1. An Empirical Question
What it is: People everywhere are asking each other how often they think about the Roman Empire, and then posting about the answer. #romanempire currently has 1.2 billion views on TikTok.
So why do people think about the Roman Empire? Since Jesus was born and died under the Roman Empire, this is a historical time period that Christians are often well versed in and may naturally spend a lot of time considering. But what about everybody else? This meme seems to have evolved because men, in particular, appear to spend a lot of time thinking about Roman gladiators and aqueducts. Still others just state that there is simply “so much to think about” regarding the Roman Empire. After a summer packed with gendered memes like “girl dinner” and “girl math,” the popularity of this particular question seems to point to a continued curiosity about how men and women experience the world differently in the year 2023. Or maybe it’s just a quirky glimpse into what men tend to spend their time thinking about.
Start the conversation: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?
2. Party Animals
What it is: “Party Animals,” a new title in the spirit of popular party games “Fall Guys” and “Gang Beasts,” was released on Wednesday for PC and Xbox.
Why it’s doing so well: “Party Animals” follows in the spirit of other co-op battle games like “Super Smash Bros” and “Mario Party.” But unlike those brawler predecessors, “Party Animals” doesn’t attempt to capitalize on any type of backstory or battle lore. Any user can pick up the game, choose an animal character and a map, and start a free-for-all and blood-free battle in an arena where lollipops can be weaponized and dogs can be samurai. (The name “party animals” is meant in its literal sense; all the characters are adorable animals.) The resulting gameplay is meant to be entertaining and ridiculous, making players (and observers) laugh throughout the battle. On the day of its release, “Party Animals” picked up over 300,000 views on Twitch as users figured out the mechanics of the game. While players can play “Party Animals” in-person, a lot of the gameplay will take place online.
Start the conversation: If you have a choice, do you prefer playing games with your friends in person or online?
3. Gentlemen Prefer Podcasts
What it is: A list of supposed dating “red flags” for Gen Z women included listening to podcasts like The Ben Shapiro Show and The Joe Rogan Experience, a small survey concluded.
Why it could be about something deeper: According to these survey results, Gen Z males are leaning more conservative than Gen Z women. This aligns with previous research by Dr. Jean Twenge, published in her book “Generations.” Out of the options provided in the survey, male participants named “identifying as a communist” and “being into astrology” as their top red flags in a potential partner. Female participants also named “refusing to see the ‘Barbie’ movie” as something that would give them pause in a dating relationship. Men and women preferring different podcasts isn’t necessarily groundbreaking or even surprising, but the fact that they aren’t necessarily comfortable with their partner listening to podcasts they themselves avoid indicates how much young people seem to think their echo chamber is the correct one to be in.
Start the conversation: When does someone having different tastes or opinions than you become a red flag?
Song of the Week
“Slime You Out” by Drake feat. SZA: Drake’s newest single is currently sitting at #1 on the Apple Music USA Top 100 and #2 on the Spotify USA Top 50. Featuring Drake’s signature brand of sleepy hip-hop mixed with R&B, “Slime You Out” is a song about being used and using others in relationships. (To “slime” out someone means to use them for sexual benefits, taking advantage of their romantic feelings without responding in kind.) Both Drake and SZA sing about using their sexual behavior as a way of exacting retribution on someone—be it an ex-lover or a current interest who made them feel used. For lyrics, click here (language).
C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” When two people find common ground in something they thought was unique to them, be it an interest, a quirk, or a burden, an instant bond is formed. Technology has created a landscape where these bonds are accessible in a way they never were before, and in the midst of a culture that feels harshly divided, we can still find things we share as humans that bring us closer together, despite our differences.
Sometimes when we forge these strong connections, we end up excluding others who don’t share them. We can even end up endorsing extreme groupthink, living inside echo chambers in which preferences become rules (like seeing certain podcasts as deal breakers). It can become easy to lump people in entire groups together without taking the time to consider the nuances of why someone may say or do something.
Sometimes, though, we’ll stumble upon something surprisingly wholesome and unifying. Discovering how many men think about Caesar Augustus or finding out that many women feel satisfaction from cobbling together a unique meal gives us space to connect over our shared quirks. A video game about animals and lollipop-wielding samurai dogs has created a space for friends of all backgrounds to have some fun. The harshness and generalization with which many opinions are expressed online can be softened by the shared ways we find joy.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he reached out to people who were different from Himself and the culture he came from. Men and women, Greeks and Romans, Jesus sought out those whose lives were in many ways opposite to his own, and He brought them together under the promise of everlasting joy. As Christians, we know that beyond our individual interests, and desires, we all share the image of God at the core of who we are. The Apostle Paul once wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Even when it seems unlikely, the invitation still today is to pursue that kind of unity.
Here are some questions to open up conversation with your teens:
- What is something surprising or unique you have in common with your friends? What about something you have in common with strangers?
- What are some positive ways the internet brings people together? What are some negative ways?
- How did Jesus reach out to people whose lives were different from his? What would it look like for us to do the same thing?