Is Relatability Fatigue A Thing? What It Means For The Future Of Social Media
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Raven Minyard. Find her on Instagram at @raven.minyard. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve been active on the internet over the last decade, you’ve probably noticed a change in the type of popular media we consume. We swapped skits from the early days of YouTube for GRWMs, OOTDs and storytimes, and now we eagerly watch TikToks of creators just like us telling their most embarrassing stories to thousands of people across the world. We’re always looking for content creators and influencers who we can relate to, but could that ever change? TikTok creator Coco Mocoe seems to think so. In a recent video, she coined the term relatability fatigue to describe the pushback she predicts we’ll see against relatability culture over the next few years. But what exactly is relatability culture and what does relatability fatigue mean? In this article, we’ll explore the rise of both to determine what it means for the future of social media.
The Rise Of Relatability Culture
As humans, we’re always looking for a sense of community and belonging, so it makes sense that we’d also search for that community in the media we consume. After decades of watching rich and famous movie stars on the silver screen, we finally developed a new form of entertainment – social media. As different social platforms rose to popularity, we suddenly had access to the thoughts and lives of people we otherwise wouldn’t have, people just like us.
Our obsession with relatable content seems to have begun with YouTube. In the early 2010s, beauty gurus like Zoella and Bethany Mota dominated the platform, and quirky vloggers like Tyler Oakley and Dan and Phil gave us hours of funny and relatable content. Then, when those creators became too famous and out of touch, we turned to influencers like Emma Chamberlain, then known for her coffee obsession and self-deprecating humor which made her feel accessible to an everyday audience. We looked to creators like these because they felt real. We trusted their opinions because their recommendations felt like they were coming from a friend or family member rather than a wealthy celebrity who knew nothing about the lives of an average, middle-class person.
This desire for relatability quickly spread to other platforms. We look for content from normal people on TikTok, with some users even blocking celebrities’ accounts to avoid their content. Photo dumps have become the most popular way to post on Instagram, showing bits and pieces of everyday life rather than curated selfies and photo shoots, and BeReal is another attempt to get users to live in the moment rather than try to perfect their social media. Even brands and businesses on Twitter post memes and roast each other in an attempt to seem relatable and gain audience approval.
So when does it become too much? Trends are a cycle, so it’s only a matter of time before we grow tired of seeing the same content over and over. When does relatability culture stop feeling relatable and start feeling like a marketing scheme? It seems like it’s already begun happening.
The Rise Of Relatability Fatigue
TikTok creator and trend predictor Coco Mocoe seems to be one of the first to use the term relatability fatigue to describe the internet’s changing feelings around relatable content. Because so many creators are trying to jump on the relatability bandwagon, it’s starting to feel less genuine to audiences. One major example of this is back in 2020 when a group of celebrities decided to come together to sing “Imagine” by John Lennon in the early days of the pandemic. It was an attempt to relate to the average person in a time of crisis, but instead, it came off as extremely tone-deaf and out of touch.
Another example is the idea of “Brand Twitter,” in which brands (typically fast food chains) try to be relatable by posting memes and arguing with other brands to gain an audience. This is something that consumers originally found to be funny when the concept was new, but now that the brands all seem to be posting the exact same memes, users roll their eyes and keep scrolling.
Even regular people have begun using relatability to market themselves. While Instagram photo dumps and BeReal were intended to make social media casual again, users quickly became obsessed with how to curate the perfect photo dump and redo their BeReals to get the perfect shot.
Being relatable has become exhausting. So how do we combat that?
The Future Of Social Media
The idea is that trends and generational culture swing on a pendulum; if one generation is really into one thing, the next will feel the opposite. In the case of relatability culture, this means that younger Gen Z and early Gen Alpha will likely look to influencers who are not seen as relatable. One creator Coco Mocoe pointed out is TikToker Pinkydoll. A far cry from creators like Emma Chamberlain, Pinkydoll calls herself “the Queen of NPC” and intentionally acts robotic in her videos. With the overwhelming success of relatable personalities on TikTok, it seems strange that a creator like Pinkydoll would gain such a large following, but she has 1.4 million followers and even has a deal with Fashion Nova, proving that relatability isn’t the only thing audiences are searching for.
Coco Mocoe predicts we’ll see even more creators like Pinkydoll as Gen Alpha comes to the forefront of internet trends. While Gen Z and even Millennials are willing to display their whole lives online, she believes Gen Alpha, who are growing up in a time where they’re practically forced to be online, will be one of the most private generations. In turn, their influencers will reflect that.
Of course, we can’t know for certain what influencers and social media will look like five years from now, and I think it will always be human nature to look for relatability to some degree. But it does seem like we’re reaching a turning point in what we look for in celebrities and online personalities, and I think relatability fatigue is a term we’ll begin hearing more often.
Is relatability fatigue real, or do you think we’ll continue to see relatable influencers? Let us know in the comments!