Those who lived through the not-so-distant events of 2012 probably never expected to hear “Gangnam Style,” the novelty hit by the K-pop superstar PSY, ever again. Yet “Gangnam Style” has made a comeback in an unlikely venue: TikTok, where zoomers are recounting their trauma in excruciating detail in a new, darkly funny trend.
I wish I was joking🥲
“Gangnam Style” — or more accurately, DJ Kooze’s mashup of “Gangnam Style” and Steve Lacy’s “N Side” — has gone viral on TikTok as a soundtrack for people to post their trauma. From a story about a woman who found out her boyfriend was cheating while she was nursing their newborn, to the woman who was rushed to the hospital with “bad cramps” and ended up giving birth, to the girl who went to meet her new girlfriend’s parents and found out her mom was her therapist, the song is being used as a soundtrack for people’s most personal trauma. Far from being depressing, however, the boppy tune and a slick filter add a darkly comic element to the narrative, showing how there’s a bit of levity in even the most horrific stories.
TikTok has long served as a repository for trauma, as well as laypeople’s various psychiatric diagnoses of how said trauma can manifest itself. For a time, it was a trend on the app to label even the most minor actions — scrolling on your For You page, for instance, or overpreparing for a trip — as a “trauma response,” due to the emergence of a cottage industry of armchair psychoanalyzers on the app (few of whom are actually credentialed). Commenters’ and creators’ tendencies to post intense, emotional content on the app has even prompted the coinage of a new term: “trauma dumping,” or sharing a traumatic experience with someone who has neither consented to nor has the emotional bandwidth to process it. (One TikTok therapist lightly made fun of the trend in a video last year, and got lambasted for it.)
Some have characterized the “Gangnam Style” trend as yet another form of trauma dumping. But on this week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone’s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, cohost Brittany Spanos explains that the trend is simply a means of catharsis — and that it might reflect how Gen Z is better equipped to deal with its emotions than previous generations have been. The “memeification of trauma,” as Spanos puts it, “feels like a direct product of these quote unquote unprecedented times we’re living in, where teens and young adults have found comfort in finding the humor in some horrific experiences.”.