note to the grown-ups

An article in the Telegraph yesterday discusses some key principles for Christian “grown-ups” to remember if they want to connect well with college students and other young people. (By “grown-ups” I mean pastors, denominational leaders, parents, and even some college ministers.)

The short but fascinating article, “YouTube ‘spammed by U. S. Congressmen,'” can be read in its entirety here. It describes the awkward attempts by members of Congress to appeal to younger voters on YouTube. And it all fits perfectly with the difficulties many adults have in connecting with college students (and other Millennials). Senior pastors, especially, should read this.

Two months ago, YouTube started an official channel for the U.S. House of Representatives. (It’s called “HouseHub” for short.) The Telegraph notes that Dems and Republicans were invited “to share quirky political messages with voters.” It continues,

But analysts say the move has been hampered by politicians’ inability to adapt to an online audience.

Andrew Rasiej, founder of the political technology site Personal Democracy Forum, said too many messages consist of warbling monologues that miss the point.

Other postings, including one by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, were said to be too eccentric or random to resonate.

And then the key quote:

Mr Rasiej said: “The problem for Nancy Pelosi, or anyone who tries to do this, is that you can’t fake authenticity.

“The more you try to make the video authentic, the more inauthentic it becomes. And Nancy Pelosi’s cat video is the perfect example of overdoing it, and watching one’s head disappear in a pool of quicksand.”

If you’re interested, the Pelosi video is at the bottom of this post. Most pertinent to the discussion is the fact that the video ends with a “rickroll” – a non sequitur scene from Rick Astley’s 1987 music video that has become an internet fad. Clearly, whoever made the video is trying to fit in by including something trendy, but they do it in a way that doesn’t fit the usual context (and to be “rickrolled” is considered somewhat of an insult, in fact).

So it comes off like someone trying to be cool AND in fact being insulting… Either of which is worse than not trying at all. (The comments and reply videos on YouTube express viewers’ “immense displeasure,” to put it nicely.)

When adults aren’t familiar with the younger culture, it’s easy for “warbling monologues,” “eccentric,” “random,” or “fake authenticity” that appears “inauthentic” to describe their efforts. Sometimes they attempt shortcuts by including “cool” references or “cool” elements they’re clearly unfamiliar with. And sometimes their words or attempts can even be insulting to the very people they were hoping to serve.

But the article ends with one more principle that could provide some comfort for our grown-up friends. Millennials’ love for authenticity actually allows people to be less “slick” than they otherwise think might be necessary:

[Mr. Rasiej] told Politico: “It is important that [politicians] understand it’s different culturally. They all need to relax. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

One Comment

  1. Seth

    Hey – this sparked some great conversation with a student of mine. I was watching the video and when it came to the rickroll part he yelled in from another room- “Did you just get rickrolled?!”

    I suppose in some way I did.

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