From a rain-soaked prance around midnight to documenting spontaneous road trips with your friends, the act of romanticising one’s life seems to be gaining its momentum amongst most young people with any access to mobile phones and internet in these last few months. Whilst the term is nothing new, the tech-savvy members of the Gen Z population have imparted new sets of meanings revolving around it. This article will dive into how this concept is freshly adapted into various TikTok trends and memes, the effect it has on us psychologically, and why NOW is the perfect time to live your life through that so-called “rose-tinted” vision.
Despite TikTok’s highly applauded algorithm that caters personalised content recommendation to individual users, there is a high chance that you must have at least once come across a TikTok audio with lyrics that read“You have to start romanticising your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character because if you don’t – life will continue to pass you by”
In fact did you read that with the trickling sound of the guitar etched to it ? Then you must have heard it plenty of times by now. This familiarity is not a surprise, as in October, this sound, originally made by user @ashleyward, has been used in 92,000 videos by TikTok users worldwide. As for the content itself, the sound embellishes a variety of possible scenarios, ranging from the typical montage of “candid” travel clips, to clips of people acting on their impulse to do something they normally would ponder upon first (like getting tattoos or confessing your infatuation towards a complete stranger).
This role entails possessing a spontaneous and reckless attitude whilst dramatically treasuring all those –as picturesque as they are cliche– carpe diem moments.
However, all these videos share a common central idea, that is: to romanticise your life you should first consider yourself as being the center of the universe, the main character. This role entails possessing a spontaneous and reckless attitude whilst dramatically treasuring all those –as picturesque as they are cliche– carpe diem moments. Often showcasing users attempting to deliver the atmosphere such as those typically seen in your favourite coming of age films.
But just as any other thing on the internet these days, a concept or message that was initially made with a somewhat serious undertone can be quickly recycled into endless possibilities of shitpost memes. The very same audio is also used by users posting videos of people embracing events of situational irony and even those with a tinge of tragedy so that it becomes somewhat humorous (e.g: a girl still savouring her ice cream in the middle of a chaotic storm; a group of friends having to call an ambulance after one of them got an allergic reaction whilst hanging out at the beach). A more recent joke on this idea is one which pokes fun at people guilty of “romanticizing their ordinary trip/activity” by listening to Lana del Rey’s song. Del Rey’s songs are known to be dramatic and carry an undertone of darkness to it, thus fitting to those who want to make running their errands seem somewhat more theatrical. The audio for this trend is currently used by 25,000 users worldwide.
Being the Main Character, and What It Does to Us Psychologically
Earlier we talked about the concept of being the main character and what it entails, but we should also mention how a norm seems to have emerged within the TikTok universe to use the label as a term of flattery, alongside its other counterpart e.g: being a “Heather”. You could easily spot these remarks in the comment section,with users showering praises like “She’s definitely the main character” or “ You’re such a heather”. The name Heather, originally refers to the persona described by Conan Gray in his likewise titled song. Then, it quickly evolved as a term that people use to refer to a girl who they cannot even begin to compare themselves to, as she is someone who is: prettier, more talented, amazing, and someone every guy would get down on their knees for (as defined in urban dictionary).
These series of trends, to a certain degree, glorify the status of being the main character, but how does this psychologically affect young people? Back in 2015, Dr. Michael Karston wrote in Psychology Today about the danger which comes along viewing oneself as the main character. Karston explicates that those who are always “vying to be the protagonist” are prone to display a lack of “intersubjective sensibility in a social environment as they begin to perceive that only their life matters”. This also means reacting with anger when they are subordinated to a minor role and balking at the message that their overall life is a minor one.
This could easily be an issue as events in our lives often alternate from negatives to positives, and time and again we find ourselves powerless at the face of an event beyond our control. The most recent and elongated one would be the unexpected pandemic that we are currently living through. Such an event could drive people into questioning the little control they have over the situation, and perhaps, even beginning to consider their life as a minor one.
So… What’s With the Timing ?
We are living through a pandemic which, in some countries, has caused the worst economic recession since the 1930s depression. A rather bleak time in our history, and yet people are posting videos encouraging others to basically live their life to the fullest and perceive their world through a rose-tinted lens. While this doesn’t quite add up on the surface, one thing that the pandemic has endowed some of us with is a sense of regret for those who did not embark on much adventure in pre-covid times, or deep longing and nostalgia for a much livelier past for those who did live their life spontaneously. It is such realisations that compel people to desire a more romanticised version of their life and act upon it. Shoving away the fear of being seen as cliches and replacing them with a new wholesome infatuation towards life. After the stretch of mundane quarantine, it is only natural to perceive being able to act on your impulse as a luxury.
In terms of practicality, the current technologies also facilitate our wish to romanticise life by being the main character. Various editing apps and Instagram filters alter the hues of our pictures, beautifying and fitting them to the desired scenic standard. Streaming platforms made music more accessible than ever, and Spotify’s shared playlist feature acts as an ode to the romantic “mixtape” of the past, granting one’s fantasy of having a soundtrack filled day. The new IOS 14 “widget” feature takes this a step further by allowing complete personalisation of one’s iPhone’s entire display, to the extent that someone can now draw their entire phone display.
Regardless of whether you find the act of romanticising one’s life to be cliche-ridden or inspiring, it seems that given the context of the pandemic and technological development, now is indeed the ideal time to develop this new outlook towards life. Whilst the earlier teaches us how to treasure our time, the latter helps us build a new world that could be customised around one user, a world where you indeed are the main character.
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