The framing of this piece by Sejla Rizvic for The Walrus is about generational warfare on TikTok, and while there is a tasty paragraph bagging on Instagram-preening millennials who need to read something other than Harry Potter, it ends up being so much more about the age of algorithmic intimacy, currently defined by TikTok.
This intimacy may also be the reason for Gen Z’s generational allegiance. Where millennials were cloaked in mostly faceless anonymity online (on LiveJournal, Tumblr, Twitter) or highly curated photography (Facebook, Instagram), Gen Z’s digital life is dominated by the near-constant production of images and videos of themselves (Snapchat, TikTok), creating a very different relationship between them, their peers, and the rest of the world.
Rizvic, who defines herself as a millennial who came of age at a time where online and offline were still distinct spaces, explores how the generation that’s never been offline and is now entering adulthood has created a new type of intimacy beyond the cynicism of perfectly coiffed social media feeds.
The same algorithm that powers TikTok’s uncanny ability to serve up this intimacy is, of course, not without peril. Philosopher and theorist Byung-Chul Han notes that this “compulsion for transparency flattens the human being itself, making it a functional element within a system”. On a very personal level, TikTok, like social media before it, seems amplify the ideals and neuroses of the culture; on a more macro level, the black box algorithm remains a risk that we would be foolish to simply ignore.