As America’s first generation of digital natives, Zoomers grew up with the Internet in the palm of their hand. They are tethered to their smartphones, allowing their online and offline identities to merge under the microscope that is social media.
In 2022, Zoomers had an estimated $360 billion in disposable income – and as they age, their spending power will continue to grow. But as an advertiser, how do you capture the interest – and wallets – of a cohort with a limited attention span (only about 1.3 seconds for ads) and healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to brand trust?
To address our clients’ most common questions about this age group, we’re breaking down the anatomy of Zoomers in a new four-part series. In the first installment, we explore some common behaviors and characteristics of this generation and elements of Internet culture that tie into what it means to be a Zoomer.
What’s a Zoomer?
Zoomer is another word for a member of Generation Z. Born between 1997 and 2012, Zoomers are tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings.
The term “Zoomer” is a cheeky, intergenerational play on the word “Boomer” (referring to people born between 1945 and the early 1960s). While Zoomer can be used neutrally to refer to a member of Generation Z, it is also often used with an ironic, humorous, or even mocking tone.
Zoomers are known for having progressive and inclusive viewpoints and being outspoken about their concerns for the future – attributes that older generations often conflate with an overly sensitive or “delicate” disposition.
As is common with every new generation of “young people,” Zoomers have been criticized for being lazy, entitled, and unambitious. A closer look at this cohort reveals a different story. Generation Z has been recognized for many positive attributes, including the following:
- Racially diverse
What is typical Zoomer behavior?
Zoomers have come of age in a world of infinite possibilities afforded by the Internet. With the term “google” solidified as a verb by the time they could talk, Zoomers are used to on-demand access to information and crowdsourcing answers to just about anything.
Unafraid to push boundaries, they are great champions of finding and embracing their unique identities outside of traditional labels and norms and use social media as a stage for self-expression and community.
Gen Z Characteristics & Behaviors
Steeped in Internet culture and access to the latest tech, these are some common behaviors and characteristics you’ll find among Gen Zers:
- Tethered to their phones. Over 90% of all Gen Zers have a smartphone, getting their first device at the age of 12. 55% use their smartphones for five or more hours daily, with 31% feeling uncomfortable if they are without them for 30 minutes or less.
- Savvy shoppers. Zoomers have more conservative spending behavior than Gen X or Millennials. Having witnessed their parents go through the Great Recession, Zoomers are pragmatic and financially literate.
- Constantly connected. With nearly 90% spending an hour or more on social media daily, Gen Z is watching short digital videos and is always looking for new ways to interact with friends.
- Demanding accountability. Credited with “cancel culture” movements, Zoomers have advocated for a more inclusive retelling of history. This includes seeking an honest and full accounting of historical events, with perspectives from all sides.
- Divesting celebrities of their influence. Gen Z follows trends from everyday influencers and is much less influenced by actors, models, and other celebrities.
- Voting for progressive social rights. Even right-wing Gen Z voters are more progressive than their older peers, with Zoomers of all political stripes largely in favor of gay marriage, transgender rights, Black Lives Matter, gender pay equality, and legal access to abortion.
How do Zoomers express humor?
Zoomers are the first generation to be born into the Age of the Internet, acutely impacted by online bullying, dark videos going viral, and being the butt of memes and social jokes – not to mention regular news of school shootings, wars, a global pandemic, and a forced shift to online learning. Zoomer humor is a way to deal with uncertainty.
Ranging from dark to ironic, Gen Z humor is about sheer irrationality and absurdity, with the punchline often landing in unexpected ways. The universe doesn’t make sense, so why should their humor? Especially when humor is, at its best, a coping mechanism.
Below we explore two major vehicles of Gen Z humor – memes and slang.
Overly connected to the Internet and immediate-response technology, Gen Z humor is incredibly linked to memes. A meme is a cultural item (such as an idea, behavior, or style) that spreads via the Internet and can take various forms, including images, videos, and GIFs.
While the term “meme” hasn’t been widely known until the 2000s, memes have been used as a communication connector for centuries. Memes give us a broader opportunity to weigh in on a large-scale cultural moment. They are known for their susceptibility to parody, virality, and evolution over time.
Research suggests that a meme lasts about four months before going bust. A micro-meme has an even shorter shelf life; often lasting for only a week or two on TikTok before dying out. What does this mean for marketers? What Gen Z is laughing at this week will not be what they’re laughing at in the following. If you want to capture the attention of Zoomers, you’ll need a steady stream of new-and-funny content in your marketing arsenal.
Gen Z expresses humor, of course, in Gen Z-specific language: Zoomer slang. Having grown up enmeshed in the Internet, Gen Z humor stems from TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, and other social apps and online forums.
But Zoomers in online apps did not invent Gen Z slang. Much of Gen Z slang comes from African-American vernacular that is mislabeled as Internet slang. While there’s likely no deliberate linguistic theft, Gen Z does get the credit for bringing Black colloquialisms into more mainstream speech – if only among young people.
Gen Z Glossary
Since you can’t understand Gen Z unless you know what they’re talking about, use this glossary to decode some common Gen Z slang words:
Basic: a pejorative term used to describe who has very mainstream tastes, i.e. a “basic bitch” is someone who likes trendy coffee drinks and designer purses.
Bet: means “Ok” or “Yes.” It’s a casual, short answer in the affirmative.
Big mad: being “big mad” means to be extra mad or irate.
Big yikes: an extra-large version of “yikes.” As in something is so horrendous or so embarrassing that “yikes” by itself could not possibly do.
Bop: a bop is a really great song or album. “That song’s a bop.”
Boujee: a term that means high-class and/or materialistic. “He’s got boujee taste.”
Camp: a term for something that is ironically trendy.
Cancel culture: means to revoke, remove from circulation and/or boycott something once widely socially accepted that is now considered offensive.
Cap/no cap: cap means a lie or exaggeration. “No cap” means “no lie” or “for real.”
Catch these hands: indicates a threat of physical violence, like a slap or punch.
CEO: means to be the best of something.
Cheugy: an adjective to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard to be trendy when they are past their prime. “Gross. Skinny jeans are so cheugy; I haven’t worn them since middle school.”
Clapback: means to respond to an insult or critique. Comes from the 2003 eponymous song, Clap Back, by rapper Ja Rule. The song was a direct threat to 50 Cent and Eminem.
Cringe/Cringey: a response to social embarrassment. Can be a one-word sentence to react to something awkward. “Cringe.”
Dank: means something is excellent or of superior quality.
Drip/Drip check/Check my drip: drip refers to one’s style or look. “Drip check, please” means the equivalent of “I look good, right?”
Extra: means flamboyant, excessive, or overly dramatic. “She’s acting so extra.”
Finna: means “I’m going to do something” or “I’m fixing to do something.” As in, “I’m finna do the biggest show ever.”
Fire: means something is cool. “I love it. That’s fire.”
Ghost: to cut someone off without notice. “I didn’t respond to his texts or DMs. I just ghosted him.”
Glo’ up/Glow up: to glow up means to grow in terms of style, confidence, or personal growth.
G.O.A.T.: acronym that means Greatest Of All Time.
Hits different: something with a different or better meaning in a particular context. “Hit’s different now that Ted’s moved away.”
Hypebeast: someone into the latest hype, notably acquiring the latest fashion items.
Iykyk: acronym that means “If you know you know” and references an inside joke. Iykyk was a popular TikTok hashtag in 2019.
Lewk: a variation of the term “look.” As in, “Did you see her latest lewk?”
Lit: means “fire” as in cool or awesome. “That’s lit!” denotes something you’re enthused over.
OK Boomer: Derogatory term used to insult a Baby Boomer when you disagree with their expressed viewpoint. “OK, Boomer! You’re wrong …” starts many argumentative threads on social media.
Periodt: like saying “period” to make your point, but with added emphasis. “No boys over at the house, Jane. Periodt.” The term is pronounced period-tee.
Rent-free: means to let something cause you mental anguish. From the expression about letting someone/something “live rent-free in your head.”
Salty: means resentful — usually as a result of feeling overlooked or slighted.
Simp: a simp means to be overly affectionate or attentive to someone you’re romantically interested in when the other person does not reciprocate the emotion.
Sip tea/Spill tea: tea is a euphemism for gossip. To sip tea means to listen to gossip and to spill the tea means to deliver the gossip.
Slaps: when something slaps, it’s super good or really relatable. “That slaps” or “That slaps hard” are common expressions.
Slay: means to “kill it,” as in doing something exceptionally well.
Smol: describes something diminutive and adorable that you might ooh and aah over.
Snack: a snack is someone looking exceptionally attractive. “Did you see Ryan Gosling over there…looking like a snack?”
Snatched: means to look perfect and/or en pointe. “She’s looking snatched.”
Stan: is a portmanteau combining the words “stalker” and “fan.” Means an overzealous fan, but not as intense as a stalker. Oxymoronically, someone could say, “I was a low-key stan of theirs.”
Sus: means something is suspect or suspicious.
Take several seats: means to calm down and stop speaking, particularly when it comes to an issue the speaker does not have any knowledge of. It plays off of how you might tell an angry, fist-shaker at a meeting to “Take a seat.” Someone who is especially riled up would need to take several seats, plural.
TFW: acronym that means That Feeling When. “TFW when you realize it’s still only Monday.”
That’s a vibe: means “that’s a feeling” or “that’s a mood.”
Thirsty: a pejorative term used to describe someone desperate for attention. You could chide a friend, “Don’t be so thirsty. Play it cool.”
Vibe check: means to check in with someone’s vibe or mood. To “pass a vibe check” means to have a cool or laid-back vibe.
Weak/”I’m weak”: means to be weak (in the knees) from laughing. Similar to the expression “I’m dead” in response to something exceptionally humorous.
Wig: is an expression of admiration, as in something’s so good it’s blown away your wig.
Yeet: means to throw something, as in “She grabbed it and yeeted it into the wastebasket.”
Closing thoughts & what’s next?
With their own lexicon and brand of humor, Zoomers are a special breed – and we’ve only just scratched the surface. In the next installment of our “Marketing to Gen Z” series, we’ll take a closer look at how Zoomers spend their time and money – from what they’re watching to where they shop and eat. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn how Fluent can help your brand unlock this in-demand demographic, connect with us here.
See you in part two!