UK news publication The Independent recently published an article on how doing daily activities alone isn’t self-love or empowering. Since then, the publication and writer have been slammed on Twitter. Could the criticism be misdirected? My opinion is yes and no - here's why.
Writing for the Independent, Ellie Muir criticises how simple acts like walking your dog to the park have been reinvented as acts of feminist empowerment; when instead, these acts are ordinary and should be treated as such, not as revolutionary moments in the individual’s life. Since then, the publication and the writer have both been slammed on Twitter.
sounds like someone needs a little self-love https://t.co/V45V2lIKxp— Grant Ginder (@GrantGinder) August 6, 2023
God forbid someone enjoys being alone and doing things on their own lol— @Maybe: Jay P. (@PRBucsFan) August 7, 2023
this is actually such a garbage take. it can absolutely be self love, humans are multifaceted. hope this helps— chai (@chaiangell) August 7, 2023
A Critique of Self-Love? Or Social Media?
Upon a closer inspection of the article, it seems like the point the writer is trying to make is not just that these daily activities that we’re empowering on social media should be treated as mundane. Instead, the writer makes an interesting connection between Gen Z making certain daily tasks a “triumph of independence,” and existing social media norms and behavioural patterns. According to Dr Briony Hannell, “Everyday life has been heavily aestheticized for over a decade on Instagram.” Dr Hannell, a sociologist and university teacher at the University of Sheffield, said that the trend of “romanticizing your life,” to some, may make mundane tasks more meaningful, stating “it ritualizes everyday life and imbues it with emotional resonance, making the most perfunctory of tasks more interesting and meaningful.”
Noel Wolf, a language and TikTok expert at the learning platform Babbel, agrees, saying that “romanticizing your life involves focusing on the small things that bring you joy, often things you might do by yourself, such as taking a morning walk before work, going to see a film by yourself, or practising a relaxing hobby, such as painting or writing.” Wolf stresses how being alone is celebrated in many different cultures, but doubts whether celebrating doing the most perfunctory of tasks alone on social media is a good thing. “An over-eagerness to document all aspects of life could prevent you from finding this self-led sense of contentment if you’re analysing all your activities as subscribing to an online lifestyle trend,” he says. He continues, “As much as I enjoy watching and making TikToks, perhaps the lesson to take from the ‘romanticise your life’ trend is that it’s important to take some time away from social media to get some perspective on daily life.”
Spoiler- It's Both!
On the whole, the writer’s intent seems to be more geared towards critiquing the hyper-documentation culture we live in, and questioning whether self-love needs to include posting about it on social media platforms, like Instagram and Twitter. However, the writer has phrased it badly, aiming at self-love culture and feminist empowerment as a whole too. While I agree with self-love needing to evolve beyond simple social media trends, I don’t agree with the critique of self-love. Sure, it can be “OK if the mundane doesn’t excite us,” but there’s nothing wrong with wanting it to.
The feminist empowerment of women doing daily tasks alone is, in a way, a reaction to the social stigma women faced when doing daily tasks alone without a partner, as the author notes. While it may be unhealthy to incessantly document it on social media, it's okay to give yourself some love- and making every day special is a part of that.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: How Kusha Kapila And Dolly Singh Redefine Mental Health Narratives