Three Things This Week
1. 480 Seconds to #NoseJobCheck
What it is: As an experiment, Insider created a TikTok account and set the user’s age to 14 to see how long it would take for an ad for plastic surgery to turn up on the For You Page. A rhinoplasty ad came up within 8 minutes.
Why it’s a mixed message: “Body positivity” has been a big trend on TikTok for the past two years or so, but that doesn’t mean that social media is becoming a safe or healthy place for teens’ body image. Rhinoplasty, in particular, is quite popular, with #nosejobcheck and #nosejob hashtags on TikTok topping a combined 2 billion views. Unique, natural beauty may be lauded online, but that just makes the cultural fixation with symmetry and sameness harder for teens to wrap their heads around. Teens are being fed two distinct party lines: On the one hand, they are supposed to express love and acceptance for their body no matter what; on the other hand, they are supposed to look viral-video ready at all times. Being empathetic and aware of this dissonance can help you help your teen sort through these conflicting messages.
2. When Family Ties Don't Bind
What it is: A family psychologist writing for The Atlantic notes that a shift in how adult children prioritize personal growth has led to a rise in parental estrangement.
Why it’s something to be aware of: As the piece recognizes, family conflict is nothing new. However, while squabbles over inheritance or material goods used to be the primary cause of strife between children and parents, feelings of rejection or disrespect are now seen by many as perfectly acceptable reasons for an older child to cut parental ties. Relationship forums that Gen Z frequent (such as r/relationships) will often encourage complete strangers to end “toxic” relationships and find a “chosen family” of friends, instead. But the complicated thing about families is that unless you’re inside of it, you can’t really understand what goes on in it. (And even then, it can be hard to see what’s right in front of you.) Your relationship with your teenage child is a precious, fragile thing, so check in with them directly to see how they’re feeling about the way your family interacts.
3. Trolling the Trolls on Omegle
What it is: Teens are using a 10-year-old chat app to play pranks, meet new friends, and agitate random strangers, among other thing.
Why it’s making headlines again in 2021: Omegle is similar to a more well-known app, ChatRoulette. It operates under the same basic concept, pairing users with a random stranger when they begin the chat. The big difference between Omegle and ChatRoulette is that Omegle allows users to filter chat partners using a common interest or hashtag like “YouTube” or “Colorado.” The chat is anonymous, but you can give out your information freely if you’d like to. Teens may join a chat with the intention of staving off boredom or having a positive social interaction. But it’s also being used by teens to entrap, agitate, and troll other users. Opening the app, making a goading comment, and creating a TikTok out of the other person’s reaction is one popular trend. Users may also see if they can provoke their chat partner to say something racist or predatory, which they will then share with the world as a way to “hold them accountable.” If your teen is going to use this app, consider requiring that they do so in a public place.
Slang of the Week: tok: a suffix attached to a subject to refer to a category of TikTok videos related to that subject (i.e. “#cookingtok” for cooking tutorials and recipes).
Has your teen taken a sudden interest in sea shanties? It may be because of Scottish musician Nathan Evans, whose rendition of 19th century maritime bop “The Wellerman” recently went viral on TikTok. A “Wellerman,” we learned, is a ship sent out to resupply whaling vessels that’ve been on the ocean for weeks or months. And as odd as it sounds, the sea shanty is actually the perfect genre for TikTok, given how the Duet feature allows users to join in and harmonize together (which many have been doing, and the result will give you goosebumps).
For those of you who haven’t spent much time sailing the high seas, Vulture describes sea shanties this way: “One person is the song leader, setting the pace and singing the verses, but the engine of the song is in the repeating chorus that everyone sings together over and over again. They are unifying, survivalist songs, designed to transform a huge group of people into one collective body, all working together to keep the ship afloat.” One can imagine a company of sailors alone together on a ship in a kind of nautical lockdown, wondering when their exile will end, and looking up to the horizon for relief; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In one sense, the fascination with sea shanties feels obscure enough that the whole thing might blow over in a couple of weeks. And yet, at press time, #seashanty has over 80 million views on TikTok, so some think the shanties are here to stay. Ask your teen why they think sea shanties have become so popular on TikTok—if it has anything to do with the lyrics, or just with the fact that they’re easy to sing along with.