What Glow-Up Means On TikTok

During the pandemic, TikTok grew as a company with 75% more users than pre-2020 (via Forbes). This was also a time when toxic positivity within the context of the pandemic was rising — memes about staying positive, using quarantine to learn something new or better ourselves were constantly circulating (via Evening Standard). This increased the pressure for people, specially teenage girls and women, to have a lockdown glow-up: look stunning at the end of quarantine, whenever that was going to happen (via Refinery29).

We all want to manifest our best selves and the appeal of being somebody “better” is understandable. However, the way TikTok and other social media platforms have defined “better” is problematic. Many of these glow-ups feature young girls going through dramatic weight losses, often touted as a post-breakup “revenge bodies.” While a few also showcase other ways they’ve grown — their improved mental health, the number of books they’ve read — the majority of the top videos in the hashtag show us weight loss or beauty glow-ups. The trend is especially damaging for women who are already struggling with society’s fatphobia or disdain for marginalized bodies. So, while the trend appears to be a harmless self-improvement scheme, it perpetuates ideal body types and standards of beauty. A glow-up should be a personal achievement that you understand best about yourself.

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