You’ve heard it, you’ve seen it, you’ve made fun of with your sister. And if you haven’t, Paul Mescal and Charles Melton have. The “I Think I Like This Little Life” TikTok trend is officially out of control. Let's analyze it.
In case you’ve been under a rock (bless you), indie British singer Cordelia O’Driscoll released the soft-strumming bedroom pop track “Little Life” last November. Ever since, people have been posting clips of their respective “little lives” to the track – however, recently, the trend has morphed into a different beast. As weeks progressed, TikTok viewers noted that the “little” lifestyles on viral display often featured Range Rovers, private jets, expensive engagement rings, cocktail parties, elaborately decorated McMansions, and other somewhat ostentatious displays of wealth.
For some, the scrutiny begs the question – well, why shouldn’t everyone get to display their happy lives, regardless of class status? Because, as previously pointed out, their lives are not little. The song’s chorus can straightforwardly be interpreted as an admission to enjoying life’s simple, ordinary joys. Perhaps there is no such thing as "using a trend incorrectly," but there is nothing simple or ordinary about a McMansion or a Range Rover – for the vast majority of us. Perhaps it is unfair to state that wealth equates to happiness, but happiness is, at the very least, logically more attainable for people who can find it in between luxury vacations and designer jewelry instead of rent collections and minimum-wage jobs.
“Some absolutely enormous lives hidden in this trend,” admitted O’Driscoll herself in a TikTok post amidst the deluge of posts making fun of people who had posted their lavish lives to the audio. Eventually, the newfound stereotype evolved to include mean girls, homophobic girls, girls who stole your man, high school bullies, and adults whose parents pay their rent. Perhaps these excessive complaints and insults ultimately draw from the online community, turning on a trend that was once loved and popular – a regular phenomenon in the pop culture ecosystem. Perhaps it is simply due to the cynicism and pessimism of our collective generation that people can’t be happy on our feed with a pile-on occurring. But I think the problem is larger than that.
Are we pessimistic? Yes, but not without reason. Gen Z is growing up and coming of age at the intersection of economic recession, climate change, and a mental health crisis. Our so-called simple, ordinary lives are burdened by the struggles of expensive higher education, rising inflation rates, unaffordable home prices, and a struggling job market – and that’s merely in the United States, the world’s richest country. The virality of the trend gave TikTokers an avenue to express not just their joys but also their frustrations with their everyday lives – that multitudes of people online connected with.
"The cost of living bringing a whole new meaning to ‘come chill at mine,’” read one video, showing users exhaling cold air indoors due to heat presumably being too expensive. “Anyone else ever wake up dreading work or school so much that you literally think about the most out-of-pocket, horrible scenarios just so u wouldn’t have to go?” read another, straightforward in their own exasperation. One user posted that the trend made them "irrationally angry" because they were "proof money literary can buy happiness."
The “Little Life” trend touched on two digital concepts that are uniquely Gen Z – online posturing and online pile-ups. Is the rise and fall of the trend due to cynical, pent-up frustration or genuine fatigue at a system that compels us to celebrate our happiness only in the little moments? The answer is, of course, a little bit of both.