If I were to ask you how the world is changing you would probably have a list of things you mention. Culture is always changing. Views on God and spirituality become different over time. How people prioritize their lives changes. The things they struggle with evolve.
We have been fortunate that anonymous conversation online has always led people to be very authentic and transparent with us. Visitors frequently share things they say they have never told anyone else. This unique relationship offers us a front row seat to what is happening culturally.
Another aspect of offering anonymity is that we tend to see things developing long before mainstream culture and media pick up on them. My first experience with this was seeing how conversations about same sex relationships and marriage were rapidly growing long before mainstream media started writing about it, any state legalized gay marriage, or so many organizations started legitimizing it in their advertising.
One way we track these issues is we ask volunteers to select topical tags for each conversation. This is different from an outcome where we strive to understand whether the conversations were spiritual or included a Gospel presentation or may have resulted in a profession of faith. The topical tags are meant to capture the subjects discussed and themes of the conversation. Obviously, a single conversation may include multiple topics.
Every year sees movement in these topics with some growing in frequency and others becoming less discussed. There are three strong themes that we see coming out of an analysis of topical tags from 2021.
- Issues related to sexuality and gender were the fastest growing topical areas in 2021. This included same sex attraction, gender confusion and gender transition. This might not seem remarkable based on what we see in the world but the number of these conversations with young people was most surprising and concerning.
- Mental health related issues like anxiety, depression, anger, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts also saw a significant increase in conversations last year. We see rising suicide rates for young people but may not realize the growing number that include those dangerous thoughts as part of their solution set without acting on them.
- The third area that stood out were topics related to human interaction such as loneliness, family issues, dating, marriage, and divorce. We know the world struggled through the pandemic to find healthy community and relationships. The tag data shows us this continued last year as we saw it increase significantly as a percentage of all our conversations in 2021.
These are just a few of the things that we saw changing in 2021 with online evangelism. With over 400 different topical tags, you can imagine that there is much more to what we saw including the number of people looking to grow closer to God, seeking prayer and having questions about the Bible.
We hope this reminds you that we never know what issues someone may be dealing with when they reach out for conversation. This data helps us be better prepared to meet all people with biblical truth and and how trusting Jesus Christ applies to all situations.