5 Things Tiktok Taught Me About Gen Z

Published on 8/7/2021

Just yesterday, I was sitting around with my Milennial friends drinking Aperol Spritz’s and complaining about the state of the world, when I said that I couldn’t wait for Gen Z to be older and influence society even more than they do now. Because I think that once Gen Z are entering our offices, calling the shots and raising kids in their own way, the world is not going to know what hit them. I truly believe that they are the generation of change that we couldn’t be.

My friends were surprised at my statement, maybe I was an Aperol Spritz or two ahead of them - those things are delicious, have you tried them? They didn’t really see the contrast in Gen Z or how influential they could be. I realised the difference is that I have Tiktok, I’m hopelessly addicted, and so I have infiltrated the den of the Gen Z. I have exposed myself for too many hours to be comfortable admit, and I am the ‘She’s the Man’ of the Gen Z world.

I have crossed the barrier to Tiktok, and seen things that maybe I shouldn’t have. And in that, I have discovered more about Gen Z than my Milennial peers.

1. They’re fearless… and I’m scared

I’m not really one for confrontation, my fear of abandonment and anxiety restrict me from calling people out. It’s something I’m working on, but even so I don’t think I could ever reach the level of confrontation that Gen Z adopt with ease. One of the first Tiktoks I saw was someone calling out what toxic family members had said to them. The video had received hundreds of thousands of likes, and presumably even more views, and I was aghast. They were openly discussing what people had said to them in a place where those people could see it.

My instinct is to keep issues private, but I respected them for it. Because if you don’t want your dirty laundry aired, then don’t create dirty laundry. Say things that you’re comfortable with others hearing. Gen Z were ready to throw that dirty laundry in front of a camera for the world to see, because they knew the shame didn’t lie with them. They do the same for ex-partners who screwed them over as well as friends who treated them in a crappy way. They are fearless and it terrifies me.

Since being on Tiktok and hearing more of cancel culture, I’ve begun to write my articles with more care. I’m worried about getting myself cancelled, now or in several years when someone digs up one of my articles. I always try to go in with positive intentions and speak from experience, rather on behalf of someone. But I am constantly learning and recognising my own mistakes. So I have still recruited my most politically and socially educated friend to check my articles just in case.

2. They don’t settle for how things are

We used to think of Millennials as the ‘woke’ generation, as we spotted the issues present in society. We noticed the media was fat-shaming and caused disordered eating; we noticed that sexism and racism ran rampant in society. But what did we do about it? We noticed, we complained, and most of us left it at that.

Gen Z aren’t like that. They are determined. They will call people out on Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter and more. I don’t doubt that they do it in real life too. They will not accept things as they are. They see the world for what it is but don’t accept that. When someone says awful things online, they’ll find their employers and report them. When someone is a sexual predator, they spread the word. This isn’t without risks and errors; I’m not claiming that it’s a perfect system, but that they don’t settle.

When I was a teenager, I was selfish and naive; I didn’t think of the larger world to the extent that Gen Z does. I wasn’t at protests, I wasn’t a part of the change, I was a part of the system. I’m so impressed that Gen Z speaks up in a way we never did. I hope to be more like them now when I’m finally having a voice.

3. They definitely don’t shop at Forever 21 anymore

I’m twenty-four, and yet I somehow look more childish than fifteen-year-olds nowadays. I certainly did not look like they do at that age. I was shopping at Forever 21, draping myself in plastic beads and necklaces with a gem-studded owl. I was wearing leggings under shorts, t-shirts with sassy text and way too many bangles on my wrist. Why were we wearing such skinny scarves in the middle of summer? I would go into further detail, but I’ve tried to eliminate it from my consciousness.

Today’s teenagers are believed to have grown up too quickly. Maybe that’s why they’re so political and outspoken. You can see that in how they dress and act as well, as they lack the innocence and naivety we once wore with pride. They are skipping the awkward puberty phase and shopping at the same stores we do. They are not only at the height of fashion but also creating the trends that other generations follow.

4. They’re individuals in a way we never were

I can’t speak for everyone else, but all the people I knew at that age were complete sheep. We dressed in the same way; we tugged those strands of hair out of our ponytails to hang limply by our face and wore the same sticky lipgloss. We didn’t want to stand out; we wanted to look exactly like the definition of cool. We gazed at celebrities in our copies of Sixteen and Tiger Beat and tried to copy their hairstyles and outfits with our limited funds. We didn’t want to be different as no one appreciated it at the time.

But on Tiktok, I constantly see Gen Z individuals exhibiting their unique style and outspoken personalities. They don’t seem afraid to be different, to be disliked or misunderstood. They are so unapologetically themselves, and I wish I could’ve had even an inch of that in my adolescence. They’re happy laughing at themselves and being a part of the joke when that felt impossible at that age. Maybe those are simply the ones I see on Tiktok, but even so, it’s refreshing to witness.

5. They don’t hate us as much as they claim

The Millennials versus Gen Z wars have been well documented across Tiktok, Buzzfeed and Twitter. I’m not sure who threw the first punch, perhaps an insecure Millennial, but the war was a brutal one. They mocked our side partings in favour of their middle partings. They claimed we only talk about adulting, wine and Friends (obviously). But the real blow came when they found Harry Potter tattoos on many Millennials. You really let us down there, guys.

Millennials jumped to a response. We may be obsessed with Harry Potter, but look at the way Gen Z become obsessed with whatever the latest Netflix show is, like Euphoria, and create an entire Tiktok trend out of it. They draw under-eye circles not realising how soon they’ll get and detest them. We also consider them to be idealists, unaware of the terrible economy and housing shortage they would soon enter. Also, let’s never forget the Tide pod incident; that’s a true mark on their side.

For all their Millennial-focused attacks, Gen Z is actually obsessed with us, or rather with our youth. They mock our clothing choices, and yet they’re bringing back the trends of the 90s and early 2000s. Low rise jeans are already being spotted (God, help us), as well as butterfly clips, bucket hats and matching tracksuits. They also love our music and often remix it with more recent songs. Basically, they want to be us, and they just don’t know that they do.

All jokes aside, I love that Gen Z is discovering the joys of our childhood, ones we’ve buried amongst the trauma of Jessica Simpson and Kate Winslet being considered fat. They’re finding a way to bring the gems of the past into the new decade, mixing it with their own style and trends. I think the dissatisfaction for Millennials isn’t really about our appearance or interests, but rather the fact that we blindly follow these instead of paving our own route. That we kept our heads buried in Harry Potter books rather than out in the world looking for change.

It’s easy to laugh about Millennials and anyone with a Hogwarts tattoo and just as easy to chuckle at Gen Z when they film Tiktoks in public without an ounce of shame. But I think both generations could learn from one another, we can teach them about how shit adulthood is, and they can push us actually to change that and get what we want. We’re stuck believing a 9-5 is the only way forward, whilst they see opportunity in every platform and side hustle. Maybe we need one another more than we think, and maybe Tiktok will open the gates to each generation.

Or Gen X could finally speak up and join the battle, ultimately choosing a side.

Tiktok also taught me that you don't owe your partner your size!



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