While the youngest Gen Z is 10 years old and the oldest is 25 years old, Gen Z has one thing in common: We are chronically online. I am living proof of this, as Gen Z slang terms are constantly worming their way into my everyday speech.
The TikTok comments section is a very interesting place. TikTok users of all ages are trauma bonding, using the skull emoji rather than the crying laughing emoji and using slang terms you’ve never heard of. If you’re a Millennial or Gen X who wants to “stay updated” read more — or don’t. I’m still getting paid to write this, either way. (s/o to the KFC ad floating around online lately).
The social media app TikTok (have you heard of it?) has risen to fame over viral dance videos. That is one part of the type of content the platform has. Some of the subcultures I frequent are:
Reddit Am I the Jerk TikTok — videos where anonymous Reddit users will post their stories on Reddit to ask if they are in the wrong, and those will get posted on TikTok for the users to decide. @amithejerk is a TikTok account dedicated to these multi-part “Am I the Jerk” stories.
Twilight TikTok — subculture of TikTok users who discuss, and sometimes make fun of, the Twilight books and movies. @Twilight_Talk is known for heavily engaging in Twilight discourse and fan theories.
K-Pop TikTok — subculture of K-Pop fans from multiple fandoms who post their theories, fancams (videos of a particular member performing) and dance covers to their favorite group’s songs. @jeonprint.com is a lesser known TikTok user who posts K-Pop content.
Using this app will connect you with many Gen Zers from multiple sides of the app and will give you a first-hand look into the absolutely feral nature of the generation that covers both tax paying adults and edgelord teens surviving high school.
Do you often ask yourself, “‘Why am I seeing so many skull emojis under this funny video?’” Wonder no more because, thanks to Twitter and TikTok, the skull emoji has gone from meaning death to meaning something is funny. This is another way to say “I’m dying laughing.”
“I’m dead” is a common phrase used by Gen Z to express that they found something extremely funny. The internet always finds a way to reinvent how to express that something is funny. “Haha” turned into “lol,” which is now the skull emoji.
One thing is true, Gen Z often uses humor to cope with trauma. In addition to gaining trauma from the Internet itself, it is also easy to share offline trauma with people online, with just the click of a button.
This led to a rise in trends where Gen Zers would share their traumatic experiences in a humorous way on TikTok. This led to the rise of the Gangnam Style trauma dump trend. The videos ranged from light and funny to quite dark and sad.
A show of hands for those who have no idea what “main character moment,” “understood the assignment” and “bet” means. Fear not, dear reader, for I will guide you through the meaning of these slang terms with the help of Urban Dictionary and first hand knowledge.
I would like to acknowledge that many of the slang terms used were not invented by Gen Z, but were first used in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or in other minority groups.
HAVING A MOMENT: The words are usually taken from popular songs or a popular trend. For example, “main character moment” originated from a TikTok trend about feeling like the main character in a movie. This can also be described as “having a moment” which can be used in a variety of ways, i.e. “I was having a bit of a moment, but I’m fine now.”
UNDERSTOOD THE ASSIGNMENT: Have you heard the TikTok sound “The Assignment” by Tay Money? Well, in the sound, Ms. Money says “Sis, you killed it, I understood the assignment.” In this instance, it would be when you either put 110% of your effort into something or did something very well.
BET: Another slang term is bet. I am guilty of using this word in my everyday life. It’s short, sweet and gets to the point. An example of this would be when my boss asks me to complete a task and I say “bet” rather than “of course, boss! I would love to fulfill your wishes!”
Many Gen Zers are called “snowflakes”— accused of being too easily offended — but in truth we simply do not tolerate misogyny or misandry, racism or sexism and harmful conspiracy theories. This has led to many Gen Zers speaking out against many instances of “political incorrectness.”
This generation is also more informed because it’s easier than ever to know what the people in power are doing. They also have access to phones to share pre-recorded or live footage of injustices happening in their communities and the world.
A good example of this would be the protests happening in 2020 after George Floyd was killed. Many TikToks of protests, riots and news surrounding the event was circulated quickly. This TikTok of the most viral parts of the protests sums up Gen Z’s chaotic nature pretty well.
PRO TIP: Wondering about the next big thing? My colleagues tell me it’s the BeReal app, with no likes and no “feeling cute, might delete this later” options. I personally have no experience with it, but give it a go if you’re so inclined!