As it’s used today, the term aesthetics can be defined as the thematic expression of visual and musical tastes as a representation of self. There are hundreds of types, and youth movements have always played around with them. The difference between previous eras and now is twofold: one, the quantity and accessibility of different kinds of aesthetics, and two, the conscious engagement with the idea of aesthetics itself. Social media platforms have facilitated both things, and YouTube is no exception: there have been over 1 billion cumulative views since 2015 on popular aesthetics such as e-girl, cottagecore, Y2K, and dark academia.
While identity-seeking is one of the core pursuits of any youth culture, for Gen Z, identity is a journey, not a destination. This generation has grown up creating their identities for online spaces, where identity is transient by design. YouTube is an ideal platform for people to learn how to adopt and adapt aesthetics they’re interested in.
YouTube also allows people to create and explore endless variations of an aesthetic in a way previous generations never could.