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TikTok’s Ageist Stereotypes Of Baby Boomers Isolates Generations

Half of TikTok posts about baby boomers perpetuate ageist stereotypes, risking further division between young and old.

Half of all posts on TikTok about baby boomers are ageist stereotypes, according to a new study.

And experts fear it could further isolate older people and their values from the young.

As the social media platform is used mostly by teens and young adults and the population gets older, the researchers say it is important that older people are not misrepresented.

The team from Singapore University looked at 673 videos posted on TikTok with the hashtags #Boomer and/or #OkBoomer that received over 5.4 billion views.

Boomers, or baby boomers, are those born between 1946 and 1964 and aged between 58 and 75. They fall between the Silent Generation and Generation X.

The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device in this photo illustration in Warsaw, Poland on 20 July, 2023. Ageist preconceptions about baby boomers are present in half of all TikTok posts. And experts worry that it can further alienate younger people from elderly people and their values. JAAP ARRIENS/NUR PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Launched in 2016, TikTok is fast outpacing rivals Facebook and Twitter, or X, in terms of use by the young which makes it a good sounding board on their attitudes to older people.

Researchers categorized the videos into nine topics, for example, warmth/coldness or wealth gap.

They found half of the videos featuring boomers did so negatively, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Videos containing negative age stereotypes were more likely to be about the ‘Values and Beliefs of Older Adults,’ ‘Negative Encounters with Older Adults’ or ‘Older Adults Antagonizing the Young.’

Videos that portrayed older adults as ‘Warm’ were 43 percent less likely to contain negative stereotypes.

Positive stereotypes include being warm, generous and kind, while negative stereotypes include being slow, irrelevant and incompetent.

In over half of the videos, older adults were stereotyped by younger people as possessing values and beliefs at odds with theirs, especially related to gender, sexuality and race.

Many videos also featured youngsters reenacting encounters where they were subject to derision by older adults because of their youth.

In these reenactments, younger people ranted about how they were frequently typecast as hypersensitive, narcissistic or addicted to technology.

Overall 49.3 percent contained negative ageist stereotypes.

Of these videos, 79 percent were related to ‘Negative Encounters with Older Adults’, which is more than four times the number for videos without negative age stereotypes.

About 58 percent of the videos included criticisms of the ‘Values and Beliefs of Older Adults,’ which is also more than four times the number for posts without negative age stereotypes.

About 40 percent featured ‘Older Adults Antagonizing the Young’, which was 18 times more than the videos without negative age stereotypes.

Negatively rated videos contained more stereotypes of older adults as ‘Cold.’

Study author Assistant Professor Reuben Ng said: “As the usage of social media can affect the well-being and quality of life of older persons it is vital to understand how members of this cohort are being portrayed by their younger contemporaries on TikTok.

The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device in this photo illustration in Warsaw, Poland on 20 July, 2023. Ageist preconceptions about baby boomers are present in half of all TikTok posts. And experts worry that it can further alienate younger people from elderly people and their values. JAAP ARRIENS/NUR PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

“As the phenomenon of an aging population fast unfolds, it is imperative that society relinquishes its tendency to stereotype individuals on the grounds of age.

“By examining the possible mechanisms driving negative stereotypes of older adults
on TikTok, our study provides the basis upon which such stereotypes can be counteracted.

“In doing so, it paves the way both to improve the well-being of older persons and to foster intergenerational solidarity.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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