A Viral Article Suggests Millennials Are Too Old For The Internet, But Is That Even Possible?
Millennials are aging online, according to a viral article, and the biggest proof of this is the “millennial hiatus.” But what is the millennial pause, and does it really signal the end of an era for millennials on the internet?
What is the “millennial pause”?
Published in The Atlantic, Kate Lindsay’s original article points to a plethora of quirks and behaviors millennials are doing online that have gone out of style. Specifically, millennial mannerisms on TikTok that Gen Z TikTokers poke fun at.
These tics include randomly zooming in to emphasize topics of conversation, a style of speaking called a “BuzzFeed accent,” using random filters, using phrases popular on Twitter and Instagram like “dog” and ” I can’t even” and “Grow up”. and the latest crime… the millennial hiatus.
The millennial pause, as Lindsay defines it, is the split second millennials wait before speaking in a video to intuitively bypass the recording lag. The break, Lindsay posits, is a technical hangover from using older technology that didn’t start recording immediately. Additionally, while millennials are used to documenting their lives in photos, the millennial pause is an indicator of uneasiness in capturing videos absent from those generally made by Gen Z.
The term millennial pause was first coined in a TikTok about Taylor Swift. Stitching a TikTok with Swift, TikTok user @nisipisa excitedly exclaimed that not even she is immune to the chilling hiatus. “God! Will she ever stop identifying,” says @nisipisa.
In fact, there’s now an entire genre of TikTok dedicated to Generation Z roasting millennial internet mannerisms. Parodies of how millennials tell stories, how millennials behave in live feeds, what it sounds like when millennials try to use so-called Gen Z slang (most of which is actually just badly learned AAVE) and even on the inherent millennial cringe worthiness of Nick Jonas’ TikToks.
Lindsay finds a handful of mannerisms outside of TikTok, too. Millennial tics like to use GIFs as reactions, turning social media bios into lists that include everything from every city they’ve lived in to their home at Hogwarts.
But are millennials really too old for social media?
Contrary to the general tone of Lindsay’s article, however, not all is doom and gloom for the over-25s on the internet. It’s not even that easy for millennials to “age” off the internet.
Fiona Martin, Associate Professor of Online and Converged Media at the University of Sydney, says: “Some millennials who use social media to communicate will follow cultural trends, others will not. Taunting them for dating is a social differentiation tactic.”
Associate Professor Martin told Junkee that different generations have always used technology in unique ways that are not defined solely by age. “Rather than millennials ‘aging’ off social media, over the past decade we’ve seen different comment cultures (cultures of sharing on social media) evolving based on a whole range of factors including age, gender, nationality, race and ethnicity of people’s backgrounds,” she says.
“Different generations are always developing specific ways of belonging to their social group through communication technologies – we’ve seen this historically in teenage phone use, the production of mixtapes, and now in the use of multi-screen gaming and streaming,” says Martin.
Associate Professor Martin also stressed that claiming that millennials are all the same is a false premise for any argument. “This article talks about millennials as if they were a homogenous group. It’s a very Angloistic perspective that doesn’t take into account subcultures within age groups or the diversity of ethnic groups.”
As an example of how different ethnic groups use social media within the same generation, Martin pointed to the research in Bronwyn Carlson and Ryan Frazer’s book: Indigenous Digital Life. “Many Indigenous Australians are aware that they are being monitored online and as such tend to post positive, inspirational content in response,” she explains.
As a millennial, should you change how you post on social media?
In short, you can if you want. There’s a whole genre of TikToks dedicated specifically to millennials that teach other millennials how to show their age less online. From updating your wardrobe to holding your phone to general ways to avoid being “caught” as a millennial, it’s all out there.
The alternative is to accept, as AP Fiona Martin says, that each generation uses technology differently and no generation is a monolith. Even across generations, factors such as class, location, occupation, and ethnicity affect how we use technology and interact with each other. Also, if it were true that the internet or social media belongs only to the young, how do you explain the popularity of TikTok accounts like @grandma_droniak, @oldgays, our own Gumbaynggirr Burrgadi aunt @ballojinda, or the TikTok grandpa of allen @poppopbrucejohnson.
It’s common for generations to bash each other to define their identity. The reality is that “generational wars” are mostly bloated marketing schemes. The fact that people can hardly agree on which years apply to which “generation” should be an indication of how much imprecise science generational claims are based on (near-zero science, btw).
You can change your behavior online in the vain hope that when a person under 25 makes fun of a so-called millennial stereotype, you can happily think you’re the exception. Or you can remind yourself that in the past worrying about getting older never made anyone look younger.
The millennial hiatus is not a doom and gloom for the online millennial. It’s at most a tick associated with part of a demographic on a given platform. Perhaps we would all be a little better off if we remembered that every generation, like every human being, contains many human beings. Aging and the tics and manners that come with it are not a sign that you are aging out of anything. It is a privilege and a gift of age and, as Abe Simpson so wisely said, “it will happen to you”.