Time has released their annual list of the 30 most influential teens of 2016, and it’s intriguing to see the personalities who are resonating with today’s young people.
When you read through the list you’ll probably discover some common denominators. Most are TV and music stars, a few Olympians, some entrepreneurs, and then another prominent category… LGBTQ.
Here are some of my observations about this year’s list:
- Entertainment media dominates. Most these teens are known through TV, movies, music, or social media. Even the entrepreneurs like Rachel Zietz, who formed her own high-end lacrosse equipment company was really propelled to fame when she walked onto the set of ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch her company. Don’t get me wrong, she was successful before TV. But TV is what made her recognizable. Ten of the 30 teens on the list are known from TV or movies, four strictly from social media, and three from music. And that doesn’t include the five Olympians on the list, who we all met on our TV screens.
- Social Media is where the buzz happens. Guys like 18-year-old Luka Sabbat was a model who loved fashion, but it was really his Instagram account that thrust him into the limelight. He even admits, “I was blind to it, my influence,” when he first began using social media. But social media is the platform that launched many on the list, some who already had a presence in entertainment media (Kylie Jenner, Jaden Smith…), and others like Barbie Ferreira, a 19-year-old plus size model whose fame was really launched by a Teen Vogue YouTube series. It’s very evident that social media is a springboard to fame, and vulnerable young people often paste their hopes on the success of this identity—the desire for “like.” Youth Culture expert Walt Mueller just wrote about how this kind of social media fame only feeds the frenzy. In fact, “If kids are led to believe that anybody can maneuver social media as a path to stardom, then chances are that everybody will attempt to maneuver social media as a path to stardom at different times and different levels during their adolescent years. The dangers inherent in this are many.”
- LGBTQ is “in.” Internet site LBTQ Nation was quick to highlight 5 of the 30 teens on TIME’s list this year: two transgenders, one bisexual, and two who really don’t want to get caught up in terminology. YouTube sensation James Charles made the list, after CoverGirl made him the first CoverBoy, and was publicly commended by Katy Perry and other celebrities. Student rights activist Gavin Grimm was also on the list, the student who was born a girl, but wants to use the boys bathroom in Glaucester High School in Virginia. Grimm is bringing his…her…battle to the supreme court.
These are our kids’ heroes today.
It’s pretty evident we need Jesus.