Toxic Media Rabbit Hole Illustration Credit - Nairne Clark

Gen Z’s Age Old Obsession

By Hannah Gribbon

The latest TikTok trend reveals our generation’s unhealthy attitude towards ageing.

If you are on TikTok, there is a high chance that you have come across the ‘aged filter.’ This filter shows you an aged version of yourself, complete with wrinkles and grey hair for some, and for others… perfect skin which barely looks any different from their current face. Boasting over 21 million videos, the ‘aged filter’ has clearly struck a chord with our generation. But what does it reveal about our attitude towards the ageing process?

It is no secret that we live in a consumerist society, with trends changing as fast as lightning. New products and clothes are constantly being shoved down our throats, and social media has only perpetuated this. The age filter has caused a surge in products and tutorials centred on slowing the ageing process. While this is not a new topic, I’m sure we have all seen the picture of the lady who applied sunscreen on her face but not her neck, and the impact that had on her wrinkles. TikTok has facilitated the commercialisation of anti-aging.

Recently, a video went viral on the platform of a fourteen-year-old girl who had an anti-aging routine, which included taking retinol twice a day. Influencers are promoting serums, moisturisers and even anti-wrinkle straws. Plastic surgery is being used for fleeting trends, while Botox, fillers, and removals are now easily accessible as long as you have enough money. 

Are these products worth it? Anti-ageing products can slow down visible signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, but no amount of money can stop the natural process of humanity. This fear of ageing – perpetuated by the ‘aged filter’ – has coincided with the release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. The film has been hailed by many as a cinematic representation of womanhood, causing tears and laughter all over the globe. In fact, one particular scene in the movie – where Barbie (Margot Robbie) is sat next to an elderly lady (Ann Roth) – perfectly encapsulates the problem with our anti-ageing obsession. Barbie turns to the lady and says, “You’re beautiful.” The woman’s response? “I know.” This is the first time the character has seen a woman with wrinkles, and her response comes from a place of innocence, since she has never been told that wrinkles and other signs of ageing are bad. 

At what stage of life do we learn to detest natural developments? Is this extreme obsession with preserving our youth new to our generation, or simply more prevalent because of our presence on social media? Online platforms can certainly cause us to absorb ‘manufactured insecurities’, telling us to dislike an aspect of our bodies, before selling us a solution. Were it not for social media twisting social norms, would we still think that ageing was bad, or would we just embrace it?

Gen-Z’s obsession with ageing concerns more than just beauty, though. There is a recurrent theme with the ‘it girls’ of our generation – the young starlets who are plunged into fame due to their immense talent – such as Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, or Lorde. These singers are known for their talent and music, but a defining feature of their careers has always been their age. What connects them is the talent of their youth – they are always the youngest person to have won their respective accolades. It is difficult not to be jealous of these people: we live our ordinary lives, whilst others our age are out achieving their wildest dreams.

Is there a time stamp on achieving success? The interest in the prodigy is not new – think about Judy Garland, who was just sixteen when filming the Wizard of Oz – but social media fandom amplifies it. Olivia Rodrigo summed it up perfectly in her song Brutal, saying: “I’m so sick of 17; where’s my f****** teenage dream”. This is a sentiment that many people can relate to, especially the older quotient of Gen Z who had their late teenage years snatched from them during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Now that we are getting older, we have to sit back and watch on social media the teenagers of today living out what we never could.

Perhaps the supposed war between millennials and Gen-Z was a prelude for what is to come. Has the ‘aged filter’ simply made us jealous of the younger generation, or are we genuinely afraid of growing up and having wasted our youth? 

As a generation, we can claim to make significant progress on attitudes towards liberation issues, such as gender, race or sexuality. It’s unfortunate that we are yet to accept the thing we cannot avoid: ageing


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