Anxiety

anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

A disturbing trend affecting Gen Z girls is increased anxiety (or worse).  It’s a result of what one writer called our “unplanned experiment of social media.”  Studies show that American adolescents are becoming more anxious, depressed and lonely.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Lonely Burden of Today’s Teenage Girls, the authors interviewed a young woman who helps her friends with “debilitating problems like cutting and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).”

She is only 14 and has put suicide prevention apps on many of her friends phones. For some reason, when her friends are depressed, they call her.

A Pew Research Center survey showed that 36% of girls report being “extremely anxious every day”. They worry about school shootings, melting polar ice and their ability to afford college.

The authors of the WSJ article did their own investigation. While their sample was not large  (100 American girls aged 12 to 19), the results were highly consistent.  In their study, they found some good news and some not so good news.

They found that mothers are the best friend of many girls and that the close-knit family has rebounded as divorce rates are at a 40-year low. Not surprisingly, the girls are less self-sufficient than prior generations.

Today’s girls are less likely to have a driver’s license or work outside the home doing jobs like baby-sitting. They are even less likely to date. This all makes them more solitary and likely to spend Saturday nights alone watching Netflix and surfing social media.

The omnipresent smartphone has consequences. The Pew Research Center notes that 95% of American teenagers have access to a smartphone.  Common Sense Media has a 2019 survey showing that they average six to nine hours a day online.

They feel manipulated by tech companies into being constantly connected. A Common Sense Media study shows that 29% of teens sleep with their phone. From personal experience, I can tell you that lack of sleep is a big driver of depression.

So, what happens when you put a sleep-deprived teen who is used to being alone at home into a new environment such as when they go to college?  It’s a train wreck.  The American College Health Association reported that 31% of female freshmen in 2011 reported overwhelming anxiety or panic attacks.

By 2016, that number had doubled to 63%. Not a good trend. That is almost two out of three girls.

The worst statistic of all is the suicide rate, which had declined every year after 1993. Since 2007, suicide rates have skyrocketed. 2007 is the year of the introduction of the iPhone. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Even the American Association of Pediatrics warns that excessive social media use can lead to depression and anxiety. As the authors state: “Social media works against basic development goals – physical, cognitive, relational, sexual and maturational.”

Although the studies cited relate only to teenage girls, the statistics relating to college anxiety applies to men as well.  They are not exempt.

Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up with the existence of smartphones. Their integration with social media has been seamless. Parents and mentors alike are now just seeing the dangers of overuse.

Shift for a moment to the passage above, where Paul encourages us not to be anxious.  This is particularly personal to me: I burned out in the early 1990’s. My primary symptom was clinical depression.  I know a lot about this from personal experience.

Even Paul suffered burnout (See 2 Corinthians 7:5-8).  The word “downcast” in the NIV translation is actually better translated “depressed”.  What helped Paul through this?  A guy named Titus. From that passage came my Titus ministry.

I have helped dozens of people over the years dealing with burnout and depression.  I still do, and if you are concerned about burnout, you may email me, and I will send you materials on Burnout which I developed when asked to speak about my experience.

One thing is helpful to get back on track:  A belief in God, knowing that prayer is an important part of dealing with anxiety. Whenever you feel powerless, you turn to God for help and comfort.  That’s what these Gen Z’s need in a post-Christian world.

As mentors who may talk with young parents,  it is essential that you educate yourself on digital mental health issues faced by Gen Z  You can provide guidance on how children can navigate through the digital thicket.

The challenge is that the smartphone is not going away. We need to be diligent with our children and mentees to be sure that they adopt healthy habits.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor, you can determine if your mentee is dealing with anxiety and whether they are mis-managing the time spent on smartphones.

FURTHER READING:  Common Sense Media has lots of resources for parents.

Recommendations of Media Use by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Teens See Anxiety and Depression as a Major Problem with Peers– Pew Research

Disconnected: How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids.  Kerstner

Jean Twenge: iGen: Why Today’s Super-connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared for School

WORSHIP: Listen to I See the Lord   Vertical Worship

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Socialism

socialism

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. Galations 1:3,4

Each week I review a folder that contain blog ideas to see what piques my interest. Socialism keeps coming up.  It’s in the news almost daily.

I have touched on it in several times in past posts:  Groupthink, History, GI-W = E. In Reading,  I noted that millennials are generally poor readers and thus end up with a very shallow base of information from which to do critical thinking.

A recent poll by Yougov shows that close to 70% of millennials favor socialism and would likely vote for a socialist candidate. That’s not a typo. Oh…the same poll says that 64% of Gen Z are similarly inclined. The 2020 presidential election is actually framed by candidates who advance socialist or socialist inspired policies.

To be clear, socialism is an economic and political system in which the government owns and controls the means of production in an effort to promote equality. It favors large government which controls social services and becomes involved in every aspect of the lives of those in the system.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is a system that recognizes private ownership of property, and limited government involvement in our lives. It is based on self-reliance, not a welfare state.

The reasons for the trend in public opinion are various. For many millennials, it is the staggering college debt which now totals around $1.52 trillion.  That’s a “T”, not a “B”.  The average college debt per student is around $29,800 for those who took out loans in 2018.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to analyze causes of college debt. Two factors exacerbated the situation: a lax student loan government policy and the colleges themselves which have escalated tuition costs because they could.

But the students bear some responsibility in some cases, often pursuing a high cost degree in a field that has limited career prospects. That leaves them up the creek without a paddle.

In many cases, they have adopted a victimhood mentality – they are in a bad position because of the “system”, and if the system caused their problems, maybe it’s time to change the system from capitalism to socialism.

There’s only one problem with that rationale: it is neither biblical nor practical. History has taught us that socialism as an economic construct never works and usually ends up in a totalitarian government.

As for inequality, the wealthy 1% are replaced by the powerful 1% that run the government.

Deaths ensue when the government tries to keep all of its populace in line such as the 100 million that died under communism in Russia in the last century.

On the biblical side, one should realize that socialism is entirely secular.  It is an economic ideology that starts with the premise that there is no God. As Dr. Jack Graham states: “Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview because it seeks to suppress all people according to the dictates of the state.”

He continues: “No one serious about their Christian faith can accept socialism and here’s why: ‘Socialism is totally secular and is predicated on atheism’.”

Graham’s comments appeared in a newsletter by James Dobson. It is a worthwhile read and gives a good biblical analysis of socialism vs. capitalism.

The new face of the socialist promise is that “this time it will be different” and “hostility to faith is a thing of the past…..it has changed since the days of Karl Marx.”

Only that is not born out by the facts.  Every socialist country still oppress people of all faiths. Look at China, Cuba and Latin America.  Can you name a socialist country – whether communist or not – that is open to religious liberty? I rest my case.

The advocates of new socialism say it is neutral on religion; the facts say otherwise. They oppose Christian appointees to our federal judiciary – Brett Kavanaugh is an example.

A Christian bakery in Colorado was sued by the state Civil Rights Commission because it refused to decorate a cake for a same sex marriage. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court which ruled for the bakery.

Then, there is the abortion movement where 60 million babies have died since Roe v. Wade.  The Christian worldview is for the dignity of all life – not just the mother’s life advanced by the pro-choice movement.

The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, taught that eugenics was good because it helped eliminate babies from poor and mostly black communities.

There have been four Planned Parenthood clinics opened in North Carolina in one county. Every one of them is located in predominantly black neighborhoods.  Their placement was not accidental.

I find the tilt to socialism alarming and problematical with a generation that is struggling economically because of crushing student debt.  One story which startled me was by Jarrett Stepman who went to the Socialism 2019 conference in Chicago.

Stepman notes that while the new democratic socialism is touted as “anti-totalitarian”, it was hard to overlook a sea of “red shirts and posters of Karl Marx.” There was even an occasional use of the word “comrade.”

One panel discussion was on the topic that “traditional family structure reinforced capitalism and […] that the answer was to simply abolish families.”

Stepman says that the New Green Deal is actually Red  and that the movement ostensibly based on climate change is a trojan horse for socialism. The Green New Deal would “change the U.S. economy into a command-and-control economy reminiscent of the Soviet Union.”

One of my favorite sayings is that if something looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck.  For whatever reason, a majority in the next generation need help in identifying what a duck actually looks like.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee may have a favorable idea of socialism, and one of your roles may be to speak truth.

FURTHER READINGJames Dobson Newsletter–  Dr. Jack Graham

Attending a Socialism Conference in Chicago in 2019 Stepman

Millennials Favor Socialism   Business Insider

Green New Deal is a Trojan Horse for Socialism Daily Signal

WORSHIP: Listen to God You’re So Good by Passion

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OK Boomer

OK Boomer

 

You might not have heard this slogan.  It’s popular with the next generation, and there are even sites where you can get swag, hoodies and tee shirts with the slogan on them. It seems innocuous until you read the small print: “Have a Terrible Day.”

The tee shirt above was designed by 19 year-old Shannon O’Conner. The shirt resulted in more than $10,000 in orders on Bonfire, a site that sells custom apparel. She is not alone, and there are now hundreds of “OK Boomer” sites selling OK Boomer products.

A video that went viral on TikTok was the inspiration. In it, a gray-haired man in a baseball hat says: “”The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”

The Gen Z response was the simple phrase “OK Boomer”.  It was a declaration of hostility between the generations. Millions of Gen Z kids are fed up with older people who “just don’t get it.”

Intergenerational warfare is not new.  The Boomers were a part of it when they said “don’t trust anyone older than 30”. Those that said that are now in the 60’s.

So, what in the world is going on here?  For starters, according to researcher Joshua Citeralla, Gen Z see themselves as “the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them”.  They think they are getting the short end of the stick.

They are concerned about what they see as “rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis”. One seller of “OK Boomer” merchandise puts it this way:  “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made, and they are still making.”

If that wasn’t enough, there is now an OK Boomer song written by Jonathan Williams titled “ok boomer.” It’s opening line:  “It’s funny you think I respect your opinion when your hairline looks that disrespectful.” Ouch.

Millennials and Gen X are more respectful, so it is mostly Gen Z rebelling with the “digital equivalent of an eye roll”.

Taking a step back, one of the keys is the criticism that there is a reluctance by boomers to “change or to embrace what are perceived to be the real issues of the day” according to James Emery White in his blog “Church and Culture”.

White goes on to note that boomers currently lead the vast majority of churches, and few, if any, are actively trying to engage younger generations for leadership or mentoring relationships.  White is in a better position to comment on leadership involvement, but I agree with him on the lack of mentoring engagement.

Gen Z is turned off by a too often dismissive attitude towards those as younger as “uninformed, whining overly indulged snowflakes.”  I get some of that when I mention that I write a blog about the next generation and sometimes I get an eye roll from adults.

In a way, the message is one of victimhood, something that our culture now embraces. Instead, the message should be for self-reliance and self-sufficiency – the idea that they are the masters of their destiny despite what previous generations have left behind.

When it comes to mentoring, boomers have generally dropped the ball. My own estimate of mentoring by boomers is that less than 5% are involved. Given that the vast majority of millennials indicate a desire to have a mentor, the supply of mentors is woefully inadequate to meet the demand.

So how do you deal with these kinds of criticisms?  Some of their perceptions of boomers missing the mark are based on Groupthink, such as climate change, inequality and the appeal of socialism.

There is the opportunity, but it won’t happen in a vacuum. The challenge is to interact with Gen Z on their terms and reach them with wisdom and experience. Only Boomers can do that – the next generation has been crying for mentors all too long.

I say “OK, Boomers”.  It’s time to act!

FURTHER READING:  Why do young people keep saying ‘ok boomer’?  Metro

‘Ok Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations   NY Times

OK Boomer– Church and Culture (James Emery White)

Over Half of Millennials Favor Socialism  American Institute for Economic Research

A Climate Change Emergency?  Hoover Institute

The Truth About Income Equality  WSJ

WORSHIP: Listen to Doxologyby Todd Fields

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Groupthink

 

grouopthink

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Jesus Christ had.  Romans 15:4

The concept of groupthink has more relevance to the next generation than ever before. It is the idea that what the group thinks has a powerful impact on what you think. There has always been a tendency of adolescents to conform rather than stand out and be different.

While parents and families can be and are strong influences, in today’s world, the peers of the next generation are even more influential.  You choose your friends; you don’t choose your family – they are given to you. You also choose your social media peers.

Judith Rich Harris is a developmental psychologist has studied the influence of friends on young people. She says that there are actually three forces at work: one’s personal temperament, one’s family and one’s peers.

Of those three influences, the peer influence is far stronger than anything else. As she says, “The world that children share with their peers is what shapes their behavior and modifies the characteristics they were born with.”  Thus, it “determines the sort of people they will be when they grow up.”

As I read that statement, I realized the wisdom of the saying that if you hang around with the dogs you will get the fleas. As a parent, we were always concerned about who our kids hung out with for that very reason.

Children almost automatically take on the attitudes, behaviors, speech and even dress code when they identify with a group.  They instinctively want to be like their peers.  It’s a tribal phenomenon.

It extends to what psychologist Irving Janis calls “groupthink” which is when thinking derived from cohesiveness in a group overrides an individual’s motivation to consider alternative courses of action.  Janis points to classic past foreign policy disasters as being the result of bad group thinking as examples.

In essence, it is the idea that the group knows best and that the direction that is dictated is beyond any kind of careful examination, even if your own instincts are crying out otherwise.

There are lots of studies to show the influence of the effects of groupthink. A 1951 study by Solomon Asch which put college students in a group with one “outsider” who wasn’t aware of the nature of the experiment.

The group intentionally gave incorrect answers to obvious visual tests (e.g. the length of lines), and the outsider answered the question only after hearing everyone else.

In most of the cases, the outsider answered with the group, even though the correct answer was obvious. They later said they gave the wrong answer because they were afraid of being “singled out”. That’s how strong the tendency for conformity is in a group.

My mother put it this way: “If you stand up in a crowd, you are going to catch a tomato.”I see this principle played out almost every day in a world where partisanship discourse often makes no sense.

An example occurred this past week when one of the most brutal terrorists in the world was killed. In the past, his death would have been celebrated. But a large part of the media has its own journalistic groupthink.

The media bent over backwards to alter the story because celebrating the death of a murderer and rapist would bring credit to a man they abhor who authorized the mission.

The Washington Post headline was that an “austere religious scholar” had died. That is like reporting Adolph Hitler’s death as the “loss of a German philanthropist”. After blowback, the headline was changed to “terrorist-in-chief”.

This is but one example of the consequences of groupthink, where a partisan narrative outweighs being truthful about the facts.

Pause for a minute to think about how groupthink can affect decisions about our futures.  One might accept the group opinion that physics (or some other subject) is uncool, and steer away from it.

Even worse, the groupthink might be that studying is not cool. That might be the code. If you are interested in science, you might be labeled a geek or a nerd.

The danger of groupthink is that it can be a detriment to one’s individual judgement. A group thinks in unison and behaves similarly. Schools of people are like “schools of fish” who act and behave en masse.

It’s no wonder that a recent poll showed 70% of millennials in America favor socialism and communism, despite overwhelming historical evidence that it is an economic model that it has never worked.

The challenge here is that the digital world is a platform which creates groupthink, even though some of the next generation know that following the lemmings might lead one off a cliff.

The next generation (particularly Gen Z) need guidance to realize that the powerful force of conforming  to a group doesn’t mean that you check your brain at the door.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor, you may have to dive in to your mentee’s values to be sure that he hasn’t adopted groupthink and accepted a narrative without thinking on his own.

FURTHER READINGOver Half of Millennials Identify as Socialist. Here’s How to Change their Minds. Max Gulker

WORSHIP: Listen to This We Know– Vertical Church

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