During the opening moments of the classic 1986 film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the character famously said “Life moves pretty fast — if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Gen Z has taken Bueller’s famous words to another level and adapted them into a newfound appreciation of basic, even mundane, daily occurrences. Romanticizing life has become increasingly popular over social media for its aesthetic charm. Its mental health and mindfulness benefits make romanticizing more than a short-lived internet trend.
Time Will Tell
While the term “romanticize your life” has only gained traction on social media over the past few years, the concept of romanticization is nothing new. Caroline Val, a senior majoring in journalism and political science, said she started to notice herself romanticizing in her middle school years, believing the cause to be alternative musicians who entered the limelight during the early and mid-2010s.
“I feel a close connection to the music I listen to, and that year stays in my mind as a pivotal moment when artists like Lana Del Rey, Lorde and The Neighbourhood got massive followings,” said Val. “That was most of what I would listen to, and their moody tracks about everything from teenage angst to wanting to escape the everyday stress.”
Another early 2010s staple that Val mentioned contributed to her romanticizing was the microblogging website Tumblr.
“Even though I wasn’t on [Tumblr], I remember the chokehold it had on my friends and the Internet. I honestly didn’t download social media until I started high school,” said Val. “If anything, I don’t romanticize my life through social media that much. I do it on my own time when I’m alone and without influence,” she said.
Most current college students spent a chunk of their high school years facing peak pandemic boredom. For junior political science and history major Kelly Brennan, it was during the heights of COVID-19 that romanticizing life became more than a trend, but a way to cope with the loneliness of both her parents working and attending online school, unable to see her friends in-person.
“During that time, I would watch my favorite YouTubers’ productive morning routines or cooking videos, which really inspired me,” Brennan said. “I decided I wanted to work on myself during that time, and romanticizing my life was a huge component. I would copy everyday habits and implement them in a way that worked for me.”
Location: La-La Land
While influencers flood our For-You-Pages by romanticizing their lives through their content, some voices online are attempting to break our collective delusion. Television personality, author and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel spoke against the trend in a TikTok video posted to her account @bethennyfrankel on Aug. 26, 2023.
In the video, Frankel added text-to-read “Public service announcement for women on this app in their 20s,” where she described what she sees from young women in their TikTok videos, including traveling the world, constantly looking attractive and overall having a perfect life, to which she said, “That’s not the twenties I experienced.”
“My twenties were being bloated, breaking out, frizzy hair, drinking, regretting drinking, being depressed, binge eating, starving, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, bouncing checks, having insufficient funds and starting the cycle all over again. Life is not a filter,” the star said in the video, which has since amassed over 100 thousand likes and over 900 thousand views.
But romanticizing your life does not revolve around what you see on your explore pages. Just like everyone has their own idea of what they consider fun, romanticizing can be as creative or straightforward as you desire, depending on the task. However, romanticizing your life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Jordan Coello, a UM ’Canes success adviser with a background in clinical psychology, believes individuals need to be aware of whether or not they’re romanticizing their lives as a means to avoid the responsibilities of everyday life.
“Being able to stay mindful, in the present moment and to savor experiences are all great tools to help someone make the most of the small things. In doing so, the person maximizes their experience of positive affect,” said Coello. “Like most skills, there is a fine line between helpful and hurtful for the same activity. In this case, I can imagine the practice becoming problematic if it starts leading to avoidance. That is, engaging in these activities at the expense of other tasks that need to be done.”
Assistant philosophy professor Aleksandra Hernández, who focuses on the philosophy of emotions, finds romanticization to be a natural part of human nature. Hernández argues what we even romanticize in the first place speaks to the norms and standards set in place by a given society. Nevertheless, Hernández echoes similar sentiments to Coello and sees the potential for harm.
“Social media amps up our tendency to romanticize others’ lives, but I also think that romanticizing has been around for as long as people had siblings and friends and were part of communities that admired individuals who possessed certain virtues and character traits, such as beauty, courage or moral fortitude,” she said. “[Eventually], we may find ourselves trapped in a cycle of dissatisfaction and envy. I guess the question does not merely concern the practice of romanticizing the lives of others but what aspects of others’ lives we romanticize. This tells us a lot about what our society values.”
Romanticizing At The U
You do not need to be an Instagram model making millions a year to romanticize your life. Here are some tips for romanticizing that will undoubtedly spice up “the plot”:
- No phone for the first hour after waking up and the last half-hour before bed. Set those screen limits. We’ll wait for you.
- Coffee and reading or journaling when you first wake up. We recommend “The Five-Minute Journal,” which you can buy for $22.49 on Amazon.
- Find time to put effort into your appearance. While this may seem overwhelming with a busy college schedule, choosing at least one thing a day to enhance yourself physically can add mental clarity. Whether it’s doing all steps of your 10-step skincare routine, putting on a cohesive outfit or trying out some fun makeup, all we can say is fake it till you make it.
- Have a consistent nighttime routine. Even if going to bed at the same time every night proves difficult, try to give yourself some time to truly rewind and relax by lighting soft-scented candles, drinking herbal tea and putting on some cute jammies.
Need some help getting in the romanticizing mood? We got you covered. Check out our Spotify playlist here.
words_amanda mohamad. photo_ethan dosa. design_isabella sosa.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2023 print issue.
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