Recently, I (Alvin) finished reading Andrew Zirschky’s book Beyond the Screen: Youth Ministry for the Connected But Alone Generation. This short book highlighted some profound insights on how Generation Z engages social media in the context of community.

Some specific insights that caught my attention:

  • One key reason why many youth gravitate to technology is “not primarily for its entertainment value or cool factor, but because of its potential to foster ‘presence-in-absence’ – the ability to be with friends despite physical separation”. (p.14) Zirschky outlines historical and current premises behind a person associating with another, and how technology now changes that.
  • Phatic communication builds trust and credibility. “Phatic communion describes the ‘ties of union’ that can be created by exchanges that appear to be meaningless-such as teenage text messages” (p.42) Zirschky extrapolates how phatic communion leads to deeper levels of trust; conversely ignoring phatic communion can erode trust.
  • There is a pathway towards koinonia through the midst of technology. He shows bot the human need behind it and the potential obstacles/drawbacks when not engaged well.

Zirschky presents another framework when looking at technology and youth ministry, and is well worth the read.