Never before has a social network had a greater potential to win you fans AND destroy your business. The viral app, TikTok, has yet to 'age up' as a social network and is the most ageist network I've seen in terms of the userbase's insistence on icing out older people. However, if you're over 22, you still need to know about it or your business will suffer. For more on that, watch the video.
Generation Z are now coming into the adult world. The oldest are in their early 20s. You must understand their way of thinking if you plan to grow your business in the future, even if you don't work with them directly, as they will culturally impact on other generations and will alter the market you already have. The 'OK Boomer' phenomenon is a case in point.
But first... If you're lucky enough to be seeing this blog post during Cyber Monday week, I have a crazy offer available on personal help with TikTok. If you've missed being one of the first 5, that link will still work, but you won't get the price featured in the video.
Now, what's the deal with 'OK Boomer'?
The word 'Boomer' is short for 'Baby Boomer' and was initially used in the phrase 'OK Boomer' to dismiss people in the Boomer demographic who are now running politics in the USA and are seen by Gen Z as bossy and interfering. Boomers' tendency to overlook Gen X and name call Millenials was noticed by Gen Z who burst into adulthood with their fists up, so as not to become another casualty. Fair enough.
As a Gen Xer, my main complaint about Boomers is that they don't notice us and lump us in with Millennials, but I think most Gen X people know how to manage the more extreme Boomer traits, and we're able to see the contribution Boomers have made both in terms of business and in terms of creative and cultural impact. They called us layabouts, but we mostly ignored them when they were doing that and just got on with our lives.
Speaking as a Dot Com Pioneer, I know the internet was built on Gen X ideas using Boomer money, and the web was donated by British Boomer, Tim Berners-Lee so I'm full of gratitude for Boomers, honestly. And... The Beatles? I mean... I don't need to continue the list after that. Yes, there is a huge list of musical accomplishment that the kids of the 60s brought us, but even if the list ended with that one name, I'd be good with it.
Millennials, however, got beaten by Boomers with the mean stick. The term 'Millennial' became a catch-all for anything from over-emotionalism to over-inclusion (participation trophies, etc). It makes sense that Gen Z would come out fighting, so they don't get the same treatment as adults. As an insult, 'OK Boomer' is not horrific, but it has become the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "LA, LA, LA, LA, LAAAAA!" to anyone older than them. Fine for toddlers, but less charming in older teens and young adults. The backlash caused by this has led them to claim nobody else understands them. I think pretty much everyone understands people bullying and not listening, so it's not that people don't understand them. It's that people don't like them. They're not being likeable.
While you're living with your parents, going to school, and not paying bills it doesn't much matter how likeable you are to people outside your generation. However, an addiction to repetitive tasks and copying doesn't indicate this is a particularly entrepreneurial bunch so far. Only a few of the creators on TikTok actually create. Most just copy. That's a workplace mindset, which is fine but for the fact that if you're Gen Z and your digital footprint is all about mocking people older than you, you won't get hired. Bosses are nearly always older than you at the start.
Cancel culture (announcing that a person or group is 'cancelled' for any or no reason) is a big part of Gen Z culture and a huge part of TikTok. Boomers are clearly cancelled. Meanwhile, they've extended the term 'Boomer' to Gen X and Millennials. So Gen X and Millennials are also cancelled. British white girls are cancelled. Anyone who gets too much hype - particularly if they're female - is cancelled, and so on.
Most of the people reading this shouldn't be on TikTok, but you absolutely MUST understand TikTok.
However unfriendly Gen Z is being right now, they'll be hitting the workplace in a minute, where they'll need to do as they're told by older people or face unemployment. Some will rein in the prickliness and learn respect. They'll stay in the employment system. Some will hate being told what to do and seek a way to set their own rules. They'll become entrepreneurs.
Hopefully, by then, they'll be a little more conscious and empathetic. All generations go through a couple of narcissistic phases (during toddlerhood and the epic renaissance during teens and early 20s). Many of them may just be going through their 'Narcissistic Renaissance' and they'll snap out of it when they grow some empathy. The rest will require some careful handling. I anticipate more than the standard number of dark triad personalities to emerge.
Over the last few years, through both professional and personal experience, I've learnt how important it is to learn skills to handle people farther up the narcissism spectrum. Gen Z is definitely showing up as a group with those traits. (In fact, that's why I sought out TikTok in the first place, as part of my research on narcissism for my book The Birth of The Egon.) That's hardly surprising, given the amount of time they spend online with the intention of being looked at and becoming famous. However, wringing hands over it won't help. You need to learn how to handle narcissists, not run from them, because social media isn't just enabling them, it's creating them.
A recent study showed an increase in narcissistic traits in participants of 25% after only 4 months of posting visual representations of themselves on social media. What's significant is that this was enough to push some participants into a diagnosis for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. TikTok is a firehose of visual content to an even greater degree than Instagram. Personal commentary on appearance is rampant to a degree you don't find elsewhere. It's like going back to the school playground, and there are bullies everywhere, especially if you're over 22.
Even if the app closes, it's already conditioned millions of people in thinking a particular way. It's primed a whole new generation of narcissists to hit the online business space. The time for running and hiding is over. Everyone needs to know how to handle narcissists because a narcissism tsunami is about to hit you and your business, and you're not prepared.
There are actually positive aspects to narcissism, and there are ways to handle narcissists that leave you less likely to be wounded, but if we're now at the stage where young minds are being so programmed into the merits of narcissistic supply so young, there will definitely be a negative impact from the damaging effects of increasing levels of people at the NPD level.
To get personal help with TikTok, so that you don't get swallowed up by it or by the culture it is creating as it seeps out of TikTok and onto other networks, check this out. I'm playing a different game than everyone else on the app.
P.S. If you want to follow me on TikTok, please don't unless you understand it is a very different social network than elsewhere and requires a different approach. If you understand that, and you've watched the video above, I'm TheRebeccaBardess on TikTok.
P.P.S. If you are in the Gen Z/Younger Millennial age group, are already on TikTok, and want to catch up with the TikTok famous, I've got you covered. Head across to TheTikTokTea.com
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