by Drew Pederson
originally appeared 06.27.12 @ Drewism
This will sound crazy to anyone under the age of 30, but there was a time when people weren’t constantly available. There was a time before cell phones and wifi, where you had to memorize your friends’ telephone numbers and call and ask their parents if they could come to the phone. And when you were away from your house, nobody thought anything of leaving a message on the answering machine and waiting for you to get back to them. Now we live in a society where we get ticked off and hang up if a call goes to voicemail. Where we carry our phones, email and dozens of other ways to get in touch in our pockets. With that has come the expectation that we’re always available- only a phone call or email or text message away.
I think another interesting side effect of this is that the idea of personal privacy has slowly eroded. Even as phrases like “work/life balance” come into our lexicon, we undermine that very balance by mixing the two at every turn. (As an aside, I think our parents and grandparents find that phrase hilarious. They only knew a world where you put in your time at work then came home and the two rarely, if ever, mixed.) It starts slowly, we add our work email on our phone figuring it can’t hurt to be able to check it “just in case there’s an emergency”. That turns into checking it every morning when we first wake up, then before we fall asleep and soon we find ourselves firing off replies to emails from our phones before we even get to work just to “head things off”. It’s a slippery slope from there.
As it turns out, this is entirely a generational thing, one which I’m not sure if the technology caused or simply enabled. I found some pretty interesting statistics in an article I was reading today-
70% of people surveyed had some sort of connection with coworkers or superiors on either Facebook or Twitter. That means 70% of us are willingly opening up our private lives to our coworkers. I’m almost old enough to find this shocking but still young enough to be a willing participant in this trend.
So what does this mean for us in youth ministry? We’re dealing with a generation that approaches life with a fairly open-book policy. They don’t create artificial divisions in life based on the context of the relationship. There is simply in or out. If you are trustworthy (or just haven’t proven yourself untrustworthy yet…) you’re in. Once you lose that trust, you’re on the outside looking in at privacy settings and locked accounts. They truly prefer not to put up walls between themselves and those they know until they feel like they have to. Youth leaders have an interesting opportunity here to interact and start real conversations with students based on what they’re (over)sharing.