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Influencers Are Not Your Friends

Posted by Axis on May 19, 2021

3 THINGS THIS WEEK

  1. Embrace the Cheug

What it is: The term “cheugy” started to get popular online in the last few weeks to refer to something that’s basic, bland, and that falls just on the wrong side of trendy. Decorating with chevron print, calling your friends your “besties,” and waxing poetic about Disneyland are currently among the cheugiest things you can do. 

Why it might not be as insulting as you think: “Cheugy” and “being a cheug” are slang terms that specifically throw shade at things older Millennials and younger Gen Xers are drawn to—particularly Millennial and Gen X women. It’s a commentary on what’s now called “girlboss” culture, as well as trends that Gen Z interprets as outdated and embarrassing. Like it or not, our teens aren’t the tastemakers of the future, they are the trendsetters of now—and social media makes their power in the cultural sphere all the more apparent. But there’s a slight difference in the attitude of Gen Z when compared to some other generations: it might be cringe to be a cheug, but if that’s who you are, they reason, you might as well embrace it. Better to like what you like than pretend to be something you aren’t. 

  1. The Rise of Parasocial Relationships

What it is: The New York Times explores why social media influencers can feel like our friends in their latest parenting newsletter. 

Why it impacts teens and parents alike: “Parasocial relationships” were first described in the 1950s by researchers looking to understand how television and radio audiences perceived their favorite actors and actresses. Watching a person on TV (or scrolling through their feed on IG) breeds a feeling of deep familiarity that’s not unlike what we might feel for a friend or neighbor. With influencers online, there’s an additional level of complexity because your favorite vlogger or Instagram model might actually respond to a comment from a fan, or at least they might give it a “like.” These relationships, while one-sided, also feed into the human desire to observe and muse on other people’s motivations and inner thoughts. It’s difficult (some philosophers would say impossible) to really know the inner world of another person, least of all someone we will never meet. But when it comes to influencers, their main motivations actually tend to be crystal clear. It’s safe to assume that Charli D’Amelio doesn’t really care if you wish her a happy birthday, but she would really like you to buy her new Morphe makeup collection. 

  1. Billie Can’t Win

What it is: Seven-time Grammy winner Billie Eilish posed for the cover of Vogue UK in a corset-inspired look that was a decided departure from her typically baggy aesthetic. 

Why it’s confusing for Eilish’s fans: Longtime fans (and critics) of nineteen-year-old Eilish were quick to point out what they saw as hypocrisy. Eilish had previously been outspoken about her decision to appear in big, baggy tee shirts and saggy jeans, saying it was a way to keep the focus on her music and avoid being objectified. Seeing Eilish glammed up on the cover of a fashion glossy doesn’t totally fit with this narrative, although she always said that she might wake up and wear a tank top one day if she felt like it. As it turns out, Eilish was correct about at least one thing: wearing revealing outfits did immediately shift the focus of online discussion about Eilish to her physical appearance. “Showing your body and showing your skin — or not — should not take any respect away from you,” Eilish told Vogue in her interview. In an ideal world, perhaps this would be true, but things don’t often play out how they “should,” especially for young women in the public eye. In the world we live in, the public’s reaction to a famous teenager experimenting with her look while the whole world watches continues to be less than encouraging. 

Slang of the Week:

go touch some grass: a phrase that refers to spending too much time online and needing to reconnect with the natural world 

Example: “Her brain is totally Twitter-poisoned. She desperately needs to go touch some grass.” 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a movie about family dynamics, technology addiction, and parenting across the digital divide. Some are already calling it the best animated movie of the year (language) and when it made its Netflix debut this week, it quickly became the most popular movie on the platform. 

The movie follows an animated family (the Mitchells) whose oldest daughter (Katie) gets into her dream film school in California. She can’t wait to finally be around people who’ll understand her self-expression and share her love of filmmaking. But instead of sending her to California by plane, her father (Rick) decides that the whole family should take a road trip across the country for one last bout of family bonding. Katie expects it to be boring and cringey. But meanwhile in Silicon Valley, an overzealous tech guru has accidentally triggered a robot apocalypse—and soon the Mitchells are forced to fight together against the latest version of the technology that so often drove them apart. 

The movie is by turns hilarious, touching, and self-aware. At one point, the repentant tech guru muses, “It’s almost like stealing people’s data and giving it to a hyper-intelligent AI as part of an unregulated tech monopoly was a bad thing.” “Yeah, that wasn’t your best thought,” Rick Mitchell quips back. Conservative viewers may feel disappointed that the rainbows which appear behind Katie when she dreams about film school aren’t just a random aesthetic choice, but actually signify her desire to start a same-sex relationship in college (briefly alluded to near the end). But the movie as a whole is about forging a family bond that’s strong enough to withstand differences in perspective, mindset, and even worldview—in other words, the only sort of family bond worth forging.

Most of The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a blast, full of witty and touching moments. If you decide to watch it with your teens (or pre-teens), here are some questions that might spark discussion:

  • How do you think our family would do in a robot apocalypse?
  • From your perspective, why aren’t Katie and her dad close in the beginning?
  • Can you think of a time when it seemed like others didn’t care about what you care about? What about a time when others did? Did their care make a difference?

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

PS: Looking to take your family relationships to the next level? Check out our One Conversation Model series and learn how to start the one conversation that lasts a lifetime.

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