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Three Things This Week
1. Dinner (with the D’Amelios) Is Canceled
What it is: The D’Amelio family (TikTokers Charli, older sister Dixie, and their parents) launched a YouTube show meant to be a quirky inside look at their home life. Unfortunately, Charli and Dixie come off so spoiled and bratty in the first episode that the internet called for their immediate cancelation.
Why it was bound to happen: As the adage goes, they build you up to tear you down. In the span of one year, Connecticut-based Charli and Dixie created a multi-million dollar empire based on their “relatable” content. Charli, in particular, became the first TikToker to ever reach 100 million followers, and is arguably one of the most famous high schoolers in the world. But when the premiere of “Dinner with the D’Amelios” showed Charli and Dixie gagging and refusing the meal that their personal chef had prepared for them, the backlash was swift and brutal. Followers, understanding that they are an integral part of the D’Amelios’ good fortune, were disgusted to see how ungrateful the sisters appeared to be for that very same success, and started unfollowing the pair en masse (language). The public’s reaction was a wakeup call for Charli and Dixie (Charli, citing multiple death threats, says she isn’t even sure she wants to be an influencer anymore) and a sobering reminder that popularity is a fickle thing—whether you’ve got 100 followers or 100 million.
2. Are the Clicks Worth the Cringe?
What it is: Content that’s embarrassing for the person who posted it tends to get a lot of play on TikTok as commenters pile on with sarcastic comments. That doesn’t stop users from oversharing or posting content that’s just a little too personal for comfort—in fact, some post “cringe” on purpose to get views.
Why it’s a zero-sum game: The line between being self-deprecating and walking into a “self-own” on social media continues to get blurrier, as an entire genre of “cringe” becomes one of the fastest ways to go viral online. Users who are aiming for clout don’t necessarily seem to care whether or not people like their videos; the fact that people watched them is enough. For teens, it can be especially difficult to determine the difference between people laughing with you and those laughing at you. (There’s even some interesting psychology behind what feeling embarrassed for other people does to activate the empathy centers in our own brains.) “Cringe-posting” might be understandable in the context of scoring followers in 2020, but these types of posts won’t win your teen any points on future job interviews.
3. Some Things Are Just Better in Person
What it is: If there were some conspicuously empty places at your table this Thanksgiving, you weren’t alone. Survey data compiled by marketing research firm YPulse found that 54% of Gen Z said they planned to have intimate gatherings with only people already in their COVID “bubble” to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
Why it’s a conversation starter: However your plan to celebrate (or not celebrate) Thanksgiving came together this year, it was probably a little bit different than previous celebrations. And that’s okay. It can feel sad to miss out on traditions, and confusing to navigate increasingly conflicting restrictions and guidance during the coronavirus pandemic. Skin hunger—longing to experience the physical touch and closeness of other people—is a real need, similar to thirst for water and hunger for food. Having to limit, or cancel, long-standing plans feels awful, and hashtags about gratefulness won’t do much to numb the sting. In the days after Thanksgiving (and in the weeks before an unprecedented Christmas), give your teen opportunities to express the frustration and stress of physical loneliness, and remind them that feeling their feelings doesn’t mean they aren’t grateful for what they’ve got.
Spotlight: At Axis, we believe that your love is a gift that God designed to point your kids toward their Heavenly Father. Your love opens the door. We’re humbled that you have invited us into your journey to support your faithful presence in that loving conversation. So this #GIVINGTUESDAY, we want to return that love with some of our own. Just share Axis with your friends, and we’ll give them and you a free resource. Copy and paste “axis.org/givingtuesday,” forward at will, and we’ll take it from there. Be blessed!
Permission to Struggle
A Bible teacher recently used our Conversation Kit on Anxiety as part of a series of high school chapels. At the end, he received this message from a student: “Your anxiety chapels were great! I think it has been such a huge help to actually have meaningful chapels instead of constantly hearing God’s Word and how we should not be having any struggles. Actually hearing about anxiety, physical temptation, and pressure have been really helpful… Thanks for not acting like they don’t exist.” Although one of our goals at Axis is to awaken a love of God’s Word in teens, apparently this particular student had begun to associate scripture with pressure to pretend like everything was okay.
It’s easy to imagine how this association could develop. When “encouraging” verses like Philippians 4:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 are taken out of context (and books like Job, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and ⅓ of the Psalms are never mentioned), the Bible can easily start to seem like it says, “It’s wrong to have problems,” or, “If you have problems, it’s because you don’t have enough faith, or you’re sinning.” Some of us can remember growing up and wondering if the only emotion allowed in Christianity was happiness. In the same way, what was comforting to this student about these chapels was that they gave permission to struggle.
Of course, we all struggle, whether we’re given permission or not—it’s just that our environment can either make us feel safe to admit it, or not. But as Esther Fleece put it in her book No More Faking Fine, “God meets us where we are at, not where we pretend to be."
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a day about, among other things, cultivating gratitude. Gratitude is good; what’s also good is helping our teens see that gratefulness doesn’t mean pretending like we don’t have problems—it just means that in addition, we deliberately acknowledge what we appreciate. Help your teens see that the Bible isn’t a collection of trite platitudes and two-dimensional characters pretending like everything is always fine; it’s a story of people who knew the full spectrum of human emotion, fighting their way through life with an incredible God. As such, it’s a book that real people can relate to—maybe even see themselves in.