- The latest buzzy online response to disagreements is to accuse people of being “gatekeepers.”
- It is fueling a broader social media trend of democratizing information, spearheaded by Gen-Z.
Being a gatekeeper is just about the worst thing you can be accused of online.
Every few years, the internet goes through a new buzzy-clap-back phrase instantly recognizable in its life cycle, from valid criticism to Twitter cliche until it hits the mainstream, making its way into the headlines and political discourse before it becomes exclusive. is relegated to ironic use because of its shrinking obsolescence.
You may remember the “check your privilege“sentence, circa 2012, which was offset by calling those who used it”snowflakes” and “social justice fighters“Then Came the Age of Calling”virtue signallers,,who with a well-timed ‘quickly put in place’this you†
Now, the 2020s have ushered in their own social media-specific takedown. The concept of “gatekeepers” is so abhorred that it has been lumped together with “girl boss” and “gas lighting“to spawn meme†
Gatekeepers exclude people – the exact opposite of the democratization of information
In its simplest form, “gatekeeping” is having access, opportunity, or knowledge — and then keeping it all to yourself. Gatekeepers, at least according to the internet, pull the ladder up behind them and shut the underprivileged from their space.
Gate guard can be: Kylie Jenner refuses to share her favorite drink with her followers for fear that it will sell out. But it can also be less specific, referring to people who may not hide something tangible, but tell others that they are not entitled to an opinion or behavior (whether justified or not).
@kardashianicon Not iconic. #kyliejenner #gate guards #foryourpage #fyp ♬ original sound – kardashianicon
The concept of gatekeeping is not new, but data shows that the use of the term is increasing. According to Google Trends, search interest in “gatekeping” has increased in use since March 2020, peaking in January 2022, with searches for “gatekeeper” peaks in the following months.
Calling in gatekeepers is a core tenet of the extreme online Gen-Z culture that, spurred on by the pandemic and the evolution of social media, has come to champion the democratization of, well, everything, if it’s ideal.
Anti-gatekeeping at first glance is positive; it is about breaking down barriers that can enforce systems of privilege. But when co-opted, it can lose its original meaning.
The definition of ‘gatekeeper’ is so broad that you are probably one too – at least sometimes
People are accused of being gatekeepers on social media marginalized identities† science† mental health† zines†the truth† Kate Bushand so on.
Accusing someone online of being gatekeepers is so common that it is now a trope in its own right, one that often mocked and undermined in irony†
—Harrison Brocklehurst (@harrisonjbrock) May 30, 2022
—Kaity ⬛ (@Kaiterbelle) June 1, 2022
Based on the vaguest definition possible, you would struggle to go an entire day without doing something that could be classified as a gatekeeper. Refuse to share the secret ingredients in your legendary brownies? gate guard. Imagine if your monogamous partnered friends might not be qualified to influence your dating life? gate guard. Tell someone who wants to change career paths that they should retrain before applying for a job in your field? The worst kind of gatekeepers.
Unfortunately for the perpetrators, it is impossible to be accused of being gatekeepers, and trying to justify someone’s gatekeepers will only expose them to further charges of missing the point completely.
As a result, it has become the perfect internet comeback, rivaling”OK Boomerfor its ability to simultaneously make someone feel ashamed by sharpening their uncoolness, enraging at its reducing connotations, and probably doubling down on their point of view.
In some cases, people claim that they have the right and duty to guard their culture
During the pandemic, when Hawaii experienced a boom in tourism, many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders talked about their concerns, focusing on increasing cases of COVID-19 and the environmental impact of tourism. Many faced a curious response: people accusing them of “gatekeeping” the state.
Can you “guard” a state by asking for stricter tourist regulations or by suggesting visitors be more considerate of the country they are traveling to? Some people thought so. A lot creators responded to the accusation and found support in their comment section, but it didn’t shut down the criticism.
@monicaroams Reply to @1re.public this is why people can’t share certain locations‼️ #livealoha #hawaiitok #hiddengems #gate guards ♬ You – Petit Biscuit
People of color are also forced to to defend himself against accusations of gatekeepers when they invoke cultural appropriation. Critics claim that they “gateguard” their cultural symbols and identities by telling certain groups of people not to adopt them.
But the point of cultural appropriation is to: restore the balance of power after centuries of oppression. Not all gatekeepers are created equal.
@kahlilgreene It’s all about contextual clues!!! #cultural appropriation #black culture #hiddenhistory ♬ original sound – Kahlil
When applied carefully, an anti-gate guard culture can offer a more progressive worldview
As the wave of “gatekeeping” criticism hit TikTok, it complements the dominance of another related genre that has flourished in the app: we’ll call it the “gatebreak post.”
Where Instagram was about showcasing the glossy veneer of life and work, TikTok is about take the viewer behind the scenes and parts that were previously inaccessible information and skills – the opposite of gatekeepers.
@weariwandered I’ll show you the secrets of how to travel on a budget! #travelhacks #traveltips #budgettravel #club1hotels #club1hotelspartner #stewardesses #traveltiktok ♬ original sound – Wear I Wandered
“Gatebreaking” content says there should be no barriers to knowledge, information, or perception of expertise. To believe otherwise is to support gatekeepers, forcing people to stay on the edge of certain spaces.
So is “gatebreaking” good? Is “Gate Guarding” Bad? At its core, calling people to gatekeepers is a simple shorthand to evoke exclusionary attitudes that amplify inequality. But like most complex ideologies distilled into an online buzzword, gatekeeping risks turning into pointless fodder for irritated eyes.
What started out as a way to criticize people like Kylie Jenner for maintaining exclusive access to a type of soda is now being used as a stick to stifle any criticism.
If the internet needs to learn from past mistakes, maybe it’s time to start gatekeeping.
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