Trauma turned TikTok: Does Gen Z take it too far?

Mackenzie Zent, Staff writer

As one of the youngest current generations, Gen Z is known for many things, one of which is making jokes out of serious topics. From current events to mental health, nothing is off limits. This trend has really taken off on social media, especially on TikTok. Gen Z wastes no time in filming a video for a TikTok when there is a major current event or political matter happening in the world.

Usually, these videos are making a joke out of the situation, adding humor to it to make viewers laugh. While scrolling on TikTok, users flip between seconds-to-minutes-long clips ranging from dance trends to videos taken inside of active war zones. This transition is incredibly jarring, but users have become used to it. Additionally, the coverage on the app allows users to learn about major events as they are unfolding from diverse perspectives.

Recently, there have been many videos on fear of being drafted into the war in Ukraine. Many Gen Z women have made jokes about their true place being in the kitchen and doing the housework to avoid the draft. While this may seem like slight internalized misogyny, it is just to make themselves and others laugh during such a heightened state of tension in the world.

This is one of the biggest reasons Gen Z makes jokes out of serious subjects: to make hard situations easier. Gen Z was born into and grew up in a post-9/11 world, and many of us graduated high school and entered college during a global pandemic. These circumstances are not normal, and when the whole world seems to be going up in flames in front of you, what more can you do than try to make yourself feel better about it?

We are living in a time period where nothing is certain for the future. The pandemic has been happening for two years, and sometimes it can feel nearly impossible to see the end. High school and college experiences have been forever altered, and there have been many events people have missed out on. By making jokes on social media and laughing at a reality that no one could have possibly predicted, it helps bring the generation together and share similar experiences. If everyone is going through something together, it makes everyone else feel less alone. These events are happening in the most formative years of people’s lives; it is natural to develop humor as a coping mechanism.

Perhaps Gen Z does this to feel like they do not have to deal with the repercussions of serious world and political events. For many people, the war in Ukraine, political issues and mental health can be scary, and they need to find a way to deflect what is really going on. By making jokes and memes, it might make some of these things easier to deal with and digest.

To look at the big picture, this way of thinking and acting is harmless. A lot of these events are difficult to talk about and deal with, so if making jokes about them makes it easier, then that should not be a problem. This is not done by any means to belittle or invalidate serious topics but rather to consume them in a familiar way.

That being said, it is understandable if not everyone agrees with using humor to cope with serious situations; everyone processes things differently. Most of Gen Z has a great sense of humor, and it is nice that people can come together online through shared experiences and hopefully feel a little less alone. This aspect of Gen Z is something that has allowed the youth to cope with harsh realities, so meme culture is incredibly important to the group identity of the generation.