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What is #mid and should you even care?

Are you panicking about #mid? Freaking out about how your taste is suddenly in jeopardy? Questioning your clothes, furniture, the cafes you visit? Any idea what I’m whanging on about?

Mid is TikTok slang (2.8 billion tags and counting). It means mediocre: not basic, but, crucially, not cool either. And it’s being used as an IYKYK social sneer aimed at, well, a lot of the stuff you probably like. The primary targets appear to be the trappings of consumer cool. We all know #basic when we see it  — depending on your #levels it can be anything from Karens to K-Swiss. But according to TikTok groupthink, #mid is much broader.

#mid is stuff you like

In a recent mid-adjacent article for the New Statesman entitled ‘Everything is Clapham now‘, writer Josiah Gogarty condemns all manner of things to a giant amorphous ghetto he calls ‘semi-cool’: pleated trousers, the BFI, mid-century furniture, a Mubi subscription, vintage posters, day festivals, Four Tet  —  youch!

The goal of #mid seems to be the continual body slamming of middle-income, culturally aspirational people. People who think that by wearing a certain brand, buying or eating a certain thing, can, and does, make you cool. Culture’s constant homogenisation and commercialisation of what cool is supposed to be, simply means there are lots of targets.

Hay furniture, microbreweries, natural orange wine anyone?  What about New Balance or Vejas? Or deliberately wonky pottery and Studio Arhoj ‘shapes’?

Do you still obsess over new Apple products? Do you always order sharing plates? Do you think Ganni is the coolest womenswear shop in the world? Sorry, but it’s Aperol Spritzes all round! A massive audience of TikTokists think you’re wack. And by ‘wack’, I obviously mean mid.

Dazed’s inaugural podcast Logged On, devotes an entire episode to ‘The Mid’. Give it a listen, if only to hear host Günseli Yalcinkaya and guest Shumon Basar struggle to define what #mid actually is, and (most tellingly) give examples of things that are definitely not mid, but genuinely cool.

The best Yalcinkaya can suggest is an illegal rave. While Basar (presumably with a straight face) suggests that a meme he saw of a guy wearing skinny jeans over the top of a pair of those cartoon MSCHF boots is cool. Although he went on to caveat that this coolness had an extremely short shelf-life and in 24 hours it might no longer be cool. I guess that’s why they get paid the big bucks.

#mid is not new

The thing is, there is nothing new in this. The middle chunk of the Rogers Adoption Curve (circa 1962) illustrates the highest and broadest endorsement of an idea or product within any given culture. Adding the disdainful hashtag is new, but the academic principle is well worn.

But of course, it is the duty of the young to sneer at the old. To kick against the cultural establishment. To appraise its values and find them wanting.

However, unlike the counterculturalists of old, today’s youth have been born into a design saturated landscape. The ‘designer’ 1980s kicked off a full-blown commodification of taste that now permeates anything and everything you encounter.

Imagine what it’s like for a teen today. Your mum’s ordering Muuto shelving systems. Grandad’s listening to Paul’s Boutique on Spotify. And you’re wearing the same Nikes as your dad. This kind of cross-generational melting pot of acceptable culture just didn’t exist for Gen X and Y. Back in the 80s your dad wore shoes you wouldn’t be seen dead in  — that’s how you knew he was your dad.

That TikTokers are recognising this blandification and pushing back is not surprising.

In search of a culture

Perhaps #mid is just the silent scream of the first generation without their own culture? As we’ve seen, a hyper-digitally connected world, one where ideas are rinsed and dismissed at frightening speed, doesn’t appear fertile ground for growing meaningful youth sub-cultures. Maybe #mid is simply Gen Z’s punk? A sort of, crowd-sourced ‘up yours!’

Either way, if #mid targets your sacred cows, don’t worry. It will come and go, just like everything else. Soon tagging something mid will be the most #mid thing you can do.

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