Over the past few months, I’ve seen more Tik Toks about people romanticizing living or moving to New York City, and they’re the most aesthetically pleasing videos I’ve ever seen. As someone who adores the idea of city life, these videos with a glimpse into the high rises, taxicabs, and busy streets of any stereotypical city-lifestyle always do it for me. This format is for any other major city too. I’ve seen them for San Francisco, Paris, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and more. However, as I’m watching them, I wonder what the point of this is, and if it is a healthy way to look at cities around the world.
The short answer is: maybe.
Like most things in the world, it’s not a black and white situation. On one hand, if your hometown is somewhere as (stereotypically) fun as New York City, it’s seen as the place to be. It’s the place where you walk down those bustling streets, sit alongside random people on the subway, and live in the tiny brick apartments from the World War II era. And here we can see the problem. I’ve never visited or lived in New York before, so my perception of the city is strictly from movies, TV and people’s social media posts. As a result, seeing these posts paints a very beautiful, perfected picture of the city that only translates to social media, not real life.
Another part of this argument is that the influx of people with unrealistic and untrue expectations now possess a gentrified view of the city. Videos like these tend to ignore the culture and history of each of the neighborhoods in the city as well as a realistic outlook of what it means to live in them. Some neighborhoods in major cities are historically of one ethnic group, others to a certain socio-economic status and others on the opposite spectrum of that. When you have cities as large as New York or Los Angeles that have so many different sections, each of the neighborhoods cannot be bunched together into one overarching look on the city.
This also contributes to a growing gentrification in major cities. According to a study by the Urban Displacement Project, some neighborhoods in New York City such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are becoming “islands of exclusion” because low-income households would never be able to pay rent in those areas anymore. The study also found that over 12 percent of neighborhoods are gentrifying or in an “advanced state of gentrification” where the average income is getting into the moderate-high range. This displacement and gentrification is not always the most positive change that a city can take on, and Tik Toks or videos like them romanticizing that lifestyle definitely can contribute to new people who have the means to pay the higher rent moving in.
Until moving to Boston for college, I’ve always lived in small/medium sized towns that were outside of major cities. On the weekends, my family would frequently drive into the city to have dinner, shop, or just hang out in an area that wasn’t our own town because it didn’t have what we were looking for, and we couldn’t just move to be somewhere more idealistic. What I’m trying to get at here is that your hometown can be something great or something only subpar depending on your point of view. If you live somewhere that brings up a lot of negative emotions or trauma, of course you would want to move out. If you live somewhere that is just an okay place to be, maybe try to look at it from a new point of view. If you see injustices, inequalities, or gentrification in your town, how can you be the change to fix them and make it a more inclusive place?
This isn’t supposed to be a bash on places like New York City. I would also love to live there one day to see all of the different areas and cultures that the city has to offer, or at least have the means to visit. Again, it’s a sticky situation when romanticizing a city for only its aesthetic and good parts. It makes the small towns and businesses seem forgotten or unappreciated for what they have to offer.