Gen Z Writer Sparks Debate By Saying We Should Stop Turning Normal Things Into 'Self-Care' Social Media Trends — 'It's OK If The Mundane Doesn't Excite Us'

Is going to the movies solo really a radical act of self-actualization, or is it just a thing people have done for generations?

Woman and man, enjoying the movie theater alone cottonbro via Canva / kstudio via Canva / Prostock-Studio via Canva

The upside of social media is that it keeps us connected and exposes us to things we might otherwise miss. But among the myriad downsides, it compels us to turn as many aspects of our lives that we can possibly come up with into "content" in order to keep the beast of algorithms and engagement adequately fed.

One writer has had enough of this phenomenon, especially the compulsion so many of us seem to feel to make ordinary parts of life into moments of self-actualization commodified for social media virality. Predictably, most people on social media have totally missed her point, which only underlines how right she is.


Gen Z writer, Ellie Muir, is urging people to stop turning normal things into social media trends after a video of a woman going to the movies alone went viral.

Muir made her case in a piece for UK newspaper The Independent titled, "Doing Things Alone Isn’t ‘Self-Love’ — We Don’t Need To Make Everything Empowering."

It all began with a video that went wildly viral on TikTok in which an elderly woman was labeled a "queen" for having gone to the movies alone to see a showing of "Barbie."



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The video sparked tidal waves of people applauding the older woman for what they saw as an act of radical self-care. Many commenters wrote of being moved to tears by the video, with one woman writing, "She is the beauty of loving yourself enough to go out alone." But not everyone was feeling the love.

Muir and many others — myself included — saw something else entirely: the latest example of our tiresome compulsion for commodifying everything for social media clout.

Here's the thing: Going to the movies alone is normal! It's not special. People do it, and many other things, solo all the time. What's actually unique and potentially problematic is not being willing to go for a meal or do an activity by yourself — at its worst, the fear of doing things alone can actually rise to the level of a phobia.

But many online reflexively assumed this woman went to "Barbie" by herself because she's lonely, or because her family doesn't respect her tastes and desires. Several commenters even posited that all her friends must be dead — an assumption that is so absurdly melodramatic it feels like parody and is probably ageist to boot.

woman going to the movies alonePhoto: @lisaturation / TikTok


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To use myself as an example, I used to work in the film and television industry, so I often have an interest in certain off-the-beaten-path films others aren't interested in parting with $15 to see. So I go alone.

It's not because I'm a friendless recluse fighting the good fight against isolation and self-doubt. It's because... I wanted to see a movie, and doing things alone is normal and fine.

What's actually weird, though, is fetishizing it as an act of radical self-care — and thankfully, many people on TikTok agreed, scolding the poster for invading the woman's privacy for no real reason besides clout-chasing.


comment on tiktok about woman going to the movies alonePhoto: @lisaturation / TikTok

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Muir's criticism, however, has not gone over well with seemingly most people online — which only proves her point.

There's an abundance of examples of this, from the relatively harmless to the actively dangerous.


In the former camp, you have things like "adulting," a dumb and annoying phrase that posits that fixing your squeaky door hinge is an act of empowerment, a moment of "grabbing life by the horns." No, it's just fixing a door hinge; you're just being a person who's not a child. (Why must we make this a thing?)

But to hear the response to Muir's piece, you'd think she suggested that going to the movies alone is an act of sickness in urgent need of medical intervention. People were pretty unanimously furious about it on Twitter, accusing her of denigrating one of life's few simple joys.

I'm not sure where you get that perspective unless you chose not to read a single word of the piece and just let the headline wash over your own biases before logging into Twitter in a blind rage.


But it's also telling how even people who seemed to understand Muir's piece still felt a reflexive need to defend turning normal things into social media trends as utterly harmless. Unfortunately, that's not true in the least. 

Sure, things like "adulting" are harmless, but on the other end of the spectrum are things like calling every normal foible and human reaction a "trauma response" or a "trigger." Or, the way it has become fashionable to hold every negative personality trait as evidence of "narcissism," a very real mental health condition that is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat — and is wholly different from just being a jerk.

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These are extreme examples, sure, but they have real-world repercussions, watering down important terms and concepts until they're divorced from their meaning and transformed into easily dismissible, readily mockable buzzwords ripe for being co-opted by bad-faith actors — like what has happened with the word "woke," for just one particularly damaging example.


But even the ones that are just dumb like "adulting" have actual repercussions, too. As Muir puts it in her piece, "Marveling at what is essentially nothing makes the silliest of things suddenly feel hyper-pressurized."

It puts us in a bind where we feel like our lives are dull by comparison, where we feel we're falling short of self-actualization because our morning stroll wasn't a "hot girl walk." No wonder there are so many studies saying social media is wrecking our mental health.

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Much like how calling everything a 'trauma response' reduces the very real implications of trauma, making everything into a moment of self-care and self-love waters down the very real need for self-care and self-love.

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by nightmarish scenarios, from our rage-filled political discourse to our collapsing climate to our inability to pay our bills. Self-care practices like meditation are very real, very necessary tools for addressing the potentially debilitating mental health and neurological implications of our increasingly terrifying world.

As for self-love? That's a practice that takes some people their entire lives to even begin to get a grip on! Going to the movies alone isn't that. It's just... going to a movie alone. Asserting otherwise sets people up to feel even more disappointed, disillusioned, and alienated when their trips to the grocery store and the post office you've now labeled "#divaerrands!" leaves them feeling empty — because they're just errands!

Muir is right when she writes, "it’s OK if the mundane doesn’t excite us." It's not meant to, and our compulsion to make it into something else isn't doing anyone, least of all ourselves, any favors.

Sometimes, going to see "Barbie" by yourself as a 90-year-old woman is just going to see "Barbie" by yourself as a 90-year-old woman. Letting things just be what they are without the pressure to optimize them for clout — let's make that the new act of radical self-care by simply doing them, and shutting up about it.


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.