Have you ever felt out of your depth? Like that feeling you have when you’re a little kid and you jump into a pool, and for the first time, you realize your feet can’t touch the bottom?
This week, we were working on finishing a piece of curriculum with our intern, Gabby. We had asked her to write one of our pieces for Faith in 3D, our High School Sunday School class that talks about something from our culture and how it intersects with our faith — and she chose to write about social media.
And that feeling you have when you realize that the pool is much deeper than you thought it was? Yeah, that’s how I felt.
Kat and I have been joking that the reason we asked Gabby to write this is because I’m basically social media illiterate — the last time I posted on Instagram was Kat’s birthday last year and I only share work-related things on Facebook, so it’s not far off from the truth.
I don’t think I’ve ever been an early adapter of any social media platform, and I’m usually just starting to use one when everyone else is moving on. Our teenagers casually use terminology that I only sort-of know what it means — “finstas” is one I had to stop to and ask what it was.
As we were talking about this piece of curriculum, it became clear pretty quickly that I don’t know very much about social media culture. Or how to use it. Or what any of the words mean. Or any of it.
I was out of my depth.
It seems like I’m supposed to know this stuff, right? I work with teenagers, I spend a lot of time with them and social media is a huge part of their world — of your kids’ world.
If I were to take a guess, I’m sure a lot of you feel like me when it comes to social media. Like you’re not really sure what that phrase meant that your teenager said so casually, or you can’t figure out how to post something to your story, or you only use one platform because that’s the one you’re comfortable with. (So why learn any of the other ones when trying will just make you feel old?) And you start to feel like you’re out of your depth — like you’re out of touch.
And that’s hard.
Because once you start feeling out of touch with the language they use and the things they’re doing, it can start to feel like you’re out of touch with them. It can feel like we have such a hard time seeing into their world — What are they really talking about? What are they really thinking? What are they really struggling with? What really matters to them?
If I can offer you one piece of unsolicited advice: just ask your kids.
I can’t promise that they’re going to want to talk to you about it. Or that they won’t make fun of you for not knowing what things mean or how to use it. And if you can approach the conversation with genuine interest — not from a place of wanting to monitor or control their entire online presence — it just might give you a small window into their world, even if it’s their virtual one.
Associate Director of Youth Ministries