Here’s a mental exercise: say you’re playing a game of charades.
You’re in a room with some family, and they’re pretty evenly split along generational lines. There are some teens in there, sitting on the couch with their millennial cousins. Somewhere in the room — near the makeshift bar, perhaps — are the Gen Xers and the baby boomers. In the two armchairs are the grandparents, anxiously waiting for the game to begin.
The answer to the round you’re playing is “talking on the phone.” How might the corresponding gesture differ if each group doing it were separated by their age group?
Last Wednesday, TikTok user Daniel Alvarado answered this question for himself, exposing a generational divide that many hadn’t considered. “This is how you know you’re getting old—and this is for my 70s, 80s, and 90s babies: watch,” he says.
First, he asks his wife to pretend she’s talking on the phone. Instinctively, she does what we know to be the universal gesture for talking on the phone: pinky and thumb extended, middle fingers curled inward, simulating a corded or flip phone.
But corded and flip phones are, for all intents and purposes, obsolete, and have been forgotten or were never used by those who grew up in the age of Apple and Samsung. So when Alvarado asks his two children to do the same thing, the gesture they offer is different: they simply flatten their palms against their ears, as though they’re talking on a smartphone.
The video has been viewed more than two million times, and many viewers expressed their shock at the sudden realization that what was once a classic gesture is now as obsolete as the phones it simulates. “I just asked my kids and ... I am officially old,” one person concluded. “I realized my son doesn’t know why I say ‘Hang up the phone,’” said another.
When the video was shared on Twitter, one person even recreated the experiment with their own children, and called it “an educational moment.”
But then Alvarado took it a little bit further. In a part two to the phone video, he posted another TikTok, asking his wife and kids how they would gesture someone to roll down their car window. His wife points at the imagined person, then pretends she’s cranking a window down.
And his two kids? Naturally, they just press a finger down.
“Chances are, if you’re born before 1999, you’re going to be gesturing like this,” he says, pretending to crank down an old car window, “like a TikTok trending dance video.”