Opinion: TikTok, Twitter and Tragedy


A protestor hangs from a balcony in the Senate Chamber. This was one of the pictures used by Gen Z to both spread awareness and create humor during the capitol riots. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

Alayna Wilkening, Design Editor

   It’s only fitting that the first week of 2021 included the first White House invasion since 1814. After the madness of the previous year, are we even surprised?

   We made it less than a week into 2021, and Gen Z is yet again presented with a major historical event to process and live through. The raid on the Capitol was far from normal, but it seemed that for a majority of Gen Z, this was not at all outside of the realm of possibility. Considering how many other major events have warped our world in a span of less than 20 years, it’s no wonder we have become so desensitized.

   It’s important to not mistake desensitization with apathy, however. It’s not that Gen Z is apathetic toward the current events happening around us. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Compared to previous generations like Generations X and Y, Gen Z has been incredibly involved in advocating for political justice and change. Whether it’s through social media or through physically going to protests and rallies, we’ve seen an amazing amount of young people in attendance. Gen Z is all about making change, and I think there’s something special about being able to shape the world we’re inevitably going to have to live and work in.

   Our intense desensitization has also crept its way into our sense of humor. Growing up with so much technology means that some of our key memories were shared with thousands of people all over the world. Chances are, if someone quotes a TikTok or Vine in class, a majority of the class will know exactly what they’re referencing. This is a form of communication unlike any other within older generations.

   Teens immediately swarmed to TikTok and Twitter when news of the riots broke out. The platforms quickly became overloaded with our attempts to process tragedy in the best way we know how: humor. While there were many serious posts in the mix, there was also a huge amount of TikToks meant to evoke laughter from the situation. One of the most popular types of content was surrounding a picture of an elderly woman with a water bottle and American flag, who didn’t seem to look like she knew what was happening. On both Twitter and TikTok, this, and many other images, went viral. Thousands of teens were seeing jokes about the White House riot, which means that thousands of teens were exposed to current events happening in the country.

   Today, it’s almost impossible to be oblivious to current events. Even if we don’t watch the news or follow journalists on social media, news of current events will always make its way onto our screens. This somewhat-forced awareness can be hard to handle at times, but I think it is also a powerful tool. Gen Z will be equipped for the future in a way no other generation has been able to do. Our generation will not only be aware of injustices happening in the world around us, but we will be able to process and cope with major tragedy. Even better, we will be able to make a difference in the midst of otherwise unthinkable disaster. We may be desensitized, but I think that will be an advantage for advocates of change in our future.