A Teen on Teens and Social Media. . . .

social media teenFor me, there’s little that’s more refreshing and stimulating than spending time with people who share many of my same commitments and passions, digging around together in pursuit of those shared commitments and passions. . . kind of like what happens when long-time faithful fans of the same team get together to watch and dissect a championship game.

This week, I’ve been privileged to launch again on a multi-year journey with a group of bright and motivated ministry peers who are passionate about listening to both Word and world, while seeking how to serve the Word by translating the Word for the world of young people. Specifically, I’m speaking about a group of 12 students who have gathered at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on the north shore of Boston to pursue a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Ministry to the Emerging Generations under the shared mentorship of Adonis Vidu, Duffy Robbins, and myself.

Yesterday, we welcomed theology professor Dr. Richard Lints to the classroom for an hour. What I love about Rick is his keen sense of what’s happening in our world. Much of what we heard yesterday was mined from his forthcoming book, Identity and IdolatryRick made some very insightful comments regarding our social media culture and what it’s doing to us. Asking these questions is a good and necessary thing in a world we tend to enthusiastically embrace all things new, and where new digital platforms and tools are pouring out of the open fire-hydrant of innovation while we drink away without pause, care, or concern. We’ve talked about these things regularly at CPYU, offering up words of concern and caution about these good things that can ultimately become ultimate things that, if we let them, change our lives (and the lives of our beloved kids) for the worse as well as the better. And so, I was especially interested to scribble some notes on what Rick told our cohort yesterday. . .

“Everything is youth culture. All culture rises from the young.”

“The new normal is the lack of permanence. The result is that it is hard to know who we are.”

“There is an explosion of options open to us. We frame our identities through our choices.”

“The result of all these choices is that the self is paralyzed by the number and variety of choices.”

“There is a yearning in a culture of choice for something stable and permanent.”

“Our communities are thin.”

“Our identities are rooted in that which we worship. . . We don’t know the power idols have on us. Others can see it better than we can.”

With Rick’s social critique fresh on my mind this morning, I encountered a helpful bit of information on how teenagers engage with the identity-shaping/reflecting tool (idol?) of social media. Since social media is not only relatively new as cultural phenomena but in many ways new every morning due to its continual evolution, I think we need to seek out and consider every bit of analysis that helps us understand the “whats,” “hows,” and “whys” when it comes to teenagers and their ever-present social media. Perhaps most importantly, we need to begin with what teenagers themselves are telling us.

Andrew Watts, a 19-year-old college student, recently posted an insightful rundown of the “whats,” “hows,” and “whys” of social media among he and his peers. For parents and youth workers, it’s worth a look. Andrew writes in “A Teenagers View of Social Media“:

“I read technology articles quite often and see plenty of authors attempt to dissect or describe the teenage audience, especially in regards to social media. However, I have yet to see a teenager contribute their voice to this discussion. This is where I would like to provide my own humble opinion.

For transparency, I am a 19-year-old male attending The University of Texas at Austin. I am extremely interested in social media’s role in our society as well as how it is currently evolving. Thus, the views I provide here are my own, but do stem from observation of not only my own habits but my peers’ habits as well.

This article will not use any studies, data, sources, etc. This is because you can easily get that from any other technology news website and analyze from there. I’m here to provide a different view based off of my life in this “highly coveted” age bracket. That being said, I’m not an expert at this by a long shot and I’m sure there will be data that disproves some of the points I make, but this is just what I’ve noticed.

I think the best way to approach this would be to break it down by social media network and the observations/viewpoints I’ve gathered over the years. . . . ” You can continue reading the rest of Andrew’s article here.


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