TikTok’s Millennial Exhaustion | GEN
Smacaw mackneson is an Ontario-based accountant. She opened her TikTok account in earnest in March 2020, when many office workers in her area were sent home due to Covid-19. Her job is pretty stressful, she says, so she makes TikToks chill out and laugh at some of the more difficult or dumb aspects of her job.
“With the rise of social media, especially with TikTok, people can see that it’s not just them who feel exhausted,” she says. “TikTok has really opened the eyes of a lot of people to what exactly it is and to see that you are not alone.” This ability to witness and compare the experiences of others to our own is one of the best results of social media – and what we learn is that kids aren’t doing well.
In early 2020, I wrote about how home ownership inaccessible was for young people. Generation Y and Generation Z are choked with debt, but unlike the debt of previous generations, who by the time they were in their thirties were primarily hogging mortgage debt, we are struggling under the weight of trillions of dollars in consumer debt and college loans. It’s not for lack of trying. According to New America Foundation, 31% of employed black millennials, 28% of employed Latin millennials, and 19% of employed white millennials spend at least 16 hours per week working for extra income. Another 23% of millennials have been made redundant, and 30% of us don’t have access to good jobs in the first place.
“I think more and more people are now realizing with the pandemic that they don’t want to work like a dog.”
And while older generations were for the most part able to recover from the great recession of 2008, millennials have not. According to research from the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the typical millennial owns 41% less wealth than an adult of the same age in 1989. The situation is even worse for millennials with marginalized identities, including blacks and Latinx people.
“The recession was sort of the key point for change. From that moment on, the work experiences of young workers, and of Generation Y in particular, were marked by precariousness, ”says Arif Jetha, PhD, scientist at the Institute for Work and Health whose work focuses on vulnerable young workers. “It left a scarring effect. And I would say that has continued throughout their adult lives, especially those most affected by the 2008 recession. ”
It helps explain why TikTok creator Rod and I are constantly on the edges of our seats about our jobs. As I write this story, I have just made a wave of buyouts in the company I am writing for; several other publications have seen massive layoffs, or have been shut down altogether, just in the past few weeks. It is far from being a journalism problem; young people on the whole were much more likely have lost their jobs due to the pandemic than older people.
This post-recession precariousness may be part of the reason why so many people view Millennials as job seekers, easily migrating from one job to another. But that’s an inaccurate assessment of young people, says Jetha. Data in Canada suggests that young people “don’t want to work precariously. They want stable employment and they want access to those benefits that come with stable employment. »Most Millennials want a career, but many of us can’t find one.
But, despite the anxiety and stress described in TikToks in the workplace, we are also ready to speak openly about poor working conditions – at least on social media. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, Millennials expect work-life balance and flexibility in their work. Before the pandemic, most of us didn’t have it; in one Deloitte study Thousands of fully employed youth, 40% of Generation Y and 50% of Generation Z reported being stressed “most or all” of the time.
For millennials and Gen Z in general, stress levels increased during the pandemic, more than for older generations. But the Deloitte study, which looked at young people with full-time jobs, that number actually fell – indicating that working from home had a markedly positive effect on the well-being of young people.
“As someone at the start of their career, working from home almost feels like second nature,” says Natalie Company, a creator who popularized TikToks on the nonsense and hardships of office life. “Starting your career working from home makes the transition less daunting. You don’t have to worry about who you’re having lunch in the dark break room. You don’t have to wear the same sweaty blazer all day. You don’t have to take public transportation and walk a mile in the rain to get to your office. You just wake up!”
Part of what’s so delicious is watching the anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration of our careers turn into something that can be humorous.
Sarah MacKneson has a similar take on remote working, noting that many young people have become accustomed to working from home and that companies are going to have to follow suit if they are to maintain the mental health and happiness of their employees. “I think more and more people are now realizing with the pandemic that they don’t want to work like a dog. They will instead take an experience or a position with perhaps less money, but a lot more social and work-life balance where you can actually live your life, ”she said, noting that the young employees of Goldman Sachs recently spoke en masse about their toxic work environment. “People are like, no we’re not going to have these conditions anymore.”
Part of what’s so delicious about these videos is seeing the anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration of our careers turn into something that can be humorous when viewed from a distance or through an iPhone camera. In JennaHushka’s TikToks, Hushka laughs how she carries the angst of her work week into her weekend; in another, she illustrates how romantic comedies of the early 2000s gave women unrealistic expectations of what our careers would look like. In my personal favorite, Hushka pretends to be on a game show when asked how company management should help maintain the sanity of its employees. (She’s wrong on the question – management would rather send an email rather than provide paid leave for mental illness.)
MacKneson points out that while her job is stressful, she doesn’t hate it, and she hopes people who watch her TikToks find the same stress relief that she makes them. “I just hope it brings them joy – like in the middle of their workday, basically, where they were working 12 hours, but they have a break to watch whatever they want,” she says. “I would love to keep creating them, because it will always be a relevant topic and situation in the future, even years from now.”
Eventually the pandemic will end and our jobs will likely get closer to ‘normal’, but if employers are smart they will allow their employees flexible working hours and a better work-life balance. This is what most young people want, and we are gradually becoming more comfortable demanding it, especially since it is quite clear after a year of working from home that it is all over. makes it possible to work remotely at least part of the time and always be productive. But the need to find solace and humor in our jobs will continue, especially since, says Jetha, “if I had to imagine a work environment, in five years I am not as optimistic as I am. would like.”
Job insecurity for young people will continue. As we eventually emerge from our pandemic shells and resume life in person, Millennials and Gen Z will face significant hurdles in the economy and in the workplace. But we’re also resilient – we’ve been through recessions before. More importantly, despite what older people think of us, we can take a joke, and we can do it too. Either way, we’ll be able to balance our anger, frustration, and anxiety with a laugh. “If you can’t laugh at the situation, you’ll end up collapsing,” MacKneson says. “Then you might as well have fun with it.”