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Spirituality The problem with romanticizing manifestation on TikTok

Feb. 18, 2021
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After a year of isolation, unemployment, and disease, there’s nothing like a good TikTok trend to cheer us up. When "I Am" by Yung Baby Tate went viral on TikTok, users sang along to “I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am rich, I am that bitch” with captions about using manifestation to achieve personal growth in 2021. Thousands of videos feature young users proclaiming that the song embodies their ideal self and attitude, emphasizing that they hope to achieve health and wealth this year. 

The idea of controlling one’s own future is particularly popular at this moment, especially as manifestation offers a sense of stability and hope after a dismal year. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment in which health and wealth seem nearly impossible. Our lack of control over the situation makes the personal agency of manifestation even more appealing. It’s no wonder everyone is singing along to “I Am.” 

I’ve always considered myself a pretty spiritual person, but it wasn't until this year that I really started learning about manifestation. Especially in quarantine, the extra time on my hands has allowed me to explore more interests and take up new hobbies—a phenomenon which is by no means specific to me. And when I became curious, TikTok offered introductory guides and a community of users at various points in their spiritual practice. I know what you’re thinking—you turned to TikTok for accurate information? Yes. For people in spirituality-based careers, TikTok has become an important space to share teachings and encourage users to learn about everything from tarot to scripting to witchcraft. Popular users often explain practices like the Law of Attraction, spells, tarot cards, and even spiritual day and night routines.

What makes this content so appealing to people is not only that it offers a sense of personal stability, but also that it feels incredibly personalized. After all, people love hearing things about themselves. Many tarot card reading videos on my feed have really resonated with what was going on in my life at the time. I’d like to think it was a sign, but it could also just be the algorithm working in my favor. I’ve probably liked enough videos telling me that love is in my future that the app knows what I need to hear. As we engage with more and more manifestation videos, TikTok’s incredibly sophisticated algorithm has picked up on the fact that, actually, we really love when random people tell us that everything is going to be okay. There’s something incredibly comforting about opening an app and finding a community of users who are attempting to make the world seem like a hopeful and abundant place.

But the recent popularity of manifestation on TikTok has also created an environment in which uneducated users frame themselves as authorities on manifestation and spirituality. Some TikTokers have romanticized the self-serving benefits of manifestation by constantly flaunting the material things they’ve received from their practice. Videos about using manifestation to secure a boyfriend in two weeks or receive desired items might be lighthearted in intent, but they encourage an individualistic and selfish practice that is antithetical to manifestation’s purpose. Videos like these can be completely misleading to people just getting started in their practice, who aren’t familiar with the correct and positive way to incorporate manifestation into their life. Manifestation shouldn't be about bragging about the items you’ve received but being grateful for them. When those who are uneducated or using the trend for fame start sharing misinformation, an initially positive practice becomes problematic. 

What’s so frustrating about this trend is that these problems are inherent to the limits of TikTok and other social media platforms. Misinformation and clout-chasing aren’t unique to the trendiness of manifestation alone, nor are they solvable with a quick fix. There will always be people who, intentionally or not, engage with the internet in problematic ways. But still, the point stands that the rising popularity of manifestation has allowed people all around the world to start learning and practicing. TikTok can be a great place to find a community of users committed to spirituality and begin your own practice. The important thing to remember is that TikTok will never be a flawless platform for spreading information. So the next time you scroll, maybe take those “how to manifest a boyfriend” videos with a grain of salt.