Overzealous Boomers are Obsessed with @zohtaco. It’s Weirding Everyone Out.
Top Image: Zoe Gabriel / Instagram

Attention has, yet again, turned to 18-year-old influencer Zoe Gabriel. This time, directed by self-proclaimed online vigilantes determining whether she deceived the public about her family’s financial status.

These internet sleuths post bundles upon bundles of evidence to prove that @zohtaco—the teen who was maligned over her definition of luxury—and her family are not as poor as they make themselves out to be.

Image: Facebook Screengrab

It’s a lot of work to put down a teen who caught a lucky break. And it’s weirding everyone out. 

Zoe Gabriel’s claim to fame started with an innocuous TikTok video, where she unboxed her new Charles & Keith bag and called it a luxury item. Netizens dialled in and mocked her idea of ‘luxury’.

Zoe responded with a video, clarifying that a Charles & Keith purchase is considered a luxury for her because of her low-income background. “We couldn’t buy new things as simple as bread from BreadTalk. [It was] such an occasional thing. That kind of thing was such a luxury to us,” Zoe explained.

The homegrown fashion house caught wind of the debacle and invited her for lunch. And, in a show of support, Charles & Keith made her a Brand Community Ambassador. She also managed to seal deals with brands such as AirAsia, working as a content creator for the airline. 

It would have marked a happy end to that chapter of internet virality. But some Singaporeans—the older, Facebook-patronising kind—would not let it rest. 

They reason that if Zoe had intentionally deceived the public about her family background, then the public support and string of sponsorship deals are underserved. Unethical, even. 

“Looks rich. Who needs BreadTalk?” one netizen opines. “Bunch of liars lying through their teeth! LOL,” another remarks.


Image: Facebook Screengrab

A netizen submits to the court of public opinion: pictures of her younger days (creepy!), Swensen’s meals, Nike shoes, and a Hello Kitty collection. These are supposed evidence that Zoe Gabriel is more affluent than she appears—all meant to confirm somehow that she didn’t come from a poor background.

The same man even wondered whether Zoe’s original video was a masterfully executed diabolical scheme to tug the heartstrings of cynical Singaporeans and stoic corporate executives—all for a sponsorship deal. 

The Strange Single-Minded Focus on 18-Year-Old Zoe Gabriel

According to these overzealous boomers, justice needs to be brought swiftly and severely over this presumed deceit. They searched high and low for crumbs of evidence. Any shred of perceived affluence was brought to light—her homeschooling, her father’s occupation, and her spending habits.

Their dedication to the cause is unwavering, emboldened by the search for the ‘truth’—the only plausible explanation for their strange, single-minded focus on her success.

In any other context, picking on and publicly shaming a teenager is a prime example of punching down. But through multiple spirited rants, these folks are justifying their efforts because Zoe allegedly lied.

Image: Facebook screengrab

However, their version of investigative journalism is not driven by ideals of moral superiority. Instead, they seem to be motivated by malice.

The impact is apparent. Even though it was within her power to ignore the allegations, Zoe indirectly addressed them in a TikTok video with her dad in tow. “We are not rich but we definitely have enough for our needs,” he had to clarify. 

Is this unnecessary witch hunt motivated by xenophobia and plain envy? Zoe was born and raised in the Philippines as a child, after all.

Image: Facebook screengrab

Crabs in a Bucket

If there’s anything that can be taken away from this Boomer VS Zoe saga, it’s the ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality. 

The expression comes from anecdotes about how crabs behave when trapped in a bucket. Any crab on the verge of escaping is mercilessly pulled back into the bucket; the potential escapee’s efforts gone to nought. 

Humans seem to repeat this behaviour as well. Groups will try to pull down any person deemed to have achieved some level of success out of envy, spite, or a host of other negative feelings. And it certainly seems that this mentality is now more obvious because of social media. It’s easier to take delight in the downfall of others. 

We pass off snide remarks when a high-performing colleague is striving to hit their KPI; we confront that straight-A student in our class and question why they study so hard or doubt the fairness of their grades.

This negative mentality is so strong that it might even push us to lie to ourselves. The same netizen, to justify the witch hunt, questioned whether Zoe Gabriel had intentionally filmed the original video brandishing her Charles & Keith bag for sponsorships. 

Image: Facebook screengrab

The netizen had forgotten that Zoe had posted the video because of her genuine excitement from her Charles & Keith bag. That Zoe could have anticipated the backlash and then the support from Charles & Keith itself is a stretch, let alone the other sponsorships she has gotten since.

In the same vein, netizens questioned why her family couldn’t afford necessities like bread but could go on a trip to Dubai. Perhaps, also conveniently forgetting that it’s possible that the family could have worked their way upwards into a better financial situation to afford a holiday. 

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

The crab bucket mentality makes us do strange things, like be overzealous online vigilantes. We pull others down when we think they didn’t work hard enough; that they’re undeserving of their success.

The only meaningful verdict to come out of this witch hunt is perhaps that this mentality directs a glaring but much-needed spotlight on our relationship with others who seem to be doing better than us. There’s a reason why influencers get just as many haters as they do followers.

Fortunately, not all of us are salty crabs.

Image: Facebook screengrab
Image: Facebook screengrab

Two wrongs don’t make a right. But, in this case, there’s only one wrong here. 

And it’s not on Zoe Gabriel.

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