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1. Tradwife Life

What it is: #tradwife has 110 million views on TikTok, with some young women eager to embrace a more traditional gender role.
Why it’s controversial: “Tradwife” is a slang term for women who embrace traditional homemaking. Often, these women hope to or choose to get married in their early 20s, opt out of a career outside of the home, and believe the work of rearing children to be their vocational calling. To be a tradwife doesn’t imply conservative morality or a particular faith tradition, though these things often go together. Tradwife influencers often post about a tranquil view of domesticity that may look appealing, even if it is unrealistic for many people. Gen Z seems particularly curious about this lifestyle, as it is in direct opposition to the idea of women hustling hard in an effort to “have it all.” Women choosing to pursue the lifestyle that appeals to them—even if that lifestyle resembles a 1950s housewife—might not scream “counter-cultural” in the year 2023, but the posting niche is called out as antiquated and antifeminist by many people who find it offensive. Young women may find themselves confused by whether or not a desire to rear children and embrace traditional femininity makes them a traitor to women’s rights.

2. Time’s Tikking

What it is: A growing number of US universities have banned TikTok from their campus Wi-Fi.
Why it’s becoming a trend: For years now, people have been waffling on whether or not TikTok is a national security risk. Cybersecurity concerns over the app reached new highs last year, and US legislators appear to have grown more concerned. Bills that banned the use of TikTok on state devices were passed in 24 states over the last several months. As a result of this legislative effort, state universities have instituted TikTok bans in an effort to be in compliance. Auburn University, Boise State, and Texas A&M are among the schools where TikTok is forbidden on university WiFi and on devices that are school property. On December 13, a federal ban on TikTok sponsored by Republicans and Democrats was proposed, though it remains to be seen whether it will find enough support to become a law.

3. Socially Fit

What it is: The longest study on human happiness found that there’s a strong connection between maintaining deep relationships and our sense of well-being. This adapted book excerpt encourages readers to reflect on the way they maintain, or don’t maintain, the relationships that mean the most to them via a “social fitness” check-in.
Why we need to take it seriously: Loneliness is defined as the subjective feeling that you have an inadequate meaningful connection to others—you don’t have to be alone to feel very lonely for much of your life. We know that there is a loneliness epidemic amongst young people, at the moment, but fewer people realize that this epidemic is impacting Americans of all ages. As the book excerpt points out, even people with the best of intentions can allow their relationships to fall into a state of disrepair or to become an afterthought. Even if we are optimistic about our free time and life expectancy, we may not be able to see many of our loved ones on earth more than a few dozen more times before we transition into eternity. It’s a sobering thought, but it is important to understand (and to help our kids to know) that the time we have to spend together isn’t infinite. Nothing can replace the communion between God and our immortal souls, but communion with other people is still incredibly important for our moral and spiritual well-being.

Song of the Week

“Flowers” by Miley Cyrus: climbing to the #1 spot on Apple Music, this song is about Miley mourning the loss of a prior relationship, but then realizing that she doesn’t need a romantic relationship to live a fulfilled life. As the chorus puts it: “I can buy myself flowers / Write my name in the sand / Talk to myself for hours / Say things you don’t understand / I can take myself dancing / And I can hold my own hand / Yeah I can love me better than you can.” If your teens are familiar with the song, ask them what they think about the lyrics, and whether they think it’s a helpful perspective on relationships or not. For the full lyrics, click here. 

Translation: Socially Fit

“We don’t always put our relationships first,” Waldinger and Schulz write in their article. “Consider the fact that the average American in 2018 spent 11 hours every day on solitary activities such as watching television and listening to the radio.” To draw their example out further, if the average American also gets eight hours of sleep, that only leaves five hours a day for interaction with other people. And even if those five hours are fully taken advantage of (which doesn’t always happen), the average American will still be formed more by time spent in isolation than by time spent in community.

One of the biggest effects of this, as we’ve seen, is loneliness. As Waldinger and Schulz point out, a study of 55,000 respondents from across the world found that one out of every three people (of all ages) reported that they often feel lonely. “Among these, the loneliest group were 16-to-24-year-olds, 40 percent of whom reported feeling lonely ‘often or very often.’”

As we said above, just being physically present with people doesn’t necessarily alleviate loneliness. Loneliness gets chased away by understanding—by the feeling that someone else cares enough about our experiences to want to try to understand what they’ve been like for us. But while we can say that “quality time” is key here, that’s not to devalue quantity time. These kinds of quality interactions that make us feel understood and dispel loneliness don’t happen when we don’t make time for each other.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When community is available, the Spirit of God sends us into it. But having a rich community requires making time for it. Though it may feel like a day, or a week, or a month, or a few months doesn’t ultimately matter, we should remember that it does. As Annie Dillard once put it, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

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

  • How many hours a day do you think you spend on “solitary activities”?
  • What do you think are the biggest causes of loneliness?
  • When was the last time you felt really seen, and understood?