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Productivity – A TikTok Trend Taken Too Far?

Written by Jessamie Rattray 

Productivity – a TikTok trend taken too far? For many of us in lockdown, it can feel as though our days have to be intricately scheduled to feel some sense of structure. How can we be content in such unprecedented times without having some sense of purpose? Surely it is healthy to ensure we are staying productive? Well, yes, but also maybe not. 

Whilst being productive is commendable, the pandemic has seen a rise in the pressure to be productive despite the difficult circumstances we are living in. We live in an age of overbearing social media presence, and this affects every aspect of our lives, including our sense of self-worth. And at the moment, social media is constantly telling us to ‘do something’ with our time in lockdown. The pandemic has seen huge fetishisation of productivity, particularly on social media platform TikTok. Although this can be encouraging and motivating, there can be major adverse effects of social media perpetuating the idea that we have to be constantly doing something to have a sense of value. As we find ourselves in the dark dreariness of the third national lockdown the idea that we should be maximising our potential for the benefit of our future selves can be overwhelming, especially when so much of us are struggling.


The fetishisation of productivity on TikTok emerged in the first lockdown, gaining rapid momentum until the hashtag ‘productivity’ reached over 4.4 billion views (as of January 31st 2021). Productivity TikTok is now a trend and has a huge influence over TikTok users. Trends are popular for a reason, and it’s easy to see why TikTok users are infatuated with reaching the aesthetic ideal of maximum productivity. It can feel encouraging and validating. However, is this obsession with productivity damaging? There are a variety of clips and videos under the hashtag, ranging from A Day In My Life to videos outlining study hacks, to working from home tips. There is even a video titled How To Become The First Millionaire In Your Family which has acquired over 161,000 views.

In a video by the TikTok account @productive.teen, the creator filmed their daily routine, and gave direct instructions such as ‘don’t be lazy’ and ‘don’t be smelly’. These messages can target those who are already struggling with their mental health, which is well known to affect both behaviour and personal hygiene.

These ideas surrounding productivity are being perpetrated by all kinds of creators, including the ones with the most influence. TikTok star Charli D’amelio, boasting over 100 million TikTok followers, posted a video back in March detailing her productive day. The video included the caption ‘stay safe, positive and productive’ and amassed over 4 million likes. We can assume, here, that productivity is now a marketable ideal on social media which often fails to consider its effect upon its audience.

The Hustle Never Stops

Productivity can offer us a sense of fulfilment, but there is a danger of taking it too far. It can often lead us to feel overwhelmed and burnt out and can disregard or fail to consider what we value in life. For some, this is time to relax with family and friends or even having some alone time, where there is no expectation to be productive. There seems to be an obsession with maximising our time to reach a higher state of being, which is not only harmful in a lockdown where free time is in abundance but also promotes an idea that we are not enough as we are. There is an irony, of course, that we cannot seem to simply exist in a global pandemic, be grateful for our health and accept that in these times, that is enough. The younger generation, those for whom social media is a massive part of everyday life, are facing extreme levels of uncertainty and the competitiveness which these trends sponsor are ultimately damaging when many of us are struggling to simply get by. And yet, there is an abundance of videos on TikTok asking why we haven’t used this opportunity to take up a new hobby, to learn a new language, or to start a business, which is only increasing. Due to the nature of social media, this can feel inescapable. The lines between work and pleasure are blurring, to the point where it feels as though we are not allowed to relax. We are expected to work harder, quicker, and for longer hours in the name of self-improvement.

Social media seems to follow us around and ask us why we haven’t pandered to its expectations, which is often focused on an unattainable aesthetic. We are asked why we haven’t redecorated our bedrooms, or cleared out our wardrobes, or walked 10,000 steps a day.

The rise of these trends amongst the younger generations has seen an infatuation with tips and hacks to help us to get the absolute most out of every possible minute, but once again does not mention how to factor in time to spend with our loved ones, or watching our favourite comfort tv, or reading that book we have already read several times. Even Sundays provide no escape, with videos with titles such as My Sunday Reset Routine circulating TikTok. With the current global reality in turmoil, as we navigate economic uncertainty and the possible collapse of our healthcare system, it is necessary to be reminded that it is okay to simply exist.

The Takeaway

Although routines and the feeling of accomplishment are great, especially in a national lockdown, we must remember that our productivity level does not equal our value. Whilst wanting to be a great version of yourself is something positive, the fixation on ‘living your best life’ and ‘being the best version of yourself’ on TikTok has created an idea that the best version of yourself is a destination and not a continuous process throughout your life. It is a wonderful thing that social media platforms such as TikTok can be used to inspire and motivate, but we must also remember to distinguish between what is online, and what is true. An unproductive day is not a wasted day.

Featured image courtesy of Tim Gouw from Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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