Hypocrite. This was a word regularly used in youth groups around the time I was growing up to describe the way we developed different faces for the different crowds we were around at the time. You acted a certain way based on where you were, who you were with and what situation surrounded you. It was said as an indictment meant to curb your behavior and force you to come to grips with the genuine you. This was a process many people went about tearing the masks and walls built between their ‘church-selves’ & ‘school-selves’. However, even at a ripe young age of 28, I recognize that peer pressure today is not the same as peer pressure during my AIM, myspace, xanga blog generation.
One difference I notice is the separation of actual vs edited personas. Just 20 years ago, if you were one of us who acted differently at school & church those were two very real personas you developed and put in front of people even if you did not recignize that you did this. Nowadays, the replacement of relationships by social media contact allows for an editable character. When you’re standing in front of someone eventually they will get to know YOU and recognize parts of your character you might like to hide but cannot. Online, you are able to create this person (good or bad) that you want people to see and with this distanced relationship won’t be discovered as easily. That’s why it is all too easy for the oxymoron to occur of someone on a chat room under a false name calling out someone else for being phony.
Add to that the shrinking of our world due to global connectivity at the same time as lessening accountability and we have reached identity crisis of wild proportions. Many of our young people crave from environments where they are not held accountable. That’s why app’s like snapchat, tappy, tinder & yik yak become so popular. Just like chat rooms where commenters can be brutal because they hide behind a screen name; the anonymity promised feeds into the popular YOLO culture of today. What’s funny is- all of these things point to the truth that young people are desperate for relationships. What’s confusing is- while they seek relationships, they will forsake a room full of people to sit alone on social media.
This is where we come in. It’s at this point that adults can be crucial in the development of young lives by displaying how healthy face-to-face relationships can help shape us into the people we were meant to be. Does this mean forcing your introverts to do ice-breakers? No, they may hate you for life. What it does mean is that the weight of responsibility falls to us as leaders, as parents, as volunteers etc. to demonstrate healthy adult relationships with or without smartphones…maybe some of us need to be reminded of that from time to time as well. *Side note- you might want to take the time to share a lesson on the dangers of social media apps which promote contact with strangers and no accountability. So include your young people in the day to day, include some in your adult conversations because the most important lessons probably won’t happen in your chapel or youth room. The most important lessons usually happen when you share genuine life with others.
For clarifications sake- I chose the feature image because I thought it served as a great example of living life through relationships with others. It’s great when you are comfortable enough with people to be willing to act like your silly self!