Amongst the general rot and degeneracy of today’s social media trends has come a ray of hope. The “romanticize your life” trend has been a Tik Tok and Instagram movement for over two years.
In short videos, users show themselves “romanticizing” their everyday lives by creating good habits, enjoying simple things, and recognizing beauty in the world around them. In essence, users are sharing a visual representation of how they are transforming their outlook on life.
One of the most popular audios people use when participating in the trend is quite lovely:
You have to start romanticizing 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 realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.
In embracing the “romanticize your life” trend, young people are rejecting a fundamental value of the postmodern age: that the world and our lives have no ultimate meaning. This pervasive outlook has seeped into all realms of our culture, from art to movies, to TV shows, and other social media trends.
The effect is quite damaging for people, especially Gen Z. Young people often see no higher purpose to their existence. They have been dubbed the least religious generation to date, and nearly half of them spend an average of ten hours a day consuming miserable postmodern media via their smartphones. It should be no wonder rates of suicide and depression are on the rise among teens and young adults.
The reality is that contemporary culture is unfulfilling for the young people who are being formed by it. It is incapable of revealing greater truths about life because it doesn’t believe in truth itself. Everything is a social construct, nothing is innate, and morals are relative.
It is painful to believe one’s life is meaningless, and that is exactly why the “romanticize your life” trend has had such a strong and lasting grip on social media.
The videos and pictures that are part of the “romanticize your life” trend usually happen to be really beautiful, and this is not by accident. For ages, philosophers like Aristotle and theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas have maintained that beauty is objective. Postmodernism instead contends it is subjective.
One of the most prominent examples of the postmodern perspective on beauty is the damaging “body positivity” trend. This culture desperately insists obesity is both healthy and beautiful. While those who contend obesity is beautiful may be well-intentioned, they are wrong, and no level of social deconstruction can change that. For further evidence of the war on beauty, take a look at what passes for “art” in the “Modern Paintings: 1950 – Present” section of the National Gallery of Art.
Ultimately, if everything can be beautiful because there are no meaningful criteria to quantify and evaluate beauty, then beauty ceases to exist. We know that beauty does exist, though. And so do the people participating in the “romanticize your life” trend. They consistently recognize beauty, record it, and share it in their videos. Fittingly for a trend that seeks to rebuke the idea that life is meaningless, it also shows the world that the idea of beauty being a construct is utter nonsense.
While the “romanticize your life” trend is a positive pushback against our bleak culture, it isn’t perfect. Viewing oneself as a “main character” can be good in that it gives one purpose, but it falls short, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the term “main character” can feed into toxic narcissism found in Gen Z’s self-love culture. Secondly, inviting users to “start thinking” of themselves as the main character leaves the impression that users are pretending to have meaning in their life—that the trend is simply a coping mechanism. In reality, we are important pieces of a bigger story, and we don’t need to lie to ourselves in order to be fulfilled.
Thankfully, a few cultural forces do have things right. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is one of the greatest opponents to empty postmodern media and literature. Perhaps the most beautiful moment in Tolkien’s legendarium is when Sam, struggling with Frodo to climb Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring, realizes they are in the tales of old. Their story, their harrowing journey to destroy the ring, is a continuation of the stories they were told as children: “Why, to think of it,” said Sam, “we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?”
I think that’s the lesson Tolkien had for all people when he gave little, pudgy, shoe-less Hobbits arguably the greatest role in his epic fantasy novels. Fulfillment comes when we realize, like Sam, that each of us is in the story, too. We are not just meaningless clumps of matter whose life is simply suffering and whose purpose is our inevitable death. No, we are part of a grand scheme—important characters in God’s story of life.
Once Sam and Frodo realize they are in the story and that their struggle has a purpose, they find the energy (or perhaps the grace) to finish their quest. “It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered,” said Sam. “I know now folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Of course, the Tik Tok-ers participating in the “romanticize your life” trend don’t see that the reason life should and does have purpose is God. They don’t know their desire for something more meaningful is a call to fight for goodness in the world. But they have at least realized they want more than what the postmodern world has offered them. That is a step in the right direction.
This story was originally published in the Chicago Thinker.