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“But why do they want to bring back low-rise jeans?” On social networks, generations tease each other... and try to understand each other better

“I’m a millennial and yesterday I saw a video that described the things that GenZ finds outdated in my generation…How can I tell you, I felt old.

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“But why do they want to bring back low-rise jeans?” On social networks, generations tease each other... and try to understand each other better

“I’m a millennial and yesterday I saw a video that described the things that GenZ finds outdated in my generation…How can I tell you, I felt old.” Auriane Lavaux, in her thirties, pretends to be desperate as she starts her makeup video on TikTok. She is therefore considered, to her great dismay, as part of Generation Y, which includes people born between 1980 and 1996. For several months, they have become an object of mockery for GenZ, the generation born just after, between 1997 and the 2010s.

The latter imitate their elders in viral TikTok videos where they appear dressed in tight jeans and dance to the title Turn Down for What, released in 2013. Which was most often used during flash mobs, these gatherings broadcast on the Internet in the 2000s where people would suddenly start doing an unexpected action in public.

Auriane says, for her part, that she discovered on TikTok that younger people think “that gifs and memes are outdated.” But, for the young woman, the blow comes with another piece of information. “I don’t understand.... They want to bring back low-rise jeans even though they’re not comfortable,” she says indignantly, applying her mascara.

Auriane is far from the only one interested in what GenZ thinks of her and her age group. Generally speaking, the subject of generations is fascinating on the Chinese social network. Over the last thirty days, videos containing the words “GenZ”, “millennials”, “boomer” (people born between 1947 and the 1960s) and “GenX” (people born between 1965 and 1981), total 37 million views. “likes”, reports the web monitoring platform Visibrain.

“On TikTok, people like to tell their everyday anecdotes,” confirms TikTok user Adeline from the unamourdechef account. The millennial, as she likes to call herself, discovered through this content what GenZ thinks about the world of work. “I, like others, had the feeling of being the eldest who had to respect all the rules, in front of the youngest who, for their part, spoke on camera about their needs to have a private life outside of work.” The videographer, however, decides to go further and question her young subscribers about what they dislike about certain codes in the business world.

Discussions which give rise to humorous videos, where the young woman jokes about her own generation. “I'm shocked, GenZ when they're sick... They take sick leave,” she begins, looking stunned, in one of the most viewed publications on her account. A video which allows him to open, in the comments section, discussions between generations. “Employers have explained that they better understand the vision of work of the youngest and, among these same young people, some have defended themselves by saying that they do not recognize themselves in what is portrayed of their generation,” continues Adeline. “It ultimately allows us to overcome everyone’s clichés.” Still according to the Visibrain monitoring platform, the GenZ hashtag alone has generated 1.4 million publications since its creation.

Within families, we also share this type of videos between parents and children, whether they are still at home... or far from the nest. Social networks indeed make it possible to maintain a form of connection. Like Véronique, 63, and her daughter Alice*, 24, who created an account for her on TikTok two years ago. “Often, we send each other funny videos that we discover on TikTok, like excerpts from comedian shows or short publications of funny one-liners,” explains Véronique. “It becomes a time in the evening where we exchange via common references and then, for me, it allows me to clear my head,” she confides, amused.

This way of communicating does not surprise researcher Anne Cordier, university professor of information and communication science. “We must stop with this talk of generational rupture on social networks. Today’s parents are 40 or 50 years old, of course they are in the same spaces as their children,” she emphasizes. “At the time of confinement, generations of parents and grandparents took stock of the social depth of TikTok videos,” continues the professor. “In general, they understood the tool that social networks represent for maintaining social ties.”

According to Anne Cordier, Instagram (owned by the Meta group) is the most used by all of these generations. With 2 billion monthly active users, we find both GenZ, “who post little but share ephemeral publications with the story function”, notes Anne Cordier, but also their parents and grandparents. “Families follow shared accounts and they see similar videos on the new “discoveries” feed on Instagram,” she adds. “They thus share a common place on digital technology.”

Antoine, 28, knows something about it. Instagram became the starting point for gossip with her parents and, especially, her mother. “If I post a story, she will inevitably respond to it,” he describes. The latter created an account shortly before confinement. She has since become an avid user of this social network. “She actually added my own friends, who found it funny,” testifies the young man. “Sometimes, it’s even her who tells me on the phone what a friend went to see in concert recently, or which country he went to,” he laughs. “And it’s my mother who publishes the most photos, especially from her vacations with my father. I almost never publish anything.”

A point that concerns Anne Cordier. “In these new forms of communication, we often ask the question of what children reveal to their parents on the networks, but very little of what parents show their children,” underlines the communications specialist. “However, it would be worth questioning what we allow them to see on social networks,” she concludes, thoughtfully.

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