Why Are People Talking About The Millennial Pause?

A viral article proposes that millennials are too old for the internet, but is that even possible?

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According to a viral article, millennials are aging out of the internet and the biggest evidence is in the “millennial pause”. But what is the millennial pause, and does it really signal and end of an era for millennials on the internet?

What Is The “Millennial Pause”?

Published in The Atlantic, the original article by Kate Lindsay points to a plethora of tics and mannerisms millennials do online that have fallen out of fashion. Specifically, mannerisms displayed by millennials on TikTok that Gen Z TikTokers make fun of.

These tics include random zoom-ins to emphasise talking points, a way of talking termed the “BuzzFeed accent,” using random filters, using phrases popularised on Twitter and Instagram like “doggo” and “I can’t even” and “adulting” and the latest crime… the millennial pause.

The millennial pause, as Lindsay defines it, is the split-second millennials wait before they start talking in a video to intuitively circumvent recording delay. The pause, Lindsay posits, is a technical hangover from using older technology that did not start recording instantly. Moreover, while millennials may be accustomed to documenting their lives in photos, the millennial pause is an indicator of discomfort with recording videos absent from those generally made by Gen Z.

The term millennial pause was first coined in a TikTok about Taylor Swift. TikTok user @nisipisa stitched a TikTok with Swift, exclaiming excitedly that not even she is immune to the cringe-inducing pause. “God! Will she ever stop being relatable,” @nisipisa says.

Indeed there is now a whole genre of TikTok dedicated to Gen Z roasting millennial internet mannerisms. Parodies of how millennials tell stories, how millennials behave on live feeds, what it sounds like when millennials try and use so-called Gen Z slang (most of which is actually just badly appropriated AAVE), and even reacting to the inherent millennial cringe-worthiness of Nick Jonas‘ TikToks.

Lindsay sites a handful of mannerisms outside of TikTok too. Millennial tics like using gifs as reactions, and turning social media bios into lists that include everything from every town they’ve lived in, to their Hogwarts house.

But Are Millennials Really Too Old To Be On Social Media?

Contrary to the general tone of Lindsay’s article, however, it’s not all doom and gloom for those over the age of 25 online. It isn’t even as simple as millennials “aging out” of the internet.

University of Sydney Associate Professor of Online and Convergent Media Discipline, Fiona Martin, says, “some millennials who use social media for comms work will follow cultural trends, and those that don’t won’t. Mocking them for being dated is a social differentiation tactic”.

Associate Professor Martin told Junkee that different generations have always used technology in unique ways that are defined by more than just age. “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,” she says.

“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,” says Martin.

Associate Professor Martin also emphasised that suggesting millennials are all the same is a faulty premise for any argument. “This article talks about millennials as if they were a homogenous group. It’s a very Anglo perspective that doesn’t take account of subcultures within age groups, or the diversity of ethnic groups.”

As an example of how different ethnic groups within the same generation use social media, Martin pointed to the research in Bronwyn Carlson and Ryan Frazer’s book, Indigenous Digital Life. “Many Indigenous Australians are aware of being surveilled online, and so tend to circulate positive inspiring content in response,” she explains.

Should You, As A Millennial, Change How You Post On Social Media?

In short, you can if you want. There is a whole genre of TikToks specifically dedicated to millennials teaching other millennials how to show their age less online. From how to update your wardrobe, to how to hold your phone, to just general ways you can avoid being “caught out” as a millennial — it’s all out there.

The alternative is to accept, as AP Fiona Martin says, every generation uses technology differently and no generation is a monolith. Even within generations factors such as class, location, occupation and ethnicity impact how we use technology and interact with one another. Besides, if it were true that the internet or social media only belongs to the young, how do you explain the popularity of TikTok accounts like @grandma_droniak, @oldgays, our very own Gumbaynggirr Burrgadi aunty @ballojinda, or everyone’s TikTok grandpa @poppopbrucejohnson.

It’s common for generations to punch down on one another as a means to define their identity. The reality is that generational “wars” are more often than not, bloated marketing schemes. The fact folks can barely agree on which years apply to which “generation” should be a giveaway on how much of an inexact science generational claims are founded on (near-zero science, by the way).

You can change your behaviour online in the vain hope that when a person under 25 makes fun of a so-called millennial stereotype, you can gleefully think you’re the exception. Or you can remind yourself that worrying about getting older has historically failed to make anyone any younger.

The millennial pause isn’t a harbinger of doom for the online millennial. At most, it’s a tic associated with a section of a demographic on a certain platform. Perhaps we’d all be a little better off if we remembered that every generation, as with every person, contains multitudes. Aging and the tics and mannerisms that come with it is not a sign that you’re aging out of anything. It’s a privilege and a gift to age and, as Abe Simpson so wisely pointed out, “it will happen to you”.