, except that these missives can be immediate and near-constant. But the text chains can end up looking like journal entries as fans keep their faves “up-to-date” on everything. Maybe they’ll let a singer know how their songs got them through a hard time, or maybe they’ll send a long-winded voice memo to a reality star venting about family drama. One person interviewed who said they like to talk about their day via quickfire messages to their famous person of choice said they do it to get the sensation of telling someone, without actually having to tell someone.
2. Split Screen Sadness
What it is: An article in The Atlantic presents a unified theory of the teenage mental health crisis.
Why it raises some interesting questions: Culture writer Derek Thompson brings up some provocative ideas in this piece, even if they’re just theories at this point. He interviews mental health professionals who suggest that social media by itself doesn’t make teens depressed, but the things social media replaces can exacerbate loneliness. The things that build resilience, like after-school jobs, household responsibilities, exploring the world outside the home, and maintaining a close circle of friends seem to be disappearing from teen culture. At the same time that the internet is pushing teens to grow up faster, Thompson points out, parents are limiting teens’ independence to protect them from the dangers of a world that feels unimaginably unstable. Thompson doesn’t claim to be presenting a complete portrait of the bleak future teens feel they’re up against, but we’d suggest that there’s another crucial component at play. For teens who feel the weight of the spiritual world, an erosion of trust in faith and the church could be making teens feel they’ve got no trustworthy way to work out their questions of faith.
3. That Nagging Feeling
What it is: Warmer weather means the summer’s in view, which can also mean a season of nagging lies ahead. Vox has some ideas for how to more productively remind your kids to do things.
Why it’s the perfect time to get ahead of it: At the risk of every parent reading this letting out a huge “duh”: If you hear yourself nagging a lot, psychologists say, it means that the systems you have in place aren’t really working. The good news is that nagging is a symptom of normal problems, ones that often can be solved. Kids, particularly teenagers, can have difficulty noticing all that needs to be done in the home they occupy. They might not realize how their actions (or lack thereof) are affecting others. (Take the overflowing wastebaskets in the bathroom and stack of damp towels on the bedroom floor, for example). Teens can also feel tension when parents don’t include them in decisions about the household, especially if those decisions impact their free time or result in extra chores. You can avoid a summer of nagging by clarifying expectations beforehand via family meetings, and also by creating visual reminders and asking kids directly how they’d like to be reminded of their responsibilities.
Slang of the Week
My poor little meow meow: used to describe a celebrity or fictional character that’s earned a particular soft spot with the speaker, even if they don’t deserve it. (Ex: Whenever Loki gets hold of any power, death and destruction seems to follow, but my poor little meow meow just wants to prove to his dad that he’s as worthy as Thor.)
Translation: Stan Mail
In August of 1989, Depeche Mode released their song “Personal Jesus,” a cynical take on AT&T’s “Reach out and touch someone” campaign. In many ways, its lyrics promised exactly the sort of release that some fans are now finding from DM’ing their favorite celebrities and influencers: “Feeling unknown and you’re all alone / Flesh and bone by the telephone / Lift up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer / Take second best, put me to the test / Things on your chest you need to confess.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For some, these messages are obviously meant as a joke. But others Mashable interviewed are clearly looking for something more than a laugh. As one woman put it, “It’s a place where you can just vent and not have to worry about anyone reacting to you. No one is going to give you any unsolicited advice, and you don’t have to worry about what they’re gonna think or what they’re going to say. Because realistically, [Lady Gaga is] never going to read these, so it just feels safe for me to go in and say what I want to say and not have to worry about anyone else.” Another person said, “[I message Key from SHINee about] things I don’t actually want to talk about, but I want that sensation of telling someone and that I didn’t feel were appropriate to post about.” In other words, for some people, the motivation to send a DM like this comes out of a desire to have a place to be vulnerable and honest without the fear of rejection.
Do your teens know that prayer to our Heavenly Father is always the safest and best place for us to be vulnerable without fear of rejection? As Jesus puts it in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” There are rewards to confiding directly in our Father—but helping our teens experience these rewards requires cultivating an understanding that our Heavenly Father is not an abstract force, but an actual person who cares for us—and who is “able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.”
Here are some questions to spark conversation about this with your teens:
- Why do you think someone would DM a celebrity or influencers about their personal life?
- Have you ever sent a message like that? (No judgment!)
- What is your prayer life like these days?