The unnecessary generational war between Gen Z and their millennial predecessors continued this week with a battle over the classic iPod Shuffle, which TikTok users have been jokingly wearing as a hair accessory.
In a video she posted on TikTok last week, college student Celeste Tice, who goes by @freckenbats on the app, shows off a silver iPod Shuffle. "So I found this old ... I don't know, iPod hair clip thing?" she says.
She then clips the iPod Shuffle, which launched in 2005, into her hair. "What do you guys think?" she asks, posing with the iPod perched behind her ear. "Kinda vintage." Tice tagged the video with #vintage, #antique and #2000score.
Tice told Newsweek that she posted it as a joke, but many people online still took it poorly. One user commented, “I am just gonna go turn into dust now.” Another commented that the video exemplifies “how to trigger a whole generation.” Someone else joked, “No I’m fully convinced they bully us for sport guys.”
The TikTok video is the latest in an ever-growing list of millennial rage-bait videos, which are created specifically to troll millennials.
Younger users on the TikTok have dismissed many things the millennial generation enjoys as “cheugy” — a neologism to describe the obliviously basic and outdated.
Millennial rage-bait videos first popped up on TikTok when users criticized skinny jeans and side parts. Gen Z users also made videos poking fun at the millennial-speak that dominated 2012 internet humor, cringing at adults who referred to their pets as “doggos” and “puppers.” J.K. Rowling’s controversial comments have made liking Harry Potter just as embarrassing as being a Disney Adult.
Although generational boundaries are arbitrary — there is no official ruling body deciding each generation’s birth year ranges — being online is increasingly polarizing.
In each battle in the nonexistent culture war between Gen Z and millennials, the older generation gets vexed over something a minority of people online deem uncool or use incorrectly. They post about it, defending the jeans, hairstyles and emojis that the select few have decided are no longer trendy. Young adults and teenagers respond to the backlash, mocking millennials’ reactions to the point that such items do become uncool.
Eating Tide Pods, for example, was a joke that people online riffed on enough to incite a moral panic, which goaded some people into actually eating them.
The self-fulfilling prophecy came for blondes, too. In October, i-D reported that women were leaving their summer bleach jobs in favor of darker, more natural tresses. The article cited a TikTok comment that described “poorly tanned skin and unnatural platinum blonde” as “very cheugy.” Being blonde isn’t outdated, as a hairstylist told i-D, but it’s no longer the “ultimate American beauty standard” as trends shift to be more diverse and inclusive. A few weeks later, the New York Post reported that “Gen Z has declared blond hair as ‘cheugy’ and untrendy,” bringing on another wave of generational spite.
Rod Thill, a TikTok creator known for his funny content about the millennial work-from-home experience, posted a reaction to Tice's video about the iPod Shuffle accessory Sunday.
“This is the last straw I can’t take it anymore,” he wrote in a caption for his video. The video has since been viewed 1.2 million times.
This is the last straw I can’t take it anymore
Rod Thill, tiktok creator re: tice's video
Reactions like Thill's have helped fuel Gen Z’s jokes.
"the fact that what makes millennials seem so much older is not even our supposed lack of cultural knowledge but their lack of understanding gen z humor," a Twitter user wrote.
Tice's video is the most recent one to have gone viral, but similar videos of users wearing iPod Shuffles as hair clips have been populating the platform all year.
In a video posted on New Year's Eve last year, TikTok creator Doris Kwon joked that she had "found the cutest hair clips" in her mom's room. In a video in February, TikTok creator Katarina Mogus showed off the new "Apple hairpods," pretending to present an influencer unboxing video for her viewers. Commenters hailed Kristen V Bateman, who posted a TikTok video wearing two iPod Shuffles in her hair in October, as a Y2K camp icon. And a week before Tice's video went viral, TikTok creator @sailorkiki modeled her "new favorite accessory" on camera.
Every time a video of someone wearing the iPod as a hair clip went viral, the comments were littered with TikTok users complaining about Gen Z's supposed cluelessness about millennial cultural staples. And every time they took the bait, other TikTok users doubled down on making fun of those who weren't in on the joke.
Tice, who is a theater major, told Newsweek that “luckily most of the comments are people who can understand the joke."
“I wonder if I can put this performance on my resume,” she said.