Screenshot 2022-07-25 at 12.22.29 copy

Youth Culture is Entering its Flat Age Future

TikTok trends were once thought of as the epitome of youth culture. Now, senior creators and retirement hobbies are blurring the lines between old and new generations...

To read the original article, published on 8th July 2022, visit LS:N Global.

Like it or not, Mark Zuckerberg's highly commercialised social utopia is crumbling. We’ve hit and far surpassed ‘peak influencer’. The vapid, staged and over-considered online presence that many associate with Millennial internet culture has given way to a fragmented, chaotic mess of contradictions. Niche is now mainstream. Anyone can go from anonymous to viral superstar overnight. And being bad at social media now means being good at social media.

Take one look at Generation Z’s online behaviour and you’ll notice a clear rebellion against perfection, with photo dumps, shitposting and unflattering selfie angles all mainstays in the Gen Z starter pack. TikTok’s short-form video content has thrived in this landscape, with its intuitive creator tools and interest-based algorithm lowering the barriers to entry for everyday people to become beloved creators and international treasures. With this, we’ve seen a new generation of influencers hit our For You feeds: senior citizens.

TikTok’s most popular older creators range from @retirementhouseto the @theoldgays. There’s no shortage of generational diversity on TikTok, and youth audiences are not just welcoming them to the platform but embracing them with open arms. This behaviour is testament to Gen Z’s open-mindedness and refusal to put anyone in a box. Instead, they’re amplifying older people’s rebellion against ageist stereotypes of technophobia and frailness, with 71% of videos surveyed in a study by Reuben Ng and Nicole Indran found to be tackling this bias – whether through defying stereotypes, making light of age-related vulnerabilities or calling out ageism.

Given the success of this counter-cultural movement, we’ve seen older talent transcend the social media feeds and break into the brand space in a big way. Whether it’s Jeff Goldblum on the runway for Prada or Gerald Stratford digging up vegetables with Gucci, there is one clear takeout: youth culture has nothing to do with age. It’s an attitude.

The older generation’s lifestyle has a mainstream appeal with Gen Z, with sustainability playing an integral part. There’s something wildly youthful about spending all day in your garden instead of inside staring at a screen, so wholesome hobbies previously dominated by grannies and grandads like crochet, knitting and trainspotting continue to capture the hearts of young audiences, even post-pandemic.

More than anything, there’s a certain frivolity that comes with being a pensioner that resonates with the mindsets of Gen Z as they look for escapism in this era of social, political, economic and climate anxiety. This shared value system has triggered a new wave of collectivism, which is bringing generations together like never before – as seen in Lacoste’s latest campaign celebrating intergenerational connectivity and joyful moments of disparate communities finding common ground.

Youth culture is no longer just about young people. Members of the next-gen audience don’t define themselves by how old they are or where they come from but by what makes them tick – and the success brands and creators are seeing through intergenerational connectivity and storytelling is a testament to that. Youth culture has entered its flat age. It’s lateral, not vertical. It’s based on values not demographics – a state of mind not an age.

Ruby Ktori is a creative strategist at Amplify.