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1. Wishposting

What it is: Young people are sharing their holiday wish lists via TikTok under #christmaswishlist2022. 
Why these aren’t your typical letters to Santa: These elaborate wish lists aren’t the hand-scrawled hopes and dreams of yore. Gen Z presents their consumer fever dreams via business-like slide decks, with festive music playing in the background of their meticulously edited posts. Teens don’t seem to care too much about actually receiving their entire posted list; in some cases these seem to be just a list of products that the poster would be pleased to own at some point in the future. It’s a list of stuff they think would be cool to have, not necessarily a comprehensive list of things they think they will actually receive. Luxe beauty brands like Glossier and Dior, hair products made by Dyson and Olaplex, Ugg boots and upscale activewear all seem to have staying power in Gen Z’s hearts. There is also some level of competition present in this genre of posts; once Christmas is over, TikToks that showcase holiday “hauls” encourage users to show off what they got.

2. Big Liver Lies

What it is: A bodybuilding influencer known as the “Liver King” who advocates for an animal-based diet admitted that his muscular physique was actually due to steroid use.
Why it’s having a ripple effect: Fitness fans may refer to steroid use as being “on gear,” and one look at Liver King’s content suggests to the casual observer that… yeah, he’s doing that. However, disillusioned fans of Liver King are still upset at what now seems like an obvious con. The Liver King is just one of several fitness influencers who have lauded the benefit of eating organ meats and pursuing what they call “ancestral” eating habits. He called himself a “modern cave man” and sold a brand of products meant to supplement a meat-based diet. When another fitness YouTuber called MorePlatesMoreDates revealed the Liver King’s real fitness regimen, he wasn’t just using steroids—he was spending $11,000 a month on the habit. As many suspected, the average person just can’t achieve the loaded physique of these influencers without some level of steroid assistance. As for Liver King, he says he is “as sorry as a man can be” but also believes that his fitness brand would have been successful whether or not he did steroids.

3. Pilkmas Is Here

What it is: Lindsay Lohan created a viral trend in a Pepsi ad where she is featured drinking a concoction of Pepsi and milk—a drink known as pilk.
Why it’s a marketer’s dream: Whoever signed Lindsay Lohan up to dress in a Santa-inspired costume and mix some pilk together definitely knew what they were doing.  Even before Lohan’s ad debuted, the combination of Pepsi and milk has been trending on TikTok as “dirty soda” and has over 58 million views. Lohan serves the beverage up with some vocal fry and a few snippets of suggestive dialogue and viola!, a TikTok trend has reached the mainstream consciousness. Food writers say that pilk is actually kind of good, with some pointing out that people have been pairing soda with dairy for some time. Whether pilk and cookies will have some staying power or go the way of other TikTok trends, like pink sauce and mustard-smeared watermelon, is a question for 2023.

Song of the Week

“Creepin’” by Metro Boomin, ft. The Weeknd and 21 Savage: We interrupt this month’s Christmas programming for a depressing song about infidelity. Reaching #1 on Spotify, #5 on Billboard, and #5 on Apple Music, the song “Creepin’” is about trying to maintain denial when you think your partner is cheating on you. The song interpolates a 2004 Mario Winans track, with the key lyrics being, “I don’t wanna know / If you’re playing me, keep it on the low / ‘Cause my heart can’t take it anymore.” This song, like all the rest on Metro Boomin’s new album HEROES & VILLAINS, has been given an explicit rating. For the lyrics, click here. 

Translation: Big Liver Lies

Whether or not your teens have paid attention to The Liver King, the falsification of his physique is only one symptom of a much larger, culture-wide issue. Whether we’re talking about steroids or something like Photoshop, the normalization of false body ideals has contributed to body-shame issues in the rising generation. In some cases, it can even lead to body dysmorphic disorder.

As the mental health nonprofit Mental Health America puts it, “While social media may not cause body dysmorphic disorder, it may act as a trigger in those already genetically predisposed to the disorder, or it could worsen existing symptoms. For example, teenagers are particularly prone to developing BDD, and if ‘ideals’ of appearance are presented to them through social media, this can trigger their development of the illness.”

Much of the “body positivity” movement has tended to focus on the way unrealistic images of women’s bodies can cause comparison and self-worth issues for young women. But the same issue can also be relevant for young men. It’s not hard to imagine a young man seeing someone like The Liver King, and thinking, “If that’s what a man looks like, then what am I?”

Even apart from issues around steroids and Photoshop, it can be easy to forget that fitness influencers and models are often making a living out of looking the way they do. Maintaining an impressive physique is their entire job, so of course they’re going to be better at it than the rest of us. Healthy role models do exist and can promote sustainable habits and positive body image—but unfortunately, they often seem to get less attention online and in the media.

As Christians, we know that God cares about bodies. When the Apostle John wrote, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” he was specifically critiquing the heresy of gnosticism, which teaches that our bodies are bad and that we need to escape from them. Having bodies can be awkward, cumbersome, and at times painful; but ultimately they are gifts from God, enabling us to have agency in our world, and to make a difference to the people around us.

Here are some questions to spark conversation about this with your teens:

  • Do you think boys struggle with body-image issues as much as girls? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think Jesus decided to come to Earth in a physical body?
  • What do you think it takes to have a healthy relationship with our bodies?