Six years ago, when she was 11 years old, Kathy Lewington from Buckinghamshire, England poured some Dr Pepper into two cups of Starbucks. She didn’t like coffee – she didn’t drink coffee; she and her friend had just finished two sweet frappuccinos when they had the brilliant idea of pouring some dark soda into the iconic cups. Lewington wanted one thing and one thing only: attention. She sent her a photo Snapchat followers by captioning it “iced coffee” followed by an excited tongue sticking out emoji: 😛.
Lewington recently re-shared this post – and a host of others – on tik tak titled “Things I Really Posted on Snap at 11”. Above 80,000 similar videos were posted on the site, and each is voiced by a 2015 medley of songs. The trend is certainly fun and funny, but it symbolizes something deeper. The first generation of people who grew up with social media in their pocket—the first generation to use it religiously in their early teens—is now taking stock.
One TikTok in particular, uploaded by user @rckelly99, is hilarious, melancholy and candid, with 227,000 views. AT video, she discusses the Snapchats she sent to make it look like she had “such an amazing life” at 13. She googled pictures of people drinking and acted like she was at parties with them; take a picture of her grandfather from behind to represent him as a young friend; taking selfies with her father’s gardener; make up names of friends who didn’t exist.
Along with her Dr Pepper photo on TikTok, Lewington posted old snaps of her lounging in a supermarket and one grumpy post: “wow mom, thanks for taking my friends.”
“I think being the first generation to be online from a young age means we can see the mistakes we made and kind of try to stop people younger than us from posting something they might regret in the future. Lewington talks about why Generation Z is keen to share their old posts. Lewington got her first phone at 10 and started Instagram “immediately” – when she later downloaded Snapchat, she “posted whatever I thought of. I think back then, being a lot younger, I wasn’t afraid of being judged like teenagers are now.”
Ultimately, the only thing any of us have ever posted for is attention, which makes it especially fun to look back at what seemed like attention-grabbing to digital-accustomed teens. Ethan Poisson, a 19-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, racked up 930,000 likes when he posted TikToked on his high school Snapchat earlier this year. The first post of the video shows his cherubic youthful face, eyes wide in shock; this time is 12:18 am. Young Poisson captioned the photo: “When you realize that tomorrow is school.”
“There is so much to unpack,” Poisson now says. “I was definitely trying to be funny with this weird facial expression that I was doing, but I was also trying to show that I was cool and didn’t sleep late. For some reason, I thought 12:18 was the ungodly hour to go to bed.” Poisson first gained access to social media in the fourth grade after winning an iPad in the school lottery. He later used Snapchat to “try to show what I’m doing” because “in high school, everything is a competition.”
“It made me feel really cool,” Poisson says of using the app. “Every time I traveled somewhere like New York, I always had to post a photo of an airplane window.” While millennials also grew up with social media, they didn’t have 24/7 access to it on their phones as kids, and the platforms popular in the early 2000s (Bebo, MySpace, MSN, and AIM) all but disappeared. taking bad memories with them. Snapchat, on the other hand, makes it easy for users to convey their memories of years gone by.
“I think we’re looking back and asking, ‘Who let us publish these things?'” Poisson says. “We also just laugh at ourselves because the internet has changed so much and things that were once okay to post are now considered ‘edible’.
Mille Clue, a 19-year-old from Liverpool, England, cringes as she recalls conspicuous consumption as a child. In one pic she recently shared on TikTok, 13-year-old Clay laid out her Christmas presents, including a laptop, high-end cosmetics and £10 and £20 bills.
“Now I’m definitely more confident and I wouldn’t have to flaunt my Christmas money,” Clay says; she now believes the post was “tactless and privileged”. Looking back at her pictures, I felt that Clay was “nostalgic and sad for her younger self”; she admits that as a child she “sought attention” online and created posts aimed at friends who upset her.
“I was definitely very easily influenced by my peers,” Clay says. If friends posted pictures of themselves eating, she would do it too. She found it odd to post her gifts, but she “goed along with it” because it “was just something everyone was posting.” Both she and Levington say they wanted to appear “adult” when using Snapchat.
There is, of course, a dark side. Another TikTok Trend sees people making videos with the caption “unlimited internet access as a child” before referring to disturbing things they’ve seen online. “It was definitely something that I unwittingly saw on the Internet that I probably should not have had,” says Poisson. On YouTube, which promotes deeper analysis, the creators of Gen Z have made videos such as “The implications of growing up online for Generation Z”, with a discussion of internet addiction, online sensations, and the impostor syndrome.
As they enter adulthood, Gen Z can appreciate the strange acts the Internet has made them behave, from decanting Dr Pepper to bedtime boasting. But Clay says the kids worry her today. “I think kids are exposed to social media a lot more than I am,” she says. “I think it just destroys young teenagers’ outlook on life because they don’t live in the moment and are more concerned about posting their photos on Instagram. It must be so exhausting and bad for their self-esteem because they have only ever compared their lives to people on social media, which is a structured narrative.” Who knows what these kids – or, for that matter, Lewington, Poisson and Clay – will be thinking in 10 years?
Credit: www.wired.com /