Early noughties throwback fever has officially hit TikTok. From 2000s song challenges, to lip gloss-heavy makeovers soundtracked by Britney Spears’ ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’, it’s official – the era in which I was a teenager has officially entered the realm of nostalgia.
And I’m at peace with that – I really am. There comes a time in everyone’s life where they come to appreciate the simple pleasures of carefully nursing houseplants and occasionally treating themselves to a seated gig (my knees, they ache) and besides, I envy Gen Z-ers discovering Keri Hilson and Taio Cruz’s respective back catalogues for the first time – even if it does make me feel positively ancient.
One thing that did jar my decrepit husk of a body, however, was stumbling across a series of rose-tinted montage videos from noughties secondary school, soundtracked by ‘Parachutes’ era Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and other heady cuts of a similar ilk. “Is 2011 high school aesthetic?” asked one video caption.
On one hand, I’ll take any complimentary crumb I can get my hands on, but if we’re being honest: aesthetic? The noughties certainly possessed a certain aesthetic of a kind, but one that somebody might actively strive to recreate for clout in the present day? Really?
We’re talking about an era, after all, where fashion credentials were judged by the size of the Jane Norman carrier bags we used to carry our PE kit. When I think back to those soggy paper satchels groaning under the weight of a thousand lurid cans of Impulse body spray, I wonder why we didn’t all just grow up and purchase rucksacks.
For some reason, the noughties equivalent of haute couture was taking an existing outfit and whacking an enormous belt with a loop the size of a small, undiscovered planet over the top of it, before hoisting it up to sit somewhere roughly under your armpits. With this in mind, it’s perhaps a quiet blessing that selfies didn’t really exist to document the true extent of the horror. Back then, self-portrait photos were traditionally taken using a low-quality digital camera (or even better, a Motorola RZR) and the reflection of a mildly grubby mirror – with the flash on to create an artistic glare effect.
A lot of younger Tik Tok’ers reckon that we noughties kids lived a happier, more contented experience because we weren’t glued to social media. “Notice how no-one’s on their phones?” one asked. “They couldn’t do anything on those little rocks,” another added. Elsewhere they hypothesise that we appear to have clearer skin because our phone cameras were so pixelated, which is a fair point actually.
Arguably, a lack of smart phones made things all the more stressful: in actual fact, we were glued to those clunky pieces of shit for hours on end. The mere act of sending a text (or SMS, if we’re using the correct lingo of the time) could often turn into an hour-long ordeal. No phone credit? Off we would trot to the nearest shop in our imitation Ugg boots to purchase a top-up card, before painstakingly crafting the shortest message possible, entirely in txtspk.
Despair drove us to dial-up internet – after 6pm to save money – and the endless troves of MSN Messenger, where the txtspk continued in earnest – even though there were no character limits there. And though I’ve no doubt that social media plays a far bigger role in people’s lives now, it caused its fair share of drama in the noughties too. Entire weeks of misery, and entire wars fought in the classroom – all because somebody changed the order of their top friends on Bebo. It was sheer, unadulterated carnage.
Fans of these nostalgia school montages are right: the noughties were a vibe – but a vibe I would willingly return to, even given how dire the current circumstances are? Absolutely and categorically not. Now, if you need me, I’ll just be tucked up under a blanket on my rocking chair, listening to Tinchy Stryder and gently cackling at all the Gen Zers who reckon, as one TikTok-er had it, that “these people are parents to tweens now”.