TikTok teens experience premature nostalgia

Chelsea Laurik

More stories from Chelsea Laurik


Quarantine has left many teens with nothing better to do than scroll through tiktok for hours on end. As a result, some are feeling nostalgic for tiktok trends that were popular less than a year ago.

When the social side of the internet began, the shelf life of an online trend could be weeks, months, or even years. Iconic early internet memes such as rage comics and rickrolling stayed consistent across all major platforms (admittedly, there were only a few) and withstood the test of time.

That, however, was a different internet. The era of the Harlem Shake, Gangnam Style and the “top text bottom text” meme format is dead and gone. In its place has risen a crowded market of Instagram influencers, Youtube vloggers and TikTok dancers who oversaturate their platforms with constant content production.

Recently, many TikTok users have been feeling nostalgic for the beginning of quarantine. Videos referencing trends such as whipped coffee and popular shows like Tiger King and Outer Banks have amassed hundreds of thousands of views and comments about missing this period, which was this past spring. It’s only been six months since these were trends. Why are teens reminiscing about fads that were popular less than a year ago?

“When we consume more information, it seems like more time is passing. Those wires in our brain are connected… we associate how much media we consume with how much time is passing,” senior Abby Matson, who is researching theories of time for her senior APEX project, said.

According to Matson, time is malleable. Ever since the pandemic began, people have been spending more time on social media, given that it seems to be one of the only pastimes left that isn’t associated with a super spreader risk. As a result, the viral cycle has sped up to an unprecedented degree.

“When you have class for the same amount of time every single day, you become very tuned in to when you do certain things and how much time is passing. Now, I’ll lose track of time… Our daily schedules can look so different,” Matson said.

Ask most any high schooler, and they’re likely to admit that their screen time has increased dramatically since the start of quarantine. While not everyone is a fan of TikTok, it is the most downloaded app on the app store— and 41% of its users are between the ages of 16 and 24. It’s odd to see people expressing nostalgia for trends that seem so recent, until you consider the context.

“During the summer, my average screen time on TikTok was around six hours because I had nothing else to do since I wasn’t allowed to go out. I was really bored because of the pandemic, so being on TikTok became really addicting and killed a lot of time,” sophomore Eleanor Mieremet said.

In the time of the Coronavirus, TikTok has become a tight knit community, and its trends a convenient way to mark the passage of time.

“TikTok has allowed me to see that everyone is going through the same tough times right now, so I feel less alone,” senior Naomi Johnston said.

Not being in school has been strange, difficult and often downright depressing.
If teens want to cling to whipped coffee as a positive memory from the early days of the pandemic, who are we to begrudge them that?