3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Where the Brands Are
What it is: Marketers may begin redoubling their efforts to reach Gen Z in their native environments, the less-visible online spaces which the Harvard Business Review calls “digital campfires."
Why it will come as no surprise for teens who are gamers: Discord, Twitch, Fortnite, and Roblox have been evolving for years to integrate communal events as an additional dimension to the gaming experience. Closed servers and in-game socialization chats may still be referred to as “micro-communities,” but they’re anything but tiny. For example, attendance was enormous at a Lil Nas X event hosted by Roblox last year, to the tune of 33 million viewers. Gen Z is used to multiple levels of commercialization being present in the activities they engage in (i.e. ads within ads within consumer products that they paid for), and in some cases may be totally immune to efforts from brands to colonize their favorite online spaces. In the race to understand how to advertise effectively to the “skip-ads” generation, most big corporations continue to lag behind the curve.
2. Snap, Crackle... Crunch?
What it is: A man claimed to have found shrimp tails in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and photos of the grotesque find went viral. But General Mills, who manufactures the cereal, claimed the tails were actually just lumps of crystallized sugar.
Why it’s getting so much attention: A few years ago, a situation like this might have been a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it internet moment. But because of how we live now, the shrimp tail saga was picked up by dozens of mainstream news outlets who devoted thousands of words and multiple interviews to the story. It took about four days for the original context of ShrimpTailGate to take a dark turn when accusations of abuse surfaced against the person who posted his ill-fated breakfast. Now the narrative line has been replaced with calls for cancellation amidst how “problematic” this person (who happens to be married to Boy Meets World actress Danielle Fishel) is turning out to be. Today’s meme is tomorrow’s #MeToo, or so it is beginning to seem. For Gen Z, picking the purest, least-problematic people and things to “platform” has become a #1 priority.
3. Kidstagram is Coming
What it is: Facebook is developing a “parent-guided” version of Instagram that will be aimed at kids 13 and below.
Why it’s probably going to crash and burn: In 2018, a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that too much social media use among young adolescents may contribute to developing symptoms of ADHD. This study would seem to indicate that there’s no such thing as “safe” social media consumption for young tweens who are being given carte blanche with screen time. There’s also the matter of Facebook’s track record with bullying prevention and parental control capabilities, of which they are infamous for doing the bare minimum. Facebook has already developed one tool aimed at 6-12 year olds called Messenger Kids, which parent advocacy groups have voiced strong concerns over. Unless Facebook does a complete about-face from their previous product offerings and releases an air-tight, bully-proof, ad-free product with built-in screen time limitations endorsed by pediatricians, it’s unlikely many parents will be rushing to make Instagram accounts for their tweens. (But of course, that won’t stop tweens from asking).
Slang of the Week
milkshake duck: someone who goes viral for something charming and funny, only to be revealed later as offensive or problematic. (Ex: I thought that meme about the stuck shipping container in the Suez Canal was funny, but then I found out the person who tweeted about it boils frogs to death for fun. Total milkshake duck.)
Racism and Racialization
Last week, an armed man named Robert Long killed six Asian women, one White man, and one White woman in three Atlanta massage parlors. Then this week, an armed man named Ahmad Alissa killed ten White people in a King Soopers in Boulder, CO. Both tragedies raised questions about violence, theology, mental health, and sexual health. But given many news outlets’ tendency to point to race in such situations, a discussion about racism and racialization rose to the forefront.
According to allsides.com, some right-leaning publications “concentrated on race following the Boulder shooting,” especially “the fact that the accused shooter is Middle Eastern and that the 10 people killed were White,” while many left- and center-leaning publications framed the Atlanta shootings with reports of anti-Asian hate. Though terrorism and ISIS have been on America’s mind for some time, widespread reporting on Asian-American abuse is a relatively recent development. It seems likely that calling COVID-19 “the China virus” has done a lot to fuel mistrust and resentment against Chinese people and Asian-Americans in general; statistics show a nearly 150 percent increase in hate crimes against the Asian-American community since last year. This is racism, and our faith in Jesus obligates us to resist it.
But in the case of the Atlanta shooting, Long told officials he was not racially motivated. Rather, he says he has a sex addiction, and the women in these massage parlors represented a “temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” Even though his old roommate confirmed this characterization, people like Stephen Colbert still responded, “Why should we believe him? He’s a murderer!” Where conversations about Jesus’ methods for dealing with lust were needed, often we got racialization, with lines like, “Experts say the killings were inextricably linked to racism and hate."
When YPulse asked 13- to 37-year-olds, “What do you think is the biggest problem for your generation?” the number one answer for Gen Z was “racism and discrimination.” This means racialized narratives may feel truer and more connected to the core of what matters to them. Our challenge is to encourage this care for racial minorities, as well as a resistance to the urge to reduce every dynamic to racism. May these questions spark conversation:
- How can we tell the difference between someone who actually cares about racism and someone who’s just using it to look virtuous?
- Do you think assuming a racial motive helps bring attention to racism, or just makes truth-seeking harder?
- How can Christians be sensitive to racial minorities without reducing whole people groups to only their skin color?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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