By Paul Lambis
If keeping up with the latest social media trends feels as if it is harder than keeping up with the Kardashians, then you are not alone. The very nature of social media is that it is fast. Social networking sites are online platforms where people visit for quick snippets of everything going on with people, brands and places about which they care. These sites have fostered a fast-paced environment, changing how things look and feel, adding new features and updating algorithms at a rapid-fire pace.
Social media is a vital aspect of our children’s social and creative lives. They use social media to have fun, make and maintain friendships, share interests, explore identities and develop relationships with family. Social media is an extension of their offline and face-to-face interactions.
Trying to keep up as social media continues to evolve has proven to be a daunting task. I have often entered social networking sites, subscribing to new platforms in an attempt to keep up with the young person’s game. Admittedly, I have bounced straight out, confused and sapped, labelled a ‘Boomer’ by the younger generation as they dismiss and mock my outdated social media attitudes.
The above phrase first drew widespread attention due to a TikTok video in response to an older man, in which he declared that, “millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome.” The video inspired the phrase “OK boomer” as a dismissal of the ideals of past generations.
You may have seen it somewhere on social media, and almost every young Cypriot has embraced the global frenzy that has surpassed Instagram in downloads. In a moment of quarantine weakness, I downloaded TikTok, hoping to understand what it was and how it worked. I fell down a rabbit hole. I could not stop scrolling. An hour had gone in a blink of an eye as I devoured TikTok after TikTok. There is little enlightening or informative information to engage with, so why was I so hypnotised by it? I was at a loss, and decided to do some research.
The app assertively answers anyone’s what should I watch with a flood. In the same way, TikTok provides plenty of answers for the paralysing, what should I post? The result is an endless unspooling of material that people might be too self-conscious to post on Instagram, or they would never have come up with in the first place without a nudge. It can be hard to watch. It can be charming. However, it is very, very funny.
According to my psychologist, my TikTok addiction is “random reinforcement,” the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals. TikTok works like a slot machine. Every time we see a post we like, we get an adrenaline hit. We want to feel that satisfaction again, so we keep scrolling, similar to gamblers adding coins into slot machines. Although we will not enjoy every video we see, TikTokers receive just enough ‘rewards’ at sustainable intervals to keep scrolling for more.
TikTok pulled me in fast. When I am looking for a little entertainment, the app scratches that itch immediately. The short, catchy music clips play on a loop and stick inside your brain – ‘earworms’ on repeat, long after you have heard them.
My continual sharing of videos on TikTok has embarrassed certain family members to the extent of them unfriending me on social media. If my son cannot appreciate my duck face/bathroom mirror masterpieces, he is probably not my target audience; diabetes runs in the family and my food porn has already put half the clan in a coma; my ‘Dirty Dancing’ re-enactment scene at a public beach in Ayia Napa nearly got me arrested for allegedly disturbing the peace.
One of the best ways to cope with stress is laughter. Therefore, as we all continue to practice social distancing while attempting to stay sane, I will continue to produce hilarious lip sync videos and quirky dialogue re-enactments until my videos go viral. Armed with knowledge about the most common social media acronyms and slang, I am equipped to understand my TikTok audience better. From levelling up my posting schedule to taking part in challenges, and optimising my hashtags, I am ready to gain followers and build a community that will hopefully, include ‘past’ family members in it.
‘OK, boomer’ is a barrier for younger generations to separate themselves from others. However, a barrier can be broken. A growing number of boomer-run accounts are cultivating a following on the app. Let this inspire you to create your own, reach out of your comfort zone and do something that makes you feel remarkable.