Like many 20-somethings with a phone, highly aesthetic clips of green juices, five-minute gratitude journals, and six-step skincare routines fill my feed on a regular basis.
Since the start of the pandemic, the “that girl” trend and its most recent successor, the “clean girl,” have taken over social media, a viral sensation that initially stemmed from boredom and hypochondriacal tendencies that came with isolation. Perfectly curated morning routines have become the latest TikTok and Instagram obsession. What began as a noble attempt to romanticize everyday habits and mundane tasks has since morphed into a competition of who can seem the best prepared.
While I’m guilty of posting those crisp, clean five-second reels, I admit I find solace and purpose in idealizing my daily life—the “clean girl” trend has proven exhausting and problematic. Although the videos are intended to be aspirational, rigorous morning routines are not accessible to those with limited time, energy, and resources. For something most of its protagonists are white, young and single women. Creating an aesthetically pleasing life takes money and energy, as it’s infinitely easier to make Instagram-worthy coffee in a beautiful city loft than it is in a windowless room in an apartment you share with three other people. Unconscious social media bias aside, having the luxury of spending an hour each morning cleaning, exercising, journaling, meditating, and eating three home-cooked meals a day is just that: a luxury.
The long list of tasks that “clean girl” videos present can often make us feel like crap for not doing more. When near-professional-quality montages of someone’s daily life perform well on social media, earning them attention and sometimes money, it’s hard not to feel like you’re not doing something wrong. While our culture has moved toward a slower pace of life, I’m afraid the “that girl” trend has become another way of demanding that we hurry up and work to become the best versions of ourselves at all times. instead of honoring the ebb and flow of life. The crushing weight of late-stage capitalism coupled with navigating the horrors of adulthood, the thought of perfecting your life and documenting it above all else is enough to send me crawling back to bed.
Despite our modern fixation on productivity, we are not meant to operate at 100% all the time. For those living with chronic illnesses, whether mental or physical, celebrating and glorifying doing the bare minimum can be key to survival. The “clean girl” trend can be inhospitable to neurodivergent ways of being, as the proliferation of carefully considered, regimented routines on Instagram can leave someone feeling like getting through the day isn’t enough, especially when doing so is already a chore. hard. . There are some days when Red Bull and gummy worms replace my perfectly stirred bowls of yogurt and I start my mornings watching TV instead of journaling and yoga because that’s all I have energy to do.
Arizona-based micro-influencer @justeenirl shares her frustrations with the overwhelming number of “5am-9am” videos appearing on her FYP. She recently posted a video of her realistic morning routine, where she writes, “The buzzword ‘clean girl’ promotes this lifestyle which is unrealistic for a lot of people. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little bitter and jealous of neurotypical people.” conventionally attractive, acne-free, and wealthy women who manage to keep their high-rise apartments clean, slick their hair back, and cook three healthy meals a day—let alone have the time and energy to document that every day. without watching 20 of those types of videos often feeds into my insecurities of feeling gross and lazy, reinforcing the idea that I have to curate my life to attract as many people as possible.”
While I appreciate the healthy intent of our current penchant for self-improvement and growth, I hope we can also begin to romanticize our toughest moments.