Something I’ve noticed about my fellow Gen Zers is that we share a peculiar trait that isn’t present in the generations before us: the desperate need to be different from everyone else. Whether it’s about the trendiest fashion, music, opinions, or literally anything—we're always looking for something to set us apart from the rest.
On its face, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to be different and actively pursuing it. It can even be a good thing to move away from a herd mentality by developing your personal style, music taste, and beliefs. But sometimes, Gen Z takes its desire to be unique a little too far. We're so obsessed with maintaining our individuality that it's become a complex; we denigrate and belittle anything that's mainstream or popular, even if that trend was “underground” before.
The perfect microcosm of this unusual phenomenon is TikTok. As a result of a fine–tuned algorithm, independent artists, niche fashion trends, and ideas that haven't quite hit the mainstream circulate quickly on the platform. Objectively, this is great for small brands, and it helps to bring attention and awareness to lesser–known issues.
But right after the algorithm makes these topics trendy and popular, Gen Zers immediately distance themselves, again trying to cling to difference and exclusivity. One harmful result of this flip–flopping is the way that people treat viral influencers.
New influencers rise to fame every day via viral TikToks, amassing thousands of followers—sometimes millions. For a while, they're everyone's favorite new social media celeb. But, as these influencers gain more and more popularity, viewers begin to dislike them and actively harass these creators in their comments. Some victims of this phenomenon are Charli D’Amelio, Victoria Paris, and newcomer Emily Mariko.
Charli D’Amelio shot to fame in October 2019 with her rendition of the “Renegade” dance. Since then, she has amassed over 129 million followers on TikTok. Many people started off loving D'Amelio, her choreography, and the positivity that she brought to the platform. But as she began experiencing success and became more “mainstream," the tides began to turn. D'Amelio became the victim of thousands of online trolls. The hate got so extreme that she even contemplated quitting social media.
Like D'Amelio, Victoria Paris rose to fame seemingly out of nowhere through her vlog–style videos of her life in New York City. People initially loved her style and attitude. But as she got popular, Gen Zers—the biggest demographic of her fanbase—began to like her less. She wasn’t cool and underground; she became overrated.
Recently, the #VitoriaParisBlockedMe movement emerged on the platform. Users made fun of Paris for blocking those who wrote negative comments. Even though Paris is just protecting her mental health, her blocking habits have led to even more backlash. The flip–flop on the influencer didn’t happen overnight, but it does demonstrate Gen Z’s obsession with only liking and supporting their lesser–known faves.
Emily Mariko, TikTok’s new obsession and It–Girl, has only recently begun to see a trickle of hate. Mariko rose to fame from her viral salmon recipe video, and since then, she's regularly posted recipes and food prep videos. But now that her follower count is creeping up, comments that make fun of her eating habits have appeared.
On a recent video from Nov. 10, commenters made jokes poking fun at her commitment to a healthy lifestyle with the format: “Emily, have you ever __?”
“Emily have you ever cracked a joke?” commented one user. Another asked is she had "ever done a line." While some of these jabs are lighthearted, her comment sections are barraged with comments asking her if she’s done drugs or other supposed activities that go against her values.
Hating on people and things that are mainstream doesn’t make you cool; it makes you vindictive and bitter. Gen Z as a cohort has great qualities that deserve praise, but our generation’s ability to relentlessly troll the creators that we made famous is definitively not one of them.