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No Emoji Is Safe

Posted by Axis on August 23, 2021

3 THINGS THIS WEEK

1. No Emoji is Safe

What it is: Digital natives tend to use emoji less sincerely than their older counterparts, which makes for some confusion when it comes to the family group text. 

Why it’s best to stick with words: As we’ve written about before, the “cry-laughing face” emoji has long been banned from the Gen Z-approved emoji lexicon. Now, as the Wall Street Journal reports, your emoji keyboard is practically a buffet of faux pas potential. That pained-looking frowny-face guy? He’s what Gen Z uses to express desire, not frustration. And that smiley face emoji, once the most straightforward of fellows, is mostly interpreted by Gen Z as a passive-aggressive dig. (After all, nobody looks that happy in real life.) You might want to ask your teen if your emoji-vocabulary needs some brushing up. 

2. #RushTok

What it is: Greek life was in the spotlight this week as #BamaRush took center stage on TikTok. 

Why everyone is talking about it: For some reason, posts that highlighted the experience of “rush week” at the University of Alabama started popping up on multiple users’ For You Pages a couple of days ago. The rush process is somewhat secretive (though not as secretive as the pledge process that comes next), but aspiring sorority sisters were free to list out their “Outfit of the Day” (OOTD) details. These OOTD posts provided daily updates on what sorority candidates wore to different events as the week went on. Ideally, rush week culminates with at least one “bid,” an invitation to join a sorority. Young TikTok users from all over the country became extremely invested in who would end up in the sorority of their choice and who would end up heartbroken without any bids at all. As the academic year gets underway, there will probably be a lot of TikTok-driven interest in Greek life, especially its more reality-show-esque aspects. 

3. Quick to Listen

What it is: New study data compiled by Barna shows that teens in the 13-to-18-year-old age bracket are opposed to many traditional “evangelism” practices but still think it’s vital to talk about God with their friends. 

What it tells us about our teens: The Barna report calls Gen Z “hyper-considerate conversation partners, driven to listen and learn” as opposed to trying to win over peers with their words. Digital evangelism might seem like a great way to broadcast the Gospel (and there’s no lack of TikTok evangelists), but this age group claims that social media channels aren’t necessarily their first choice when it comes to talking about things that are actually important. Having grown up with these mediums, they understand their limitations in a way older people might not. This survey data would also indicate that Gen Z appreciates how personal and individual the faith journey can be, and that they prefer to advocate for a lasting, deeper relationship with Jesus rather than just broadcasting their faith for controversy or “likes.” 

Slang of the Week: 

Caught in 4k: Capturing someone’s reaction on camera or catching someone “red-handed.” 

Ex: “You tried to pretend you were over that girl, but your face says it all! Caught in 4k!” 

What Shall We Then Do?

At Axis, we try to help you facilitate the difficult conversations that come along with discipling teens. But what can you say when the events unfolding on the world stage are, truly, too tragic for words? 

This week, many people all over the world watched in concern and confusion as the United States’ withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan left tens of thousands of desperate people behind. Heartbreaking images show mothers begging to hand off their babies to soldiers through an airport fence, and a fleeing pair of teen brothers falling to their deaths from the sky. 

Afghanistan is a country with a median age of 18. This particular country has been entangled in a bloody conflict for longer than half of its population has been alive. These teens might not be making TikToks and stressing out over college applications, but they are no less young people with some of the very same hopes and dreams for the future that our own teens hold tightly. Their dreams never looked so doomed. 

We’re not here to disentangle the geopolitics of Afghanistan in 350 words or less. Not only would that be impossible, it’s not what you open this newsletter for. But your teens have seen these same images that you have. They have thoughts and opinions on them. Maybe they are different from the thoughts and opinions that you have. How can we meet our kids where they are for these conversations when our teens can seem, at least to us, so very new to the broken, savage world? 

First, we can recognize that we aren’t all getting our breaking news from the same sources. Asking (and not accusing) our teens about where they get their information is actually a fine place to start. Through social media, your teens might have access to primary and secondary sources that are offering on-the-ground reporting and opinions from young Afghan expats. These accounts may not be vetted by journalistic standards, but they offer a different perspective. 

Second, we can admit our limitations, as well as recognize what we have to offer. We can’t pretend to have all of the right opinions to pass along to our kids. (Would that it would be so easy!) We can point to Christ’s humility and righteousness as our prime example of how to interact with the world, and we can lean on our life experiences as we strive to connect with how our teens are feeling. We can disagree with their conclusions without telling them their emotions are, in themselves, the wrong way to feel.

Finally, as families and as individuals, we can pray. We can lament. We can take our cues from Afghan aid workers and global nonprofit ministry leaders, many of whom are grieving deeply. We can reach out to our military service members at home to see if they are in spiritual or physical need. We can bear witness and be discerning without giving in to self-centeredness and unholy anger. And we can hold on to the hope that God will be glorified, even in the darkest and most evil of happenings, even if it’s beyond our comprehension.

Keep the Faith!

- The Axis Team

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