Recently, I came across an article by Kate Lindsay in The Atlantic about a term called the “Millennial Pause,” a generational nuance online. The generation is millennials, of course, but the “pause” is less obvious. It refers to a split-second beat at the beginning of a video to ensure the camera is recording before speaking. It’s a moment you could easily miss, but once you’re onto it, the millennial pause becomes glaringly obvious in all millennial-made content.
I found this striking. I thought, wow… we’re starting to see the first generation of the internet no longer become the most digitally savvy. Social sites that millennials dominated during the rise of the internet were predominantly photo-based: apps like Tumblr, Myspace, and early Facebook. Being a Gen Zer myself, I remember seeing my older siblings pose for Myspace pics—pc4pc, anyone?
This might explain why the approach to video is so noticeably different between the generations. Video was not relevant to the “everyday” social media user for a long time. Youtube didn’t even have ads back then! But with the growing popularity of apps like TikTok and improved phone cameras (Editor’s note: remember when they were called “camera-phones”?) making video creation so easily accessible, we’re seeing Gen Zers climb their way to the center of the web.
Gen Zers grew up making videos, so we evolved out of the need for a millennial pause. One of the first popular short-form video platforms was Vine, which was released in 2013. The oldest Gen Zers would have been 16. Granted, the youngest millennials would have been 17, but the oldest would have been 32. That’s a big age span, full of millennials already set in their internet-ways, accustomed to pausing as their 2001 camcorders needed a moment to beep on before recording began.
Some people are considering the millennial pause a sign that millennials are aging out of the internet but I disagree. In my opinion, we are starting to see the internet, specifically social media, mature. We are at the early stages of two generations having a prominent divide in their online voice.
In an article from Junkee, a quote from University of Sydney Associate Professor of Online and Convergent Media Discipline, Fiona Martin, explains this well:
“Different generations always develop specific ways of belonging to their social group through communications technologies — we have seen this historically in teenage telephone use, the production of mix tapes, and now in multi-screen game and streaming use.
“Rather than millennials ‘aging out’ of social media, what we have seen over the last decade is different commentary cultures (cultures of social media sharing) developing based on a whole range of factors including people’s age, gender, national, racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
So what does this all mean? It means social media content is starting to reflect the creators of the current generation. We live in a multigenerational world, so it was only a matter of time before the online world caught up.
But, as scholarly as we want to get about it, we’re still talking about the internet here, which means these newfound discoveries have become the subject of a few light-hearted jokes. Gen Z Tiktokers have started poking fun at millennials… but all in good nature, of course. Besides the infamous pause, things like dramatic zooms for emphasis, and phrases like, “I can’t even”, “Adulting”, and “doggo” have become the subject of mockery.
The response from millennials has been mixed. Some have followed the path of Gen Zers and made memes reminiscing about millennial nostalgia, like “getting ready” with early 2010 fashion trends and hairstyles. Others have adapted Gen Z lingo such as “slay”, “bestie”, “cringe”, “tea”, etc.
To my fellow Gen Zers, as we transition into the internet spotlight, I think there’s a lot we could learn from a generation that dominated social networks for a decade. Whether it’s from how to spread social awareness as millennials did for Harambe or literally inventing the selfie—they created a foundation for us to shine! On top of that, we should be mindful that the oldest of Gen Alpha is already 12 years old. It makes me cringe just thinking about it, but we could very well be one viral video away from being deemed “internet old” by a middle schooler.
To millennials, continue to create trailblazing content that builds social networks. We thank you for your service.
But whether you’re a millennial or Gen Zer, I think we can all agree that the internet is big enough for us all.