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Hell hath no fury like a Millennial scorned
On accidentally starting TikTok discourse.
If you need me, I’ll be hanging out with Gen-Xers only from now on. —Kate
P.S.: Speaking of (cusp) Gen-Xers, Nick talked to Why Is This Interesting? about studying the Upworthy deck, pandering to K-pop armies, and some of his favorite writers. Read his Monday Media Diet here.
Last Sunday, I put on makeup for the sole purpose of filming a TikTok video, then got right back into bed and took a nap. When I woke up forty minutes later, that video had 10,000 views. Today, it has over one million.
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The video is about an article I wrote for The Atlantic called “Are You Sure You’re Not Guilty of the ‘Millennial Pause’?” which is based on a post I wrote for this newsletter. In the few hours or so after I posted the TikTok, I tried keeping up with the reactions, including important points about how race plays into the stereotypes of Millennials and Gen-Z (things coded as “Millennial” are very white, whereas token Gen Z phrases often come from Black culture). But the reactions and comments and stitches and duets were coming in too fast for me to keep up, and anyway, there were only so many variations on “I’m a Millennial and I don’t do this” and “Why do you care so much?” that I could take.
I started letting the notifications tick up in the background, only opening the tab to get rid of the “99+” bubble that would appear, and then immediately navigating away. I spent my spare time during the week going out to dinner, making things at the pottery studio, and driving my friends to the beach. I was aware that the “Millennial pause” had become somewhat of a discourse on TikTok, but would scroll past my own face whenever it showed up on my For You page because I’m not a masochist. Overall, I really didn’t think about it that much. Honestly!
But then this weekend, the video started spilling over onto my Instagram. A meme account had posted my video and the Millennial TikTok creator Rod’s response, and I finally realized: Millennials were mad. Big mad. And mad at a version of me that does not exist.
“Her backhanded compliments and negativity sucks and I’m not a fan of her being heard but not listening and playing the victim.”
I blinked at this for about a minute straight before finally concluding that, since I had been tagged in it, this comment was indeed about me. Playing the victim? I’ve quite literally been watching What We Do In The Shadows all week. What?!
This was the catalyst for my doing the thing smarter Millennials know not to: I read the comments. I scrolled through the responses to both my and Rod’s videos, and learned a lot of things about myself, including that I’m a mean Gen Zer who won’t leave Millennials alone (I’m 29, so very much not Gen Z), and a “pick me” who is “borderline bullying” a generation of, please remember, 35-year-olds.
I went back and rewatched my TikTok to see if I was wildly misremembering my tone and the words I used, but no—it’s a pretty innocuous TikTok that is, at the very least, very clearly not malicious or hateful.
But the Millennials’ main complaint seemed to be that they are tired of their behavior being dissected and should be able to do whatever they want, which is actually very similar to the conclusion I come to at the end of the TikTok—embrace Gen Z thinking you’re cringe, who cares!
In the Atlantic piece, I also touch on this experience of having one’s behavior dissected. What makes Millennials aging unique is that they’re doing it on the internet, which is a mechanism that documents and preserves and reflects their own behavior back to them (thanks in part to pesky little writers like me).
Rude comments are to be expected with any piece of internet content that ends up getting a wide exposure, and thankfully I’m inured to it, having worked in digital media for the past decade. After taking a beat to process—and screenshot and send some of the meaner comments to my friends so they can remind me I’m nice and perfect—all that’s left is for me to write one last Millennial internetism addendum: Hell hath no fury like a Millennial scorned.