TikTok’s quarantine lifestyle is unsustainable

TikTok user Britney Vest promoting realistic quarantine goals in one of her videos. (Screenshots via TikTok)

TikTok’s “For You” page often leaves users with a pang of nostalgia, especially nowadays, when it features morning routines and “What I Eat in a Day” videos — content reminiscent of the likes of Bethany Mota or Rachel Levin. That classic 2013 YouTube content is now being rehashed by TikTok’s college-aged creators as they share their experiences in quarantine, posting aesthetically pleasing clips of waking up at 8 a.m., working out and eating smoothie bowls.

While these TikToks can definitely be satisfying to watch, many are as fake as the filters altering them. Products of our race to out-work each other, these videos often show 7 a.m. workouts followed by mindful eating, homework and maybe an hour of Netflix.

Current stay-at-home orders have created productivity pressure cookers. Social media has been quick to tell us that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine, and that we should similarly be taking advantage of our seemingly endless free time. It can be difficult to justify a Netflix binge day while you’re watching other people show off, in real time, how they’re bettering themselves.

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Not only do these TikToks fuel fears of falling behind, but some “What I Eat in a Day” videos remind users of the “quarantine 15” that they may gain from the lack of exercise in their daily lives. Viewers may get lost in the app’s sparkle filter and fail to realize that other users are eating more than whipped coffee and avocado toast during their day.

I’m sure many TikTokers intend for this content to motivate people, but it can be hard for viewers to remember the videos are dramatized versions of daily life. Sixty-second clips are barely representative of an entire day, and there’s no way to tell if the creators are actually following their own routines at all or if they’re just staging them in hopes of going viral.

We’ve got to remember that these quarantine routine and diet video diaries are idealized versions of everyday life, and the problem lies in normalizing them. They are aspirational, and regardless of what the creators intended, they can be a source of stress for those who feel guilty about struggling to follow workout regimens or complete work at home during a global pandemic.

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The pressures may be unavoidable thanks to the For You page, but they should not negate any sense of motivation or inspiration you may have. You don’t have to do as much as these people make it seem like they do, so anything can be an accomplishment. You are not alone if you barely want to leave your bed, or if you simply want to eat ice cream for every meal.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Some TikTokers have made content in response, displaying more balanced, realistic versions of quarantine productivity. Users need to remember that everyone, even those “perfect” TikTok users, has good and bad days. The key to making it out of quarantine is balancing those positive and negative feelings.

Britney Vest on TikTok

Britney Vest(@fittybritty) has created a short video on TikTok with music I Love Me. YOU ARE ENOUGH! Send this to someone who needs to see this! ???? #bodypositive #bodypositivity #curvygirl #losingweight #weightloss #bopo #fyp #curvy

Everyone has lost their familiar routines. So, gaining weight or not being as productive as you would be at school are not the worst possible things a global health crisis could cause. While running a few miles and eating whole foods are helpful for a multitude of reasons, maintaining your body’s health requires you to be kind to yourself, too. Especially in quarantine.

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