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Friday, 15 November 2013


I have just finished day one out of two of the XLP Mentoring training ( It was such an incredibly insightful day, full of facts and statistics which were pretty difficult to swallow, and also full of little anecdotes to get us excited about running the project in our own area.

What stood out from the day for me was the video you'll find below.
It talks about something which I have been thinking a lot about from several angles and for several reasons lately. Loneliness. I went on a different training course last weekend in London called the 'New Media Conference', and it was really excellent because it was not a way of selling the use of new technology for your church work (which was what I expected), but instead as well as highlighting it's many benefits, the speakers also talked at length about the very real pitfalls of our 21st century online world, particularly for pastoral care ministry. Katherine Welby was the most inspirational speaker of the day for me, as she very bravely made herself vulnerable to us and explained how in her experience of being at both ends of pastoral care online (receiving & giving) things often got messy and were certainly not always what was needed nor appropriate at the time. What she really needed was to be coaxed out from behind the safety net of a computer screen which was in actual fact holding her captive.

From the two days these are my main take away points.

"Loneliness is the most common ailment of the modern world, made worse by social networks - we are collecting friends like stamps & lacking real connections".
People are ceasing to deeply get to know one another and instead we are editing ourselves for our own self promotion of only the desirable parts of us that we want to portray (a pretty profile photo, a witty status, a loving message sent but never followed up, a shiny life that never has it's down days). It changes who we are because we are not who we are telling the world we are and therefore no-one really knows us. Young people today (and in fact all of us) are experiencing an identity crisis! Social networking gives us the idea that we will never have to be alone because we have x number of Facebook friends.... however on the contrary, it is pushing us to spend more time behind the screen than with real people who we can share real tangible experiences with. We are faking experiences to help us feel connected when we really just feel ALONE! How did we get to a place whereby on our birthdays, 100's of people wish us well on Facebook, but barely anyone bothers to pick up the phone and actually say it? Clicking a button is not difficult. We are permitted to be lazy and not really care!! This is not cool people!!

1/10 young people feel like they cannot deal with daily life (this is heartbreaking!). Let us be people who are not paid to, but who volunteer to mentor a young person and invest our time and finances into their lives. To get them away from the screens of the 21st century if only for an hour a week, and show them that someone wants to get to know more than their twitter feed or latest post on Facebook. The people in my life that have mattered the most have been the people who took the time to sit with me and listen to what I had to say, what I'd been through, and where I wanted to go. Those are the people at 22 that I thank God for. We can be those people to someone else. In fact I will count my life a bit of a waste if by the end of it I have not played a role like this in someone's life, in some capacity (be it informal or formal).
I crave for people to know me and really know me. And so do you. XLP are starting from a really great place... with our young people. They are the generation who, because they are so normalized to the 'Apple driven world', are in my opinion the most at risk of feeling isolated and unknown.
Hope is the refusal to only see a situation the way it currently is - And I for one want to join with XLP in saying that 'I refuse to believe that this is a lost generation'.

Some stats from 'YoungMind' which should spur us on to want to advocate for our young people and be a part of their journey from loneliness, poor mental health & poor life choices, towards holistic well-being & living the life Christ died for them to live...

- 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 - 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder - that is around three children in every class.
- Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm.
- There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.
- Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
- Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
- 72% of children in care have behavioural or emotional problems - these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
- 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.

1 comment:

  1. Ben Hunt: Wow totally agree. All I want is a hug and someone to tell me they love me and I'M WORTH IT. You wont get that from fb.

    Becky Steed: Exactly Ben. We need more authentic relationships! I'd swap every facebook friend for one REAL one in a heartbeat and I'm pretty sure most would agree.

    Ben Hunt: Fb does have its place though in the loneliness stackes. What do you suggest we do to reverse this trend, clubs, meetings or somthing else. It does seem to me lots of people have lost the art of talking face to face just come to our office. I was thinking of coming off grid but it is very obvious you miss out on alot and you get left behind on peoples conversation cos they carry it on from fb or twitter.

    Becky Steed: Yeh you are definitely right. There are many really positive things which can and do come out of social networking - but we need to start transferring our relationships off facebook and in to real life so that when the choice comes to sit at home with the laptop, verses going out with people and enjoying real life, we would choose the latter. And so that we have people who are helping us in practical ways to live our lives and battle through the hard stuff... because words can't really do anything except bring temporary comfort. And particularly in pastoral care, for those who are vulnerable people, this needs to be offline for so many reasons. e.g. face to face cues like body language and tone change a whole conversation. If you've ever seen 'CatFish' on TV you'll see the horror stories of how people can be one person online and another off. I think to reverse the trend is going to be individual level if I'm honest... real people choosing to step out from their online persona. For the youngest generation now, this is gunna be so so hard.