We know how much social media influences the way we act and think. Its latest viral sensation compels us to look around and live in the moment, and TikTok is leading the trend. It’s time to embrace your main character energy, says Yasmin Ali…
Over the last year, social media giant TikTok has dominated other apps and inspired us in myriad ways. From choreography to cooking, it’s a one-stop-shop for learning numerous skills – whilst also being entertained by flashy transitions, remixed songs and trends that spread like wildfire.
The latest trend to go viral is the “main character energy” trend. At the time of writing, #maincharacter has 5.6 billion views on TikTok, with #romanticizeyourlife at 334 million views.
"This need to be seen was especially pertinent with so many people isolated from friends and family, learning to enjoy spending time alone."
So, what is “main character energy”? Put simply, this Gen-Z phenomenon is the act of putting yourself first as a form of self-care, seeing yourself as the main character in your life and romanticising it, to appreciate the little things – like going for a picnic at the beach, journaling, dancing in the rain, establishing a regular order at the local coffee shop, chasing sunsets in the car with the windows rolled down and soundtracking your mornings with some indie-pop… all whilst wearing a cute outfit. It’s those moments of fleeting yet intense exhilaration that could be in a movie. It’s also about not giving in to what others expect of you and creating your own definition of what success and happiness means.
It’s not as if this is a completely new idea – it exists in the same space as the positivity, self-love and manifestation movements that have been around for years. However, after a difficult 18 months, it’s no wonder this trend has gained momentum now. The extra time on our hands during lockdowns has caused a lot of people to feel nostalgic, lonely and longing to fill the gap that was once occupied by unlimited social interaction. This is especially true for young people who have been deprived of perhaps the most significant part of their lives.
"You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. Cause if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by, and all the little things that make it so beautiful, will continue to go unnoticed."
The internet has been an essential tool for keeping us connected during the pandemic: we’ve been documenting everything to share with our network. This need to be seen was especially pertinent with so many people isolated from friends and family, learning to enjoy spending time alone. Romanticising our everyday life was the answer to mundane, repetitive days. Sharing the ins and outs of lockdown life was a way of establishing our presence regardless of the four walls we found ourselves hostage in. After all, what is a main character without an audience?
As the older sibling of a 13-year-old sister, I’ve seen what some would consider a self-obsessed, narcissistic Gen-Z trend have a real impact on her mood and wellbeing. For us, the first lockdown of March 2020 was great. We got to relax at home, she was revelling in the idea of no school for a while and I was grateful for the fact I no longer had to do the daily four-hour commute. We binged watched all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, baked and cooked to our heart’s content and the highlight of our day was our walk in the park. It felt nice to be spending that much time together as a family.
However, a few months into lockdown and we weren’t so perky. I’d taken on the role of home-school teacher (alongside working full-time from home) and she was missing her friends dearly. We became deflated, less motivated and less productive in the slog of it all. We just wanted to go back to our normal lives. One afternoon, we decided to go for a walk on the docks, it was chilly and windy and we were wrapped up in our scarves, gloves and hats. We decided to grab some hot chocolates to warm us up during our walk. We spent about an hour there, just before sunset. The purple-pink sky over the water was so beautiful, a busker played a slow acoustic tune and then she said it – “this is such main character energy”. I asked her what she meant and she explained that the view, the music, the drinks and the outfits made her feel like she was in a film. She had a big smile on her face as she soaked up the atmosphere.
When we got home, she showed me the countless motivational TikTok videos that were inspiring viewers to grab life with both hands, embrace it and seize the day. TikTok star Ashley Ward is responsible for a viral video in which she states; “You have to start romanticising your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. Cause if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by, and all the little things that make it so beautiful, will continue to go unnoticed. So, take a second and look around, and realise that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.” The soundbite has been used in 79,7000 other videos so far.
The bite size nature of TikTok videos make it so that statements like this hit you hard and unexpectedly. Essentially, what she is saying is that you have control of your life and you get to choose how you live it – something we need to remind ourselves of when we get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle. It’s like appreciative journalling – noticing the good bits – but on social media.
I noticed in the following weeks that my sister wanted to experience more things that would romanticise her life and bring out her “main character energy”. We went and had a picnic on the beach. We did some painting on canvas. We went to a pottery workshop. We spent more time in nature. We discovered our love for bubble tea and matcha. She started really taking care of her skin with some products from The Body Shop, giving herself positive affirmations and a massage with a face roller. She took more care in choosing her outfits, slowly developing her own personal style and enjoying the process of getting ready after almost a year in pyjamas, loungewear or joggers.
"It’s clear that mindfulness is the biggest component to “main character energy”. It’s all about turning off autopilot and living in the moment."
Seeing her mood boost and the care she was taking to curate her days to inject moments of joy for herself was really inspiring for me. I wanted to find my ‘’main character energy’’. One thing I implemented into my morning routine was putting on the radio as soon as I woke up. This instantly got me excited and in a good mood, Radio 1’s Breakfast Show soundtracking my morning. This is something I still do now and, although I literally feel like a cliché ‘chick-flick’ character, it does make me feel like I’m ready to take on the world and that anything is possible!
Perhaps it’s time to stop dismissing Gen-Z as having their heads in the clouds, or not understanding anything about the world. This is just one example of how younger generations are embracing self-love and self-respect. They should be commended for their introspective nature, especially considering the environment they’re growing up in – with climate change, Covid-19, economic and educational issues, just to name a few.
Mental health charity Mind found that one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem, like anxiety and depression, in any given week in England. They also found that around a third of adults and young people said their mental health is much worse since March 2020. As we ease back into our previous routines, it’s important to establish good mental wellbeing practices. We’ve been through a lot and we need to dedicate the time to acknowledging that and healing before we get back to offices, schools and universities full time.
One of the NHS’s steps to mental wellbeing is to pay attention to the present moment through mindfulness. This includes your thoughts, feelings, body and the world around you. It’s clear that mindfulness is the biggest component to “main character energy”. It’s all about turning off autopilot and living in the moment. This can help you understand yourself better and positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach it.
That’s definitely not to say that “main character energy” is a cure for all mental health problems but the shift in our perspectives is definitely a step in the right direction and it’s certainly helped my mental wellbeing over the last few months.