Gen Z Won’t Let TikTok Stop Them From Talking About Suicide
Zoomers are using “unalive” in order to get around TikTok censors. And the word has now taken on a life of its own.
Gen Z can’t not talk about death.
It’s the generation that doesn’t know a world without terrorist attacks and school shootings and the constant presence of everyone else’s perfect lives via social media. It’s unclear if they’re talking about their true feelings of wanting to die in real life, but when they’re on the internet, they’re constantly mentioning it: death, dying, suicide. But most recently, it’s wanting to be “unalive” or committing “unalive” or “unaliving” themselves.
TikTok generally removes videos that mention death, dying, or suicide, so Zoomers have found a loophole and are now using “unalive” to replace its harsher, more direct synonyms. The trend has bled over to all social media sites.
“If I ever find out my bf’s celebrity crush is prettier than me, I will unalive myself fr don’t fucking play with me,” one tweet reads. Or “Side profile makes me want to commit unalive,” another reads.
On TikTok, users are constantly using the word. The “unalive” hashtag has nearly 10 million views and “unaliveme” has more than 1 million. The content of the videos range from stories about being in a mental hospital, to uplifting advice, to people who are depressed, to humorous and overly dramatic videos about wanting to “unalive” because of a minor inconvenience.
It’s made its way to products also. On Etsy and Redbubble, vendors sell stickers and hoodies with phrases containing “unalive,” like, “Sometimes I just want to unalive myself.” The models wearing the hoodies are cheerfully smiling.
Saying or writing “unalive” in a humorous video or plastering it on a hoodie is the perfect way to let people know that the topic itself might be serious but the intended tone isn’t. Even though TikTok tries to stop the conversation, Gen Z has found its loophole with “unalive.”
“It’s ironic that we found a way around it because we’re like the most sensitive generation, but we’re also the most bold generation, so it’s weird,” says Neda Anvar, a 22-year-old recent college graduate. “Also, we don’t like being censored, so we’re going to find a way around everything. We’re going to find loopholes to everything.”
Lex Pruijt, a 19-year-old who lives in the Netherlands, posted a TikTok using another user’s sound joking about wanting to die. She says she started to notice Zoomers using “unalive” on TikTok last summer, and eventually, she and her friends started saying it in real life, too. She says it’s become slang for her generation.
“It’s a term that not everyone understands, so it’s a bit more comfortable if you’re sitting in your room and you’re making a joke, ‘Oh, I’m gonna unalive myself,’ instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna commit suicide,’” she says. “It’s a bit less heavy and more of a joking matter.”
Pruijt thinks her generation talks about death constantly because, like her, they have struggled with depression.
“There’s a lot of pressure from adults and the school system on us,” she says. “But also, we’re kind of made to be this generation that has everything and is not allowed to struggle. So every time we do struggle, we tend to get wiped away and unvalidated, so we tend to experience that a lot quicker.”
Rory Philpott, an 18-year-old student in Toronto, posted a TikTok of her friend jokingly talking about wanting to jump out a window. The closed caption for the video reads “s0ic1al” instead of “suicidal” and the hashtags include “unalive,” “funny,” and “humor.” The TikTok has more than 47,000 likes. The slang for suicide has made its way to real life for her friend group, too.
“If something bad but funny happens, we’re like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna commit toaster bath,’” she says.
But then there’s the darker, more serious version of “unalive” TikToks with no humor in sight. After all, it is a real problem. Joking about any of it isn’t funny to Shahem Mclaurin, a licensed therapist who regularly posts on TikTok. They say talking about it is healthy, though.
“It’s necessary to have these conversations,” Mclaurin says. “These conversations save lives—being open and honest about feelings of not wanting to be alive, which are not abnormal, or are not an abnormal response to the stressors of living in a capitalist society. It makes sense to have these feelings. What’s important in having life-saving dialogue is being able to say when you feel this, these are things that you can do. Because it’s so hushed and silenced, it’s harder for people to find resources.”
Joking about a serious topic and using “unalive” is Pruijt’s way of coping, she says.
“For me, it’s a way of coping and making it a joke so I don’t take it as serious,” Pruijt says. “But I definitely think it can be harmful for people who are in danger.”