Deprecating Yourself to Viral Heights: Gen Z’s Muse on Social Media

The fine line between humility and humiliation by Ananya S Rao, Strategy Associate

Though I find myself writing this piece ironic, I must say that after years of trying to identify the root cause of low self-esteem amongst my peers and myself, I think, I may have an answer.

Gen Z is has said to be the least confident generation yet, I mean, what’s there to be optimistic about? Climate Change? Our economy? Don’t even get me started. A report by Deloitte shows that less than 40% of Gen Z is optimistic about the future. A generation that lends their voice to greater issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, Racism, Political injustice amongst others refer to themselves as ‘Dumb ____’.

Ummmm, am I wrong?

If you surf through an average Gen Z timeline, you’d definitely be acquainted with the term ‘Shitposting’. Shitposting is the act of posting unfiltered thoughts or incidents in one’s life out on the internet, a majority of these posts are either about puns, therapy, and of course ‘I’m such a dumbass, omg’. This sort of public display of the disapproval of one’s self has been normalized to a great extent. Self depreciative humor is not just limited to online mediums but has extended to real-life conversations as well. Gen Z finds it tough to find a middle ground between being confident and being cocky.

I am trash because ‘Trash Can’ but Garbage can’t

This is, possibly why the majority of Gen Z suffer from imposter syndrome. Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Research from 2016 onwards indicates that Millennials were the first to suffer from the ‘Imposter syndrome’ but are now moving passing it on to younger generations.

If you’ve noticed, earlier, people portrayed the best version of themselves online or even offline for that matter. You’d often see an intellectual quote, some wise words, a well-articulated… thought out opinion that would enhance their perceived persona on a public platform. Could you imagine Gen Y.2 (age 29–39), Gen X (age 40–55), or Baby Boomers (age 56–74) posting intricate embarrassing moments on the internet or even preserving such a moment? Yikes, do you feel old yet?

Was Gen Z born with this sort of mindset? No, over the years self deprecative humor has been normalized to an extent where it’s considered peak humor (dark humor aside). Pop culture had a major influence through Movies, Shows, and Music. ‘I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, What the hell am I doing here?’ Sound familiar? Radiohead’s iconic ‘Creep’ was a song whose lyrics read how the lead wishes he was special and good enough. Though this isn’t put in the context of humor, self-depreciation has become a part of our lives, a part of how we communicate.

Comedy movies have always used self-deprecatory humor since the good ole’ day and age where things were much clearer, in black and white. Everyone’s favorite Charlie Chaplin subtly used this sort of humor in his acts.

Big Oof

Cole Sprouse aka Cody from ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’, tweeted this in 2016, he recently took a long social media mental health break and now talks about the importance of mentally filtering out online content.

Launched in 2013, the Hedonometer analyses English written tweets to measure the happiness index surfacing Twitter. This being said, the Hedonometer does not understand the casual context of terms such as ‘kill’, ‘end-me’, ‘death’, etc, due to which the overall quotient could be misrepresented. Not surprisingly, the online happiness quotient on twitter reached an all-time low this year, ‘The saddest Twitter has ever been’, due to global, cultural, and racial conflicts, taking a complete toll on one’s mental health.

Breaking the stigma around mental health is a battle we’re still fighting. Gen Z is a loud advocator of the same, but how are we normalizing therapy? By making self-deprecatory therapy memes, duh.

brb, while I shitpost my life on Twitter

But on a serious note, over 90 million Indians, or 7.5 percent of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, suffer from some form of mental disorder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While research still debates on whether self-deprecatory humor creates a harmful impact or generates higher psychological wellbeing, the widespread casual tonality of putting yourself down for a few laughs is unjustified.

Self deprecative humor starts as a small joke which contextually misunderstood can lead to immensely embarrassing situations, can turn into a habit or worst-case scenario might even act as content for your stand up comedy career!

Such humor is a can be used as a manipulative tactic used by many to enhance likability and empathy.

‘I look like a potato’

‘No, you don’t, you are so beautiful!’

‘Oh man, you’re so talented!’

‘Umm, no way! I guess I just got lucky haha.’

But in most cases, it is used to create lower expectations amongst peers and colleagues that enables one to feel less embarrassed when and if they fail to achieve something. Being a generation that is constantly bombarded with unsolicited advice and opinions, we struggle to validate our voice, opinions, body, and ourselves. The issue here isn’t about how we communicate with others or how others communicate with us; but rather how we communicate with ourselves.

all-day, everyday

So, how do we change the way we communicate?

Spread positivity with kind(er) words! Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your peers, would you ever treat your peer the way you treat yourself? I highly doubt it.

I am a part of the problem and am writing this article by slowly trying to instill a positive change in the way I view and talk about myself. If you ever hear yourself say ‘How can I be so stupid?’, ‘Haha kill me!’, give yourself a smack on the head.

You hated this article, didn’t you 😔

India’s favourite creative agency. Estd. 1999.