Douglas Rushkoff has produced two terrific PBS Frontline documentaries about youth and media. The Merchants of Cool (2001) and The Persuaders (2004) both analyzed the embedded nature of corporate marketing in media aimed at young people. Now Generation Like probes how the advent of social media has changed the equation.
Essentially, nothing has changed. The media that young people consume is still carefully crafted for purposes of branding. Only now the process of branding has opened up, so that youth consumers of media actually function as marketing foot soldiers for corporations.
Watch the clip below, and ponder this question: what are those of us who minister to young people doing that differs from these corporate marketing strategies? The questions seems absurd, because the difference in the scale of our operations is utterly massive; I don’t know any youth groups with millions of likes on its Facebook page. Yet I wonder if we’re not sharing certain assumptions about the value of youth attention in our efforts to connect with them. Personally, I’m losing. The activities I’m inviting them to participate in, even to like, lag way behind most of their other priorities.
Should that bother me? Does my outreach need to be appeal more to my students’ sensitivity to public perception? Or is the call of youth ministry to soldier on and allow the gap between church-based activities and YouTube driven activity only widen?