After working some unspecified foam into her hair, blow drying, and — most importantly — taking part of her hair down the center of her head, TikToker @speedforcecosplay looks right into her camera and says, “What Are you happy now? Stop telling me now that I look like your mom.”
If the issue of side parts versus middle parts — or whether skinny jeans are cool — doesn’t matter to you, be careful. These two seemingly arbitrary style choices are the latest distillation of something that has been happening since the beginning of time: generational warfare.
In a corner: Gen Z (who was born circa 1997 to early 2010). In the second: Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996).
Jabs are coming from all directions.
tiktoker @ladygleep In July she made a video in which she said, “Prove me wrong, but I don’t think there’s anyone who looks better than the middle part.” His videos have been viewed over 2.3 million times and the audio has been used in over 28,000 videos.
another tiktokker, @annabayhutchinson Informs anyone noticing that at one time, people called the middle parts “butt crack parts”. During this, @mollietrainor Can’t understand how to fit flared jeans into boots in winter. The hashtag #skinnyjeans has been viewed over 126.4 million times.
And that’s only a fraction of the exit — millennials are obsessed with Harry Potter, won’t stop saying “doggo” and have no idea that the laugh/cry emoji is lame. The Gen Z has an affinity for cold brew coffee, says things like “no cap” and wants to revive the ’90s.
Whether anyone really cares about these silly sounding fights doesn’t really matter. A younger generation is learning to define themselves, and the internet is playing no small part in this.
“Young people’s developmental task is to find out who they are,” said Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, a nonprofit that studies media technologies and their effects.
However, Gen Z is arguably the first generation to have always had the Internet. So when Millennials and any other upcoming generation have to suffer from generalized criticisms of everything they were doing wrong, whether casual eating or waltzing, Gen Z is finally best suited to talk to their elders could.
the kids were never well
Traditionally (though not exclusively), it is the older generation that has the power and platform to set the youth apart – very few 17-year-olds writing cover stories for national magazines.
In 2013 article for The AtlanticIn this article, author Elspeth Reeve shows that adults have been raving about children with their hands for at least a hundred years. In 1907, The Atlantic itself stated that marriages were falling apart because of the “post-individualism”. in 1990, Time magazine ran a cover story Cover line about Gen X with “Twentysomething” with “Lie Back, Late Blooming, or Just Lost?” Both feel like relatives to the more modern headlines about millennials, touting major life stages like marriage, homeownership, and parenting as they live in their parents’ basement and pursue experiences.
But in 2021, young people have a strong ability to shape their own narrative. Thanks to multiple social media platforms, there is nothing to stop that 17-year-old from going viral with TikTok who is taking the old people down.
“Instead of taking the top-down culture that we had before where media creators were the primary creators, anyone could create a text and distribute it,” said Brett Strauch, assistant professor in English, rhetoric and writing department at the University. Fort Smith at the University of Arkansas, who also teaches about memes. “There is more agency on how recent generations are able to portray themselves through social media.”
It’s agency that, early on, millennial teens simply didn’t have.
For most millennials, the social media they had access to during their younger years was in the early days of MySpace or Facebook, depending on their age. Profile pages may be public, but those networks are designed to address friends and family, said Paul Booth, a professor of media and cinema studies/digital communication and media arts at DePaul University in Chicago. No one was having viral success on MySpace for a warm take on a social issue — or someone wrote about how awful the teens were.
But many members of Gen Z grew up in a time when defining themselves online as part of a group was part of the norm. They’ve seen the culture wars online, and everyone I spoke with knew that the millennium has been a whammy in the past.
as far back in the early 2000s, Microsoft researcher Dana Boyd wrote about a concept called context collapse, which essentially calls for the convergence of friends, family, coworkers, and other areas of your social life to end up in the same place — like Facebook. – and struggle how to present themselves in front of all these groups at once
Booth suggested that perhaps for some Gen Xers, they are more used to broadcasting to all. If everything is always public, it affects how and what they post. If Millennials were talking to their friends, Gen Z is talking to everyone.
“It’s about personality building,” Booth said, “and when you grow up online and you grow up with social media, you express yourself.”
what’s inside, what’s outside
“Internet or no internet, every generation tries to differentiate itself from the past based on its cultural and social experiences,” Routledge said.
Human beings have a tendency to form groups. The clearer the boundaries between those groups—the more intense the “otherness”—the more secure members feel about themselves.
While this trend is practically as old as humanity itself, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find a circle of people and block those who are not in that circle.
“Although it may seem strange to dislike” [skinny] Leg pants or side parts, it calls for arms to jump to one side or another when it spreads on social media,” Routledge said, noting that it’s difficult to determine what is “in” and “out.” There can be a huge investment so that the members who are “in” feel better.
The risk here isn’t so much the TikTok controversy, but the ability of social media to amplify a message that can boil down to tearing a group down to define themselves. And it’s probably not the healthiest habit of growing up.
This concern is just a small piece of a much larger issue that repeats itself in instances of race, class, political affiliation and geographic location, and in more trivial matters, such as whether you got the COVID-19 vaccine.
To underscore this, there is demographic data that suggests that to the concern of some millennials and Gen Xers, the two groups may not be as antagonistic as they seem.
“The gap between Millennials and Gen Zs isn’t always that big,” said Monica Anderson, associate director of the Pew Research Center. When it comes to technology, for example, in terms of smartphone ownership, social media ownership and social media usage, the two are pretty much the same.
Pew also found that when it comes to certain views on major social issues, there often stands a few percentage points between millennials and Gen Zs. For example, 54% of Gen Zs and 56% of millennials say the Earth is warming because of human activity, compared to 48% of Gen Xers and 45% of Boomers. Along those lines, two-thirds of both Millennials and Gen Zs believe that black people in America are treated less fairly than white people, compared to half of Boomers.
While there are other big gaps that do exist, the internet may have less of a cause than you might have believed. And despite the memes about the generation divide and references to geriatric Millennials, not everyone delves into that Internet-based tension.
Lenore, 13, in Portland, Oregon, on Zoom with her mother’s permission, tells me she’s aware of some generational stereotypes.
“I mean, we love Hydro Flask,” she says of the water bottle brand popular among Gen Zs. She’s heard that millennials party all the time, and that anyone over 40 is clueless about the technology, but she also reassures, “It’s a blanket statement.”
Lenore doesn’t see conflicts over hair as the bigger forces that shape children’s ages. She wakes up every morning on her Google News Feed. It takes less than five minutes for both the Black Lives Matter protests and climate change to unfold. “With social media we get a lot of reach…