Three Things This Week
1. You May Now Unmute Yourself
What it is: A viral YouTube video meant to instruct children on appropriate distance learning etiquette feels a little bit like dystopian propaganda.
Why it might be taking us deeper into Orwellian territory: As The New York Times Magazine points out, public schools are institutions meant not just to educate our children, but to turn them into “compliant citizens.” Now that school is taking place in our actual homes, some educators are attempting to implement the same rules and consequences that would happen without remote learning. But how strict should this really be? At a time when so much has already been taken from Gen Z, this also robs kids of the comfort of home, and turns parents into the school’s live-in enforcers. Let’s be thinking carefully about how to preserve our teens’ boundaries—and our family’s dignity—even in the endless Zoomscape.
2. Conway vs. Conway
What it is: Former White House advisor Kellyanne Conway has contracted COVID-19, as has her 15-year-old daughter, Claudia. This week, Claudia used her TikTok to confirm her own diagnosis, criticize her mom, and imply that President Trump’s battle with the illness is far more serious than he is letting on.
Why it’s painfully familiar: Social media users were quick to uphold Claudia as a “whistle-blower for our time,” deeming her public criticism to be heroic. But is that really what’s happening? While the younger Conway is whip-smart and self-aware, she’s still just a kid, having a fight with her mom, in front of hundreds of millions of people. There’s no way that any 15-year-old in such a powerful position can understand the far-reaching implications of how her personal family feud is playing out. As any pastor’s daughter, missionary’s son, or ministry leader’s child can attest to, it’s lonely inside “the machine” of any institution, and it can feel counterintuitive to seek wisdom instead of attention when that loneliness hits. As we pray for peace between the members of our own households, let’s pray too, for peace in the families of our leaders.
3. Trigger Warning: This TikTok Is So Real, You’ll Cringe
What it is: The “POV” (short for “point of view”) trend on TikTok encourages gentle, dead-pan impressions of people’s predictable habits. This one is about a mom cleaning her young adult child’s bedroom at 7am a little too enthusiastically.
Why it’s about to make you feel old: “POV” TikToks can poke fun at a high school principal’s idle threats, or a musical theater kid’s enthusiasm the day of auditions. They’re not typically meant to be malicious or hurtful. And while it can feel a bit embarrassing to see ourselves through our teens’ eyes, it can also help breed humility and understanding in our relationships with our children. And let’s face it, many of us could probably use a reminder not to shake the proverbial garbage bag too loudly in the morning.
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Facebook Issues Ban On All QAnon Groups
A couple of weeks ago, we linked to an article about how Instagram aesthetics were making it easy for influencers to repackage QAnon for a new generation. For anyone not familiar, QAnon is basically a group of people who believe that President Trump is waging a secret war against a cabal of powerful, high-profile Satanist pedophiles (learn more here). Although previously Facebook had only banned the QAnon accounts that promoted violence, this week, Facebook announced that it will ban all groups, pages, and Instagram accounts that identify with the movement in any way. However, as Travis View points out, “Q has specifically asked QAnon followers to ‘deploy camouflage’ by dropping all references to ‘Q’ and ‘QAnon.’” So this decision alone may not be effective enough to stop the growing movement.
We’ve received requests to give our take on conspiracy theories and QAnon. Some have written to us that their kids are wrestling with whether such a sinister group could really be behind what’s happening in media and politics. For parents and caring adults seeking to raise Gen Z with a biblical worldview, we want to say first of all that any impulse we see in Gen Z to be concerned about evil is good, even something to encourage. (If QAnon were actually true, who wouldn’t be against it?) But we also want to say that part of what it means to be a Christian is that we ground our faith and our beliefs in evidence—neither in what’s merely comforting to us nor what disturbs us most.
As Joe Carter writes for The Gospel Coalition, “...as with most other conspiracy theories, QAnon dismisses contradictory evidence that would require abandoning the theory. That’s because the QAnon movement is less interested in protecting children than they are in making outrageous and slanderous claims… against those they perceive as political enemies.” In an era of generalized angst and uncertainty, the desire to pin it all on one ultimate enemy makes sense. But Christianity is fundamentally about a commitment to reality—even when that reality is more nuanced than we might wish.