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How to Translate Niche Culture

Posted by Axis on June 25, 2021

3 THINGS THIS WEEK

1. Twitch Streamers in Hot Water

What it is: Livestreaming platform Twitch has seen a huge increase in the number of young women in bathing suits broadcasting from their hot tubs and swimming pools. Users are sharply divided on whether or not this trend, called #hottubmeta, is ultimately harmful to the gaming community. 

Why it can harm teens: Twitch streams are live, which has always been a big part of its appeal. Girls in bikinis + videogames + the element of a live broadcast where anything can happen before a moderator can step in is obviously an exciting combination for Twitch’s audience, which skews male. Some users have voiced concern that this content is the equivalent of softcore porn, and that creators who participate in #hottubmeta don’t seem to even know much about gaming in general. To be fair, Twitch has attempted to curtail the popularity of these streams by demonetizing some of the larger #hottubmeta accounts and adding settings that make it easier to avoid this type of content. But Twitch is an entertainment platform, and #hottubmeta creators attract more eyeballs to their business. For the foreseeable future, your teen could encounter these types of streams on Twitch, even if they are doing their best to avoid objectionable content. While the existence of #hottubmeta may not be a good reason to ban Twitch outright in your household, it is worth continuing to ask teens who their favorite streamers are and what they like about the platform. 

2. A Statement that Made a Statement

What it is: An editorial in Christianity Today this week acknowledged how controversial it has become for Christian colleges to maintain their doctrinal statements on human sexuality. This controversy is evidenced in part by the outcry over Seattle Pacific University’s recent “Statement on Human Sexuality.” 

Why it’s an opportunity for engagement: As Christianity Today’s Ted Olsen points out, it’s easy to see the intense pressure on Christian colleges to change their policies on employee and student sexual conduct as yet another battleground in an ongoing culture war. SPU is just one of several Christian colleges named in a lawsuit of former students who argue their “lifestyle policies” should exempt the schools from participating in federal student loan programs. All of this, in light of declining student enrollment and financial challenges, make for a contentious environment in many Christian universities. But if Christian colleges are able to hold their line on certain standards for professors and students alike, it offers a beacon of hope to other institutions trying to do what they think is right. 

3. Modern Loneliness 

What it is: A small app called IRL is gearing up to become the teen-friendly alternative to Facebook Groups. 

Why it’s a reflection of where we’re at right now: IRL only has 12 million users, but the app just attracted $170 million in funding and is valued at $1 billion. Founders of IRL have a hunch that teens are desperate to meet up outside of the digital corral, and that an app that bridges the gap between event organizers and teens longing for connection could address this longing. IRL’s founders may very well be right; so called “friendship thirst-trap videos(language) on TikTok where teens introduce themselves and express their desire to find a friend are becoming more popular, and the former U.S. Surgeon General wrote a whole book that addresses loneliness as a national epidemic. Longing for community is natural. It only becomes concerning when we seek to fulfill that longing with risky behavior or with people who aren’t safe. So far, IRL’s users are mostly all teenagers from the Midwest, and hopefully the space will continue to retain that demographic while building a structure to filter out potential predators. Keep the conversation about how to make and keep quality friendships ongoing with your teen. 

Slang of the Week: 

Puriteen: A young person who is perceived to be “sex-negative” because they aren’t receptive to the online discourse around sexual freedom. 

Ex: “I wasn’t feeling that TikTok dance because of those raunchy song lyrics, but I learned it anyway. I don’t want my friends to think I’m some sort of Puriteen.” 

How to Translate Niche Culture 

Our goal with the Culture Translator is to help parents and other caring adults start faith-forming conversations with teenagers about their world. To target the broadest range of teens, we often focus on relatively mainstream developments in pop culture. But in reality, practically every teen’s social media feed is also full of unique, niche content, which also has the power to shape how they think and what they love.

Although our Culture Translator Premium is always broader, deeper, and more specific, the reality is that we could never comment on everything that every teen cares about. What we can do, however, is equip you to have those more nuanced and niche conversations when they do come up.

We recommend the following 6-step framework for translating culture. Steps 1 and 6 are to Pray—that God would show us the way to our teen’s heart, make us aware of what we need to be aware of, and give us discernment in our words and actions. Steps 2-5 are:

  1. Ask questions—try to find out what your teen is interested in and why they’re interested in it. Maintain compassionate curiosity, just trying to learn about their world.
  2. Research—try to learn a little more about what they mentioned. Find articles about it. Listen or watch an excerpt or two.
  3. Analyze—why would this be appealing to my teen? What about it might be speaking to them? And as it speaks, what all is it saying?
  4. Discuss—chat with them using our 5 key questions. First, start positive, discussing what’s good about the cultural artifact—what can be celebrated (i.e. a good voice, funny comments, good points)? Second, ask about anything that’s wrong or not good. Is there some aspect of it that misses the mark? Third, what’s missing? Is there some important dynamic that isn’t being mentioned or acknowledged that should be? Fourth, what’s confused? Is something being given too much or too little importance? And fifth, what does Scripture say? This is arguably the most important question, but we ask it at the end, after building trust.

Then we invite you to pray again, because only God can change hearts. And we also pray that He would use you as you enter into your teen’s world, just as Jesus entered into ours. 

Keep the Faith!

- The Axis Team

PS: What topics are most important to you and your teen? Help us pick the next round of topics for Conversation Kits, our video-based conversation starters!

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