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1. Forever Young

What it is: Teens as young as fourteen spoke with New York Magazine about their time-consume multi-step skincare routines, which often include strong active ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid.
Why it’s happening: The prevailing wisdom shared by dermatologists has always been that skin damage is easier to prevent than to reverse. But that was before the prime audience for licensed skin care specialists included masses of aspiring skincare aficionados on social media—many of them minors. It doesn’t help that marketing campaigns aimed at teens have shifted their messaging away from promising a clear, acne-free complexion and focus now on claims that the right skincare combination will reduce the signs of stress and aging. For some young people, skincare is a “self-care” hobby that makes them feel good. For others, the pursuit of “anti-aging” can turn into a fixation that turns a natural process into an enemy that can and should be avoided at all costs.
Start the conversation: Do you think teens have a more negative view of aging than they used to?

2. A Hill of Beans

What it is: A viral bean soup recipe on TikTok led to a bigger discussion about how algorithms skew users’ expectations of the content recommended to them.
What the online world is saying: A TikTok user recently posted a recipe for a healthy bean soup. They were then inundated with requests for advice on how to modify the recipe to not include any beans. (The bean-averse are, apparently, a multitude.) But beans were the whole point—the recipe being called bean soup. Another TikTok user, @sarahthebookfairy, posted in response to the debacle, calling this an example of what she’s dubbed the “what about me?” effect. Social media users, she argues, have grown too accustomed to having hyper-individualized content served up to them through an endless feed. When they come across a post that doesn’t necessarily pertain to them, they feel compelled to respond to the content anyway, if only to call out how it doesn’t suit their preferences. The original post describing the “what about me” effect currently has well over 4 million views.
Start the conversation: Why do you think people still respond when they see a post that doesn’t apply to them?

3. Leftie Language Model

What it is: As the use of AI tools like ChatGPT grows more prevalent, concerns over possible biases in AI’s training model are also growing.
What the evidence says: In May, the Brookings Institute published results of an experiment with ChatGPT in which they aimed to force ChatGPT to express binary political positions of “Support” or “Not support.” These positions were supposed to be backed by the facts, only, as ChatGPT “understood” them. The chatbot’s answers during that experiment were consistent with a politically progressive worldview. For those who understand how ChatGPT “learns,” this will perhaps be no surprise. ChatGPT’s large language model (LLM) algorithm was originally trained on a mix of curated and less-curated internet content, as well as some books and Wikipedia entries. But after that initial intake of data, ChatGPT is a dynamic technology that responds and integrates based on reactions from human testers. Human feedback is essential to how LLMs develop, but the humans selected to offer that feedback are largely dependent on the pool of engineers creating the software. Those concerned over how ChatGPT could shape the flow of information would be wise to understand how this process works and share the information with the rising generation.
Start the conversation: How do you think AI having biases could affect our world?

Song of the Week

“MONACO” by Bad Bunny: Spotify’s most streamed artist for the last three years, Bad Bunny, is back with a new album. His song “MONACO” is currently sitting at #2 on the Spotify USA Top 50 and #6 on the Apple Music USA Top 100. Entirely in Spanish, the song is about Bad Bunny’s rapid rise to success and fame and all of the luxury that comes along with it. “MONACO” is a reference to the famous Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, an event which Bad Bunny attends and raps about as proof of successfully “making it.” Bad Bunny’s trademark sound remains intact, but MONACO offers more of a traditional hip-hop beat than some of his previous songs. For lyrics in Spanish, click here (language). For lyrics translated to English, click here (language).

Culture: Translated

Staring at our own reflections—and the tools we use to do it—have long been steeped in superstition. A broken mirror was said to be bad luck, while an intact one can host a threatening visage from a children’s tale, like Bloody Mary or the Candy Man. Vampires can’t see their reflections and Narcissus was unhealthily interested in his. Modern mirrors are a little more powerful. They turn on with a button, and we’re not the only ones who can see our reflection in them; the whole world can.

Our phones allow us to capture every moment of every day, preserving ourselves in digital amber. Social media creates a platform for that frozen time to gain traction and attention. We style ourselves a certain way, then receive affirmation based on how well we’ve done. The age-old standards of appearance, like youth and beauty, play a massive part in how attractive our image is.

Having a popular online presence requires clear skin, fashionable clothes, and an ability to give a perfectly articulated, non-controversial take on every political and social issue. It means being cool and knowing all the slang and being exactly up to date on everything anyone cares about. Our social media feeds offer a constant supply of new things to do and be and buy, and if something shows up that doesn’t relate to our lives, it’s almost a shock. (It’s called the “For You Page,” after all.)  The result is a culture that not only encourages self-obsession but requires it. If we’re not constantly thinking about ourselves and how everything in the world relates to us, how can we make sure we’re doing everything right?

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul references a mirror, but it’s different from the “capture and preserve” mirror of social media. He writes, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” A mirror can’t give a true image of anything; only a reflection. It’s an imitation. This whole world, Paul says, is just a reflection, something we can only halfway understand.

The life to come, life in Christ, is an opportunity to see face to face. Fortunately, He doesn’t want a show. He isn’t impressed by popularity and He’s not put off by wrinkles or even the opinions we haven’t fully fleshed out. He doesn’t want our reflections, He wants to see us face to face. He wants us to grow to know Him more and more into eternity, even as He has always known us.

Here are some questions to open up conversations with your teens:
  • Do you think social media puts more emphasis on looks or opinions? Why?
  • What kind of content is really popular online? What makes it so popular?
  • What do you think it means to be “fully known”? What do you think it means to “know” Jesus like that?