I’m sure we can all admit, whether in the first lockdown, second or even now, we’ve all spent hours aimlessly scrolling through our very own For You Page (FYP), addicted to watching just one more video, or going to bed in just five more minutes. Unquestionably, TikTok became a safe haven for me (during March to June 2020), an area for support and a place to let go from the pandemic, just by watching everyday people go viral dancing to Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and promising I’d productively spend the next day learning the routine, instead of studying for the A-Levels I never even did.
Admittedly, TikTok got many of us through that first lockdown (along with the drunk Zoom calls of course!), yet this time around, life seems to have drastically changed. This ‘New Year New Me!’ brings more pressure to keep up with monotonous University lectures, extensive essential reading followed by the announcement of new essay deadlines, all wrapped up with the typical uni student’s inevitable fear of falling behind. Does TikTok truly remain a light-hearted relief from the pandemic, or are we exposing ourselves to toxic and unrealistic expectations of how we should be productively living our lives during the third lockdown?
Each Sunday night, as I sit in my cramped Uni room, I say to myself that this week, I will ‘sort my life out’ – wake up early, sort out my sleep schedule and get fit. This is accompanied by the encouragement of the ‘typical’ Day in the Life of a Uni Student TikTok, I’ve just seen on my FYP, displaying just how easy it is to be a Uni Student when you don’t even have to go to University! Only for the next day to start with me snoozing my alarm, making a crappy excuse to not go for a walk (although winter is technically still lingering!) and not bothering with breakfast.
But why should we really be setting ourselves these unrealistic expectations of student life? Are these carefree and harmless TikToks we aimlessly watch actually damaging our opinion of ourselves, constantly making us feel like we aren’t anywhere near as focussed as every other student in the country?
The truth is this. Each one of us students, whether we’re at home or in our student halls, know that feeling of isolation, that feeling of no motivation, that feeling of being stuck inside unable to relax fully by spending time with friends and loved ones (or realistically, on a sticky, stained club dancefloor). We should be congratulating ourselves on the positive things we’ve done today, not criticising how we didn’t achieve as much as ‘Emma the typical uni student’ did. Even if it is participating in the dreaded seminar where your tutor begs for a single student to put their camera on, each thing is an achievement we should be proud of, and celebrating these small victories is what will finally get us through this lockdown.
But it’s not just the Day in the Lives that make us feel disheartened and mentally flood us with impractical beliefs, it’s also the What I Eat in a Days that chew away at our mental health. Most of us have done it – adding to your favourites a healthy, nutritious avocado and quinoa, with whatever other superfood that takes our fancy that day, knowing honestly that pesto pasta will be the way to go when the imminent hunger hits. Personally, eating food I enjoy has become my highlight of each day, something to look forward to; if I’m not feeling the nourishing buddha bowl I thought was a great idea at 4am, I shouldn’t feel guilty for not sticking to my daily plan or eating my fair share of chocolate orange mini eggs (which are the new best thing in the Merrion Centre’s Home Bargains). We should savour the moments of joy we’re getting and if that’s by eating food we want to eat and not being constrained in the hope of getting that bikini body we said we were going to get back in March 2020, then so be it. Once nightclubs reopen, we’ll be burning off the pounds by the second anyway!
Despite all this talk of TikTok not being the supportive area it used to be, we all know that isn’t fully true. All we need to do is focus on the things on our page that do bring us amusement, whether that be discovering what new theme or dress up night a flat has done to brighten their weekend (slip ‘n’ slide anyone?) or starting to discover realistic and relatable student videos (my current favourite account is @mattkezza) that’ll make you realise that everyone else is failing online uni alongside you! As we start to see an end in sight to the year of hell for students, let’s appreciate the aspects of our lives we have achieved things in and stop feeling guilty for having a nap after completing one online lecture – as students during the pandemic, we deserve it.
Words By: Holly Harrison
Edited By: Tamikka Reid