The Millennial Internet Philosophy

How 21st-century kids got the whole World following “bizarre” internet trends while making a few bucks from it

Flock Social
Jun 28, 2019 · 11 min read

The millennial period is all about ‘fast internet fame’ and ‘sad money’ kids who’ve set some New Age trends all over social media platforms we basically live on today. Your average Joe or Facebook-loving boomer may not understand how these kids make thousands of dollars each week just by posing in amazingly edited pics, flaunting some new Balenciaga shoes and very sleek Off-White belts all over Instagram.

This new and profound millennial philosophy does come with a long history of influences from all over the internet. There are a few main points that most of these influencers follow on a daily basis, one of them being ‘aesthetics’. Just by typing ‘aesthetics’ on Pinterest, Tumblr or even Google, you’ll see what kind of vibe was created in the early 2010s when internet culture was slowly rising and making its way to every corner of the World.

Now, before we dive into different branches of trends and style, let’s dig a little deeper into the lore of these ‘aesthetics’ and how they’ve transformed our youth into what it is today.

The word aesthetic comes from the Greek word ‘aisthētikos’. At the time, it was defined as ‘relating to perception by the senses’. That’s why most of the aesthetically pleasing photos we have as lock screens and avatars can be described as ‘moody’ or ‘nostalgic’. In a recent study by the University of Michigan from 2012 to 2013, it was shown that around that time, teens drastically started saying they were experiencing symptoms of depression — feeling hopeless, not enjoying life, believing they can’t do anything right and longing towards a time or place they never saw or lived in. It’s not a coincidence this moody aesthetics trend started somewhere around the same time.

A persistent, often wistful and melancholic desire, otherly known as ‘yearning’ is almost always present when you scroll through a Tumblr account dedicated to posts like these.

In other words, the internet started being perceived as this ‘Narnia’ like place, where teens and young adults came for comfort and to form groups and meet each other without actually leaving the house. Loneliness became a bygone era since its cure has been found alive and breathing on many layers of the internet. Depression became a trend, unfulfillment an artsy poem of the 21st century and loneliness became the new norm. Major companies, fashion brands, and influencers began creating products centered around this new era, making massive profits of their loyal customers and fans.

As someone who grew up completely unexposed to this side of internet culture, you might wonder what could have possibly influenced such a dark and unusual trend? The entertainment business, of course. And let me tell you how…

2011. “The Queen Of Sadcore: How She Made The Internet Fall In Love

You see, way before your average IG influencer was flaunting vintage clothes from thrift shops, taking pictures of angel statues in Vienna and smoking cigarettes with friends just for the sake of a photo, that sort of aesthetic was heavily influenced by our beloved musicians and artists. Lana Del Rey’s breakthrough record “Born To Die”, similarly to the album’s name, has left a massive trail in internet history by creating a brand new era that will today be known as ‘Pretty when I cry’ aesthetic.

Putting the importance of beauty, wealth, pretty diamonds and Bel Air houses over anything else, while still managing to stay empty on the inside. Having everything and nothing at the same time. After being on the scene for a couple of years, her very unique and mind-boggling tunes were marked as ‘Hollywood Sadcore’ since they were directly inspired by the beauty of America’s ‘The fabulous 50’s’ era, with multiple references to Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Hollywood, New York, and the Hamptons, with James Dean of course.

She was also praised by creating some of her own music videos, making a collage of short clips from her favorite old movies, music videos, and artists.

This very nihilistic view of life left the internet yearning for a very tragic but fabulous destiny of ‘Money is the reason we exist’ and ‘Excessive buying, Overdose, and dyin’. On our drugs and our love, our dreams, and our rage. Blurring the lines between the real and the fake’ — lyrics directly taken from Lana’s hit song ‘National Anthem’. Other artists similar to Lana are Lorde, Marina and the Diamonds, The Neighbourhood and many more.

Shortly after that, her loyal fans started creating their versions of colorful and vintage collage inspired music videos for Lana’s unreleased and non-single songs. That content contains edited clips and scenes from films that also carry this melancholy mood such as Skins: the TV Series (2007- 2013), Stealing Beauty (1996), The Dreamers (2003), Rear Window (1954), Some Like it Hot (1959) and many many more. This sort of editing has influenced the IG photography scene as well, making every girl on the planet wish to be and live like the sad but beautiful Lana and Marilyn, while effortlessly flaunting that lifestyle all over social media.

2013. Cloud Rap: The Spacey, Sad and Nostalgic Hip-Hop Subgenres

After the indie and alt-pop craze has started to slowly fade away, kids of the internet were hungry for more. Tumblr, as the main source of the latest trends in music and fashion, has smoothly been swept away by an online audio distribution platform and music sharing website known as SoundCloud. SoundCloud became the home for some of the most successful rappers of today by exposing their very, yet again, sad and nostalgic, spacey and syrupy raps to an even wider audience. But before we dive deep into the World of these subgenres, we’ll go back to The Bronx where it all began.

Since its emergence in the South Bronx in the early ’70s, hip-hop has been a cultural phenomenon that has been colored with a variety of sub-genres throughout the years. A complete rare gem of the music industry, it is powered by the attitudes, feelings, and experiences of its own environment, creating a huge platform for rap artists to come up with a genre of their own.

The very experimental Cloud Rap is commonly defined by its New Age-like atmospherics and sedated beats over strange lyrics and drunken rapping styles. Artists affiliated with Cloud Rap often produce mystical sounds and effects that occasionally cross the line of the abstract and absurd.

One of Cloud Rap’s biggest stars has emerged from the internet itself and has influenced a huge number of artists that came after. Sweden’s Yung Lean, a.k.a. Jonathan Leandoer was able to popularize this otherworldly aesthetic and make a living out of it.

As the name of Yung Lean’s team ‘Sad Boys’ suggests, the overall goal or purpose of this kind of music is to create the emotions they are feeling via sound. Usually, it’s followed by a ‘Vaporwave aesthetic’ music video of the same description. This major movement of the New Era has made drastic changes to the fashion World as well, causing once ‘outdated’ or even ‘lame’ clothes to come to life in the mid-2010s. Instagram influencers started picking up on the trend, posting colorful and fun outfits directly inspired by this trend. Early 2000s fashion, that has been made popular by stars like Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, and Queen Latifah has made a rad comeback as a blank canvas for something much more futuristic and ‘millennial’ looking, but we’ll touch upon streetwear in a moment.

Artists that have influenced and emerged from this scene are ASAP Rocky, Bones, Bladee, Night Lovell, Playboy Carti, SuicideBoys and many more. SoundCloud has been a great way of exposing music from most of these artists, while simultaneously creating a new wave of sadness within the internet’s walls.

While we all have things to mourn and be sad about, the internet sure has made it easy to glorify and make ‘the craze’ profitable as well. While rap was usually associated with hard and heavy, urban and even aggressive lyrics, the game was changed in 2008. when a very influential artist, Kanye West, dropped his heartbreaking and award-winning record: “808s and Heartbreaks” and has influenced a whole new generation of rap. That was the first time a rap artist created such a ‘sad and emotional’ project. Since the genre was never really associated with moody tunes and heartbreaking lyrics before, a lot of other artists were heavily influenced and started opening their hearts in the studio as well. We can clearly see the shift in Lil Uzi’s famous song ‘XO Tour Life’ for example, where he says: “Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead’, almost laughing or being ‘happy’ about being sad.

2015. ‘’Ape shall never kill Ape’’: With other tales of the internet’s streetwear culture

Born and raised in the ‘oh so fetch’ 1990s, streetwear is not a new trend at all — with the emergence of the New Era, music, art, and influential artists, streetwear has quite made a 180. Something that was once a simple and comfortable fit, has drastically moved to a higher, more ‘custom’ state of fashion, becoming a force on its own. Californian ‘boy next door’ skate and surf culture containing elements of urban hip-hop, sportswear, punk, and Japanese street fashion are what the trend originated and grew from.

From Vitamins to Off-White and Gucci, every company imaginable has since dedicated their time and fabric into perfecting the flawless ‘Hypebeast’ outfit. Now, in today’s staying-up-to-date and popular culture, one might ask one’s self: ‘What exactly is a hypebeast’? Well, here are some definitions straight from the Urban Dictionary.

  1. “A person who follows a trend to be cool or in style. A person who wears what is hyped up.”

2. “A hypebeast is a kid that collect[s] clothing, shoes, and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others. Although the individual may not have a dime to their name, they like to front like they are making far more than everybody else. Equipped with mommies credit card, the Hype Beast will try his hardest to make sure he has every pair of Nike’s he saw Jay-Z wearing on 106 & Park.”

Now that we’ve cleared the air, it’s time to dig a little bit deeper and go head-first into this very bizarre corner of internet culture. What can one do in order to become a streetwear icon of the New Age? As you’ve probably guessed it, it’s not just about the Gucci and Lui, it’s also about the pics you take for IG.

For more context, imagine wearing a Supreme x Louis Vuitton box logo T-shirt matched with a BAPE Shark hoodie, some fresh new Balenciaga kicks, and an Off-White’s industrial belt. Altogether, the fit costs around $2000, and that really gives you a new perspective on how these kids live their lives and what their IG accounts are all about. These are just some of the most popular and ‘hyped’ street fashion companies that serve these millennial kids in their journey to conquer the IG Hypebeast scene.

Instagram is no stranger to these kids, nonetheless, it is the very soul of their streetwear internet diaries. As I’ve mentioned before, expensive outfits aren’t the only thing that’ll make you stand out. Once you’ve put your outfit together, it’s time to find the perfect location to take pictures in front of. It can’t just be a boring selfie or a pic from your friend’s dull hangout party…the outfit, facial expression, makeup, hair, and location all need to be aligned with each other in order to create a very moody and aesthetically pleasing photograph. And yes, each photo you take needs to correlate with other pictures from your profile in order to create a wonderfully pleasing IG feed as well. The average streetwear account on IG has a minimum of 100k followers.

Our beloved A-list celebrities also love to be involved in hot fashion inventions by making brands and trends of their own. From Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma collections to Kanye West and his Yeezy line, Selena Gomez for Adidas, Bella Hadid for Nike and Kendall Jenner for Calvin Klein…celebrities have been flaunting their fits and creations both on IG and the runway.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a quote by Sofia Prantera of ’90s cult brand Silas and now founder of new streetwear label Aries:

“I am not sure if the notion of streetwear and street style as we know it is still valid, I think it has been diluted forever. It used to be about belonging to a subculture, and it is what initially attracted a lot of people to fashion. My generation is still very attached to the concept of anti-fashion, and for this reason, it would be acceptable to predict some form of a streetwear backlash.”

It clearly isn’t just about fashion anymore. Trends that have previously been for the ‘misfits’, connecting to a more ‘underground’ culture and audience, has become the new norm today. The future of streetwear, music and the youth is going to be so versatile, yet it will all come from the same groups of people who have started these trends on Instagram in the first place.

So…what does all of this mean? Why are these kids so obsessed with tragic stories and spacey scenery from films and music videos? Well, it all comes from a place of wanting more than what life has to offer right now. Social media has definitely made it harder for us to develop realistic expectations of the real World. Imagine if you, just like them, grew up with the internet as your side-parent / guardian, making every piece of information ever gathered just once click away. In the famous words of the internet’s queens herself, Billie Eilish: “The World is a little blurry”.

Yes, the World would be blurry for you as well. However, all of the influences, music, fashion, and social media that we’ve listed are nothing more than very creative self-expression of the first ever generation raised by the internet itself. The good thing about the New Age is the acceptance it provides for kids of any background. Whatever type of music, style, interests or aesthetic you’re a part of, there is a place for you here and it makes the blurriness a little bit easier to bear. Until we get rid of it altogether, we’ll continue using the internet as our portal for creating inspirational art, setting trends, meeting online friends and building futures.

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