Opinion — Social media’s ageist conversation is exhausting
TikTokers are currently discussing how and why Gen Z are ‘rapidly ageing’ compared to their Millennial peers. The conversation is symptomatic of a wider generational obsession with age, life milestones, and external societal pressures. The whole thing is draining.
If you’re an avid TikTok or Instagram Reel user, you’ve probably seen some discussion around Gen Z ageing faster than their older Millennial peers this week.
There’s been viral conversation over Gen Z beauty standards, lifestyle practices, and attitudes toward getting older in general, both on social media platforms and via traditional media.
Various publications — such as FEMAIL and Marie Claire — have given insight into why they believe younger people are looking older than their years, blaming excessive skin care products and misinformation as the primary cause.
Other outlets have instead focused attention on Gen Z’s seeming obsession with turning thirty. It appears to be a life milestone that invigorates genuine dread in some younger people, with a few commenters stating they’d ‘unalive’ themselves for fear of becoming a ‘hag’.
These remarks, while exaggerated, are indicative of a wider, generational panic toward age and eventually leaving youth behind.
TikTokers are constantly discussing their appearance, beauty tips, lifestyle choices, achievements, and accomplishments, all within the context of their age. We are seemingly living in an era of intense ageist pressure, where conventional goals — a house, children, engagements, travel, worldly experiences, excessive salaries — must be hit in order to feel ‘on track’.
This is all despite it being so much harder to achieve those things in 2024 compared to our parents or older peers.
Social media outlets such as TikTok and Instagram have monetised idealism like never before, constantly presenting us with curated and pristine representations of modern living that are usually greatly embellished or downright fictional.
This constant feed of perfection is driving young people to aspire for excellence, believing they must have their shit entirely figured out before they hit their thirtieth birthday.
Conversation around our twenties and what we choose to do with them has become exhausting because of this never-ending onslaught of content based on our age.
Male-centric podcasters will tell you that your salary must be £200k by 25, beauty TikTokers will encourage twenty-somethings to stress about wrinkles, and travel bloggers will flex the fifty countries they visited before turning 27. Age dictates so much of Gen Zs self-help content and it is tiring.
The intensity of age and social pressures is not something new or unique to Gen Z.
We’ve seen the innate fear of our later years played for laughs on tv and in media for decades. There is a long, long list of celebrities who’ve opted for surgery in order to maintain a semblance of youth — with varying degrees of success.
What makes Gen Z slightly different is the intensity of ageist pressures and how early it seems to be starting.
In our social media age it is easy to assess ourselves against others and offer our own unsolicited or ill-informed advice. We’ve many more points of comparison today compared to our parents. Now, we know what everyone is doing at age 25 and are given a lengthy guide on how they’re doing it.
There is far less comfort room to simply exist without having an acute self-awareness of your stage in life compared to everyone else.
Couple this with social media’s algorithmic favouritism toward younger users and teenage trends and you’ve a landscape that places unnecessary emphasis on being an early twenty-something. The belief that life stops being interesting in your late twenties and beyond is the subject of constant discussion and jokes.
There probably isn’t any singular way to drastically change a generational mentality, but it is likely to improve as Gen Z gets older.
Not to sound like an old fogy yelling at the clouds, but much of this fear and dread toward later life ultimately stems from a lack of experience. Once Gen Zers reach their late twenties, they’ll probably understand that nothing changes much, and that thirty is still a fairly young age to navigate life’s inevitable challenges.
What will likely be trickier to shake is Gen Zs misinformed approach to health and skin routines. What with ‘bed rotting’, ‘girl dinner’, various ‘core’ aesthetics, as well as constant skin condition checks and sponsored beauty brand posts, there is a ton of stress placed on not looking old. That worry will be harder to squash as Gen Zers grow into adulthood.
At the very least we should get less content tailored toward age milestones. The sooner we drop the unnecessary pressure of having things worked out before we’ve even reached middle age the better, frankly.