A thriving young population translates into a thriving community.
Young people are therefore a society’s responsibility. Just like their flourishing benefits the total society, their challenges need a community approach. Here are some areas worth engaging in the spirit of being a boosting presence in the lives of young people in our environments.
Identity crisis: Many young people are confidently confused. They have no sure place to locate their identity. They are not discerners but copiers. This copying often turns crippling.
Identity shapers like family, the school, the church are too busy pushing for their own survival and sustenance that they pay only a scattered attention to the critical identity-imparting role. This exposes young people to self-proclaimed influencers who shape them into fans. They end up not knowing who they are but knowing a whole lot about who they follow.
This “fanhood” is trendy but is of little value when young people come face to face with situations that require concrete decision-making skills. They are lost. They panic. They easily resign. The family, the church, the school and the community need to revive their identity-shaping role otherwise their lips will remain stained with the blood of crumbling young people.
Information overload: There was a time when little was known about everything. But now a lot is known about every little thing. The young generation is growing at a time when knowledge generation in on overdrive. The youth are not only bombarded with over-drive information but are also expected to show that they know it – hence the fear of missing out (FOMU).
The subsequent overload leads to information paralysis. This expectation to look informed makes young people consume knowledge with no steady filters. They acquire knowledge they do not need, even knowledge that is harmful. There is an urgent need among young people for filtering wisdom to minimize needless and harmful information.
Fame-based living: The likes. The follows. The retweets. The subscribers. This is how young people assess their success. Social media is the fame door. The state of their lives is instantly tabulated by responses to their posts. To live large is to go viral. You post in Lang’ata and are retweeted in London. You upload in Meru and are “shared” in Melbourne.
Hidden in every post is hope that they will grab the world’s attention – and the rest be history. Unfortunately, the make-viral space is not within anyone’s control which throws hope and identities out of control. With attempts to go viral failing, many doubt their values because no one “likes” “follows” or “retweets” them.
They end up being content consumers and not content creators. Others deviate into pseudo names and get into explicit content creation hunting for a quicker chance for popularity. There is need for young people to be their own fans. This way, they will be pleased with themselves even when the social media and its logarithms do not celebrate them.
Sexual liberalism: Virginity is now frowned upon. It is a state to be broken and the earlier the better. Times past virginity was the ultimate trophy. But the conversation has since shifted from purity to protection. It is no longer about how faithful you are but how much fan you had. Ironically, even with the walls that shielded sex as sacred broken down, young people are still dissatisfied.
They seek complex stimulant cocktails in pursuit of an elusive ultimate high. This pursuit is leading more and more to the thick woods of life-breaking addictions. Sadness descends. Sex sacrilege may look heroic for some but its consequences are corroding many. The correlation between sex and self worth has it that sex serves best when exercised within intentional boundaries. Sex addicts confess to a sense of worthlessness. Given the depressing consequences of sexual liberalism, room is re-emerging for presenting sex as sacred.
Mentor shortage: Young people are crying out for help but the adults in their environments are not taking them seriously. They are dismissed with the popular parenting line “Grow up!” Their risky behavior is similarly explained away, “They will outgrow it.” But a significant behavior formation is not biologically driven. Like a foreign language, it is taught. Where teaching lacks, biological maturity does not rhyme with psychological formation.
The young person is then accused of “behaving like a child.” Fact is that young people need older people for them to form solidly. Young people who are wise proactively seek mentors. But it is still the responsibility of adults to dutifully reach out to young people for the purpose of walking alongside them.
When a society has young people gone rogue, chances are that the adults went rogue first! One of the most fulfilling experiences of a person is hearing another person acknowledge them as having made a positive contribution in their lives.
It has the spiritual texture of breathing your life into another. Young people are nature’s platform for every adult to make a go at this experience. For the sake of the community’s health, adults must return to their senses, look over their shoulders and intentionally take positive interest in the lives of young people who are coming after them.
The “island illusion”: Young people perceive themselves as drastically different from other generations. This creates what can described as an “island illusion” where they push everyone to a calculated distance. The distance is far enough for adults not to disturb them but near enough to tactically befriend them when they need them.
The island illusion is complicated by an element of imagined superiority where adults are perceived as shockingly ignorant and children as uselessly kiddish. This curves youthfulness as the centre of life. Youth are the earth others are moons. They are the river and others tributaries and distributaries.
Young people need to vacate this imagination of a private generation and remove the “do not disturb” sign from their doors. Humanity is essentially interconnected and just like every person needs another, every generation needs the other. In this era of terrific innovations, young people can help humanity by innovating holistic generational bridges to heal the crippling generational gaps.