Web Culture

OK, So, Here’s Why Every Video Starts The Same Way Now

Your TikTok and Instagram feeds are full of content using these subtle tricks. It’s not a coincidence.

Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Shutterstock

Half of my screen time is spent watching in-depth makeup routines, oddly satisfying ASMR, and even school-lunch-packing tutorials. (I’m unmarried without kids.) But nothing compares to my one true love: story times, which make me feel like I’m meddling in someone else’s juicy gossip without any repercussions. How do I know a story time is worth stopping my scroll? It starts with either a camera shake, lip gloss application, or the familiar phrase “OK, so” — and the latter is currently flooding my FYP.

Something within the first few seconds of a video needs to pique your intrigue enough to continue watching, and for Gen Z, interest within the first eight seconds is the sweet spot. These days, some creators are opening clips with the filler phrase “OK, so” to get a viewer’s attention. In most cases, it’s likely a subconscious move, though it really works to capture an audience. But it’s not the first time a common content creator intro has made its rounds online.

Calculated “Candidness”

Before the subconscious “OK, so” became noticeable on TikTok, more premeditated intros were used to pull viewers in.

There’s the Gen Z shake, beloved by its namesake demographic, and viewers have started catching on to the often intentional tactic. For this, a user hits record before setting down their phone, making it seem like whatever they have to share is so important there’s not even time to prop it up first.

Similarly, the “lip gloss tactic” is another viral video intro that involves applying a lip product while speaking to the camera to create visual interest for a viewer before anything particularly worthwhile is shown or said. Licensed psychologist Michee Leno, Ph.D., LP, previously told Bustle that creators applying lip gloss signals to viewers that what they’re watching is safe and familiar, the virtual version of chit-chatting with friends while doing your makeup in the same mirror. This relatability and familiarity is what keeps users tuned in. Using a typical phrase like “OK, so” likely does the same.

Subconscious Strategy

Of course, the phrase isn’t original to TikTok. Adam Aleksic, a linguistics expert who goes by @etymologynerd on TikTok and researches the intersection between language and social media explained that “OK, so” is a discourse marker similar to the phrases “No, because,” “I mean,” and “Right, well…” which all cue to a listener that a thought will follow. The words themselves sing to a viewer that it’s time to tune into what is about to be said.

What these seemingly subconscious video intros have in common — besides how they can stop a viewer in their scroll — is that they’re easy antitheses to the “millennial pause,” which was identified in 2021 and has since received the dreaded stamp of “cheugy.” The brief pause at the beginning of a video is an easy way to spot a millennial. This accidental pause is likely the result of the generation feeling a little awkward participating in the new frontier that is speaking candidly to their front cameras (not painstakingly crafting ~aN aWaY mEs$aGe~ from a desktop).

Now, the same Gen Z users who dominate online spaces like TikTok and once ostracized millennials for the outdated move will do just about anything to fill the silence — whether they do so purposely (applying Dior lip oil) or not (“OK, so”). To Gen Z, candid content is king, but that won’t stop them from their inevitable online life cycle.

According to The New York Times, 2023 was the year millennials outgrew the Internet. As Gen Z ages, the demographic known for being trendsetters and tastemakers also finds itself out of the loop while Gen Alpha’s memes rise in popularity. In a fit of desperation — purposefully or not — Gen Z users are doing whatever they need to get people to stick around and watch their content.

Once you first notice lip-gloss application, a shaky lens, or “OK, so” in a video, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. As things become ubiquitous online, they inevitably become cliché, and perhaps cringe, too. Gen Z might be next in line.