Why It's Time to Kill "Killing It"

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If you've ever spent more than three seconds on the Internet, you've probably seen the phrase "killing it" used to describe a wide range of people and things. An (extremely) abbreviated list of those said to be "killing it" includes David Beckham:

Source: BuzzFeed

These songs:

This sneaker:

This paper cup of coffee:

A photo posted by (@) on

Source: Instagram

These elderly folks:

Source: BuzzFeed

This tote bag:

And these fugly sweatpants. 

Source: Entrepreneur

What does it even mean anymore? Of all the buzzy phrases to thrive on the Internet, "killing it" is by far one of the most popular. In fact, a quick Google search of the term pulls up more than 63.8 million results. (Compare that to fellow Internet slang term "on fleek," which only has about 2.24 million results.) 

But "killing it" has become such a lazy linguistic crutch that we now just use it to applaud basically anyone or anything that seems to be doing something semi-successfully. For instance, an article on the website Puckermob, which was shared more than 122,000 times, recently listed eating fresh food as a a qualifier for "killing it in your twenties." Other items on the list, such as "having a goal" and "being chill," weren't much more substantial.

Even celebrity toddlers are apparently killing it, simply by virtue of existing. USA Today recently reported that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's 2-year-old North West achieved "killing it" status by pulling off such impressive feats as getting baptized and chillin' with her dad at work. Apparently, having graduated from preschool isn't on the list of prerequisites for "killing it" at life.

But when a salad is described as #killingit, you know that "it" is has officially become too easy to kill.

A photo posted by (@) on

The social media comparison game: Even though "killing it" has been overused to the point of losing all meaning, it still somehow manages to pack a punch. This is especially true on social media, where the phrase is most commonly used to describe people ostensibly doing "better" at life than we are, whether they're humblebragging about their latest job promotion or showing off their new car.

But when you see someone comment that someone else is "killing it," it subtly reinforces the well-documented pressure many young people feel on social media to show off their achievements, however large or small. In fact, research shows that we tend to compare our own lives to those of our friends on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, which can cause feelings of failure and low self-worth if we don't measure up to our perceived levels of their success.

"I think we make these comparisons without us realizing it," one 20-something told Mic. "Every time we see the words 'killing it' in our timelines, we're seeing something that tells us, 'This is superior.'"  Another friend mentioned becoming bummed out after seeing a colleague's recent Instagram photos from a Pride parade: "[They] made me feel like I've literally never taken a vacation."

Just say "hot" instead: When "killing it" isn't being used to describe salads or toddlers, it's probably just acting as a synonym for "hot." A quick glimpse of the celebrities who are routinely reported to be killing it on Twitter are literally doing nothing other than existing, attractively, in photos.

So the next time you're bombarded with comments featuring "killing it" on your social feeds, it's best to remember to take the phrase with a grain of salt.

Killing "killing it": The dilution of meaning aside, the most prominent negative effect of "killing it" is its tendency to make people who are not "killing it" feel inadequate.

Deep down, most of us realize that other people's lives are rarely as awesome as meticulous social media curation and Valencia filters would have us believe. But the ubiquity of the phrase "killing it" can sometimes make us lose sight of that fact.

That said, some of us are able to keep it in perspective. "When I see someone 'killing it' online, I'll think, 'Fuck,'" one 20-something told Mic. "But then ten minutes later I'll just be like, shrug."