The Unique Stressors Young Adults Face Today
Our modern age—saturated with technology, constant cynicism, streamlined digital communication, heavy negativity, relationship status posts, and instant information access—has shaped the way many young people deal with the pressure points of life. With the unique set of pressures students experience in their transition to college, more young adults are struggling with purpose, relationships, failure, community, and isolation than ever before. Author and college ministry leader Shelby Abbott believes that while technology isn’t itself to blame, it forces real issues to surface in the lives of young men and women.
Abbott’s new release, Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress (New Growth Press) aims to confront many of these struggles, big or small, in light of the gospel.
Q: What are a few of the stressors students wrestle with today’s culture that Pressure Points directly addresses? How are the challenges of today different from those of previous generations?
The book is divided into three main sections, addressing purpose, relationships and difficulties. Under those mains sections, I dive into relevant topics such as: God’s will, drinking, sex, pornography, relating to parents, friends, dating, authentic community, the fear of missing out (FOMO), struggling with failure, blocked goals, and even spiritual warfare. It’s a lot of helpful advice in one concise package that aims for practical gospel solutions.
Because of technology and a smartphone in nearly everyone’s pocket, culture is quite different from previous generations. New temptations, means of gathering information, social constructs, and solution attempts are all approached through the lens of a technology-driven culture, and this presents new gospel opportunities to speak to unique cultural challenges. I cannot ignore the obviousness of technological influence on students while pointing them to biblical answers.
Q: What exactly do you mean by “gospel solutions”?
When you begin to unpack the gospel, you discover very quickly that it is a bottomless pit of grace. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the answer to all of our struggles, but it can be difficult to see that when you are in the midst of feeling life’s pressures. This book is an attempt to lovingly guide young men and women toward the good news we read about in the pages of Scripture and help them understand that there are practical applications of the gospel in the big and small of everyday struggles. The gospel helps us to understand and know our place in life, and hopefully see how relevant it is to any and everyone, regardless of what the culture may look like today.
Q: Why is the fear of missing out (FOMO) so prevalent among today’s college students? How does technology shine a light on some of the pressure points in a student’s life?
Because of technology’s ability to show us everything that’s going on in the world right now, today’s young generation has been consumed by the idea that other better options are prevalent and attainable to them. Most college-aged Christians wrestle with FOMO all the time, and it has dramatically affected how they go about life. Their anxiety has increased, and they aren’t experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises to us. I explore some practical gospel solutions to this in the book, and I like to re-read those parts to myself regularly because this is an ongoing struggle for me too.
I wouldn’t say technology itself is the problem, rather I’d say technology forces the real problems to the surface of our lives so they become easy to spot. Fear, laziness, apathy, and the like are all attitudes that have always been around for generations, but technology has made them more clearly visible.
Q: Dating has always been a pressure point for college students, but how has technology changed the modern dating scene? In what ways is the digital, online presentation of a person not an accurate picture of their true self?
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Dating in general doesn’t really exist in the way it did before the age of the smartphone. What I’d call “traditional dating” is considered very old-fashioned and unbearably awkward for so many young people, to the point people are no longer asking one another out on dates, they’re just succumbing to the norm of “hook-up culture.” Sadly, that way of interacting with the opposite sex has quickly bled over onto the Christian scene. No, not as many Christian college students are hooking up and engaging in random sexual flings as compared to non-believing students, but the noncommittal kind of “whatever” attitude about relationships with the opposite sex is definitely present. Young people can hide behind the safety of their phones and protect themselves from any kind of face-to-face social anxiety simply by texting the opposite sex instead of engaging with them in person. The person-to-person interaction still has to happen, however, and I’ve found that part of relational interaction between the sexes is still a source of significant pressure for them.
Everything about a person that comes through digitally (whether it be online through social media or through a text message on a phone) is technically edited content. If you know a person solely via the veneer of social media profiles or edited text messages, then you don’t really know that person entirely. We’re deceiving ourselves if we buy into the fact that we can get to know someone deeply if we only communicate digitally. That method of getting to know someone will always lack depth because it can never be a substitute for the real thing. Social media and texting should never be a substitute for relationships, but rather a springboard.
Q: Why has escapism become such a problem for college students?
Escapism has essentially become an idol that college students run to in order to fill the void they’re wrestling with in college. Post high school is often a time of self-reflection and discovery about who you are and what you want to do. Inevitably, young people are being pushed in ways they’re not used to because there’s the element of being on your own and feeling like an adult for probably the first time in your life. And when the pressures of college begin to squeeze, college students look to almost anything for a sense of relief. Often times, this can lead to drinking, drugs, sexual promiscuity, pornography, or a ton of other damaging things. What I want young people to see is t the false gods they run to will ultimately fail them because the void can only be filled by the true God in a relationship with Christ.
Q: How is the advice you share in Pressure Points particularly applicable for recent graduates/young adults entering the workforce?
We never graduate from walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and focusing our lives on bringing glory to God, and this book certainly contains that overarching message. Practically, however, making and being a good friend, joining a church, navigating the tricky environment of modern romance, and other valuable subjects I cover in Pressure Points are highly applicable topics to recent graduates and young adults entering the workforce. Undoubtedly, young twenty-somethings can greatly benefit from what I’ve shared as they look toward beginning life post cap and gown.