Since the advent of social media, aspirational content has taken on a whole new meaning. First, there was Victoria’s Secret angels documenting their workout routines, then couples in seemingly perfect relationships who quit their jobs to travel the world and finally, YouTubers sharing what they eat in a day (every day).
As TikTok continues to grow, becoming the most downloaded app in the world in 2020, it seemed like it might have avoided this kind of content. The app is known for its catchy dances, comedic sketches and a somewhat democratised algorithm in which views are more important than likes. But a new trend has emerged on TikTok that is not dissimilar to the viral posts of social media’s past. In fact, it’s name perfectly encapsulates the essence of online aspiration, as it’s all about becoming #ThatGirl.
‘That Girl’ wakes up between five and six am, working out, drinking her morning smoothie and journaling and/or meditating before the rest of the world has had a cup of coffee. She wears perfectly clean and ironed loungewear and makes breakfasts that are as visually appealing as they are nutritionally rich.
The trend sees women creating videos documenting their daily routines, on their quest to become ‘That Girl’. The #ThatGirl hashtag on TikTok has over 1.3 billion views and this kind of content has perhaps peaked with the rise of Emily Mariko, a creator who shares the process of her making healthy recipes, as well as organisational and lifestyle content.
“I discovered the ‘That Girl’ trend when I was pulling myself from rock bottom,” says Sara Elly, a 19-year old content creator living in Albuquerque, USA, whose video about the TED Talks you should watch to help you become ‘That Girl’ went viral.
"What appealed to me most is the active support system made up of a community of people that wanted to do better,” she says.
So, what does it mean to become #ThatGirl on TikTok? The ‘That Girl’ trend is all about self-improvement, focussing mainly on productivity and mental health. The TikToks promoting the trend are often heavily aesthetics-based, with clean, pastel desk setups and Instagram-worthy breakfasts.
“When I first began to see that my TikTok algorithm had transitioned into wellness and health content, I began to feel less guilty about mindlessly scrolling,” says Olivia Eve Shabo, 21, from New Jersey, who also started creating ‘That Girl’ content, alongside her self-growth podcast. “I was fascinated by how much a short clip could motivate me to get up and move my body, wake up early or get work done.”
For creators like Sara and Olivia, the ‘That Girl’ lifestyle helps them to balance productivity and self-care. And although the trend encourages discipline it certainly doesn’t advocate an ‘all work no play’ approach to life - ‘That Girl’ meditates and journals as much as she spends time working.
30-year-old Aimee from Swansea discovered the ‘That Girl’ trend earlier this year and has what she describes as a love/hate relationship with it. “When I first found the ‘That Girl’ trend, I felt like my life was in tatters,” she says. “When I saw these women who seemed to have it all figured out and who made life look so glamorous and so easy, I wanted that for myself. I wanted to be ‘That Girl’ too.”