Think you are current on teen culture? Here is a reality check I just had. A song currently becoming popular by the dance mix group Duck Sauce is entitled “Barbra Streisand”. You remember Barbra – singer, movie star etc? It is a catchy song with several dramatic pauses that utilize the songs only lyric – Barbra Streisand. I was driving with my soon to be 10th grader Jonah yesterday and asked him if he knew who Barbra Streisand was. I thought for sure he would – but he looked at me and said he had no idea. I went on to explain she was a singer/actress/and host of other things. Then later last night I asked teens ranging from freshman to seniors and 7 for 7 none of them knew who Barbra Streisand was? Believe me, I am not writing this to advocate for Barbra Streisand as she is in opposition to some key teachings of the Catholic Church and it really isn’t in my opinion important that teens know who she is.
So what is my point? It’s about the speed of change of youth culture and how we can’t assume that our dated cultural references will be understood. A lot of people ask why Life Teen sends out catechetical resources 3 times a year. It’s for this very reason, that culture is changing so quickly you never know when you are going to have your next Rebecca Black “Friday” phenomenon on your horizon. We are striving every day to help the Catholic faith come alive for today’s teens, not the teens from 5 years ago who grew up in a pretty different world culturally. For example 5 years ago only 15% of teens had a facebook page and the majority of teens with social media were on myspace. There were no smart phones per se, especially that teens would have. Email was a good way to reach a teen, now they hardly ever read it. Texting was just starting to become more popular than calling someone – today teens text way more than call. Teens watched more TV than being on the Internet – a trend that has completely changed. The list goes on and on.
Just because something is culturally identifiable with our experience, doesn’t mean it is culturally identifiable to a teen today. Key thing is asking teens what they listen to, are reading and watching? It is the only way I know to keep up with things. Even if you as a youth leader don’t know who Barbra Streisand is, you still may be out of the loop of current teen culture. What is your take on this?