Hopecore: What’s the point?

4 Mins read

With no shortage of devastation and despair in the news, TikTok users are expressing their hope for a better future.

Young people are taking to TikTok to promote a mindset of optimism.

The hashtag ‘hopecore’ has garnered more than a billion views on the platform, with posts under the hashtag typically featuring slideshows or video compilations of optimistic content. Clips of people achieving their goals, acts of human kindness, and poignant film scenes are shared, all containing the same hopeful themes.

Content creators compile these in order to demonstrate the “indomitable human spirit.” A central theme to these posts is the idea that humanity has the ability to prevail over the cruel indifference of the universe.

@aethrl there is hope #corecore#hopecore #aethrl#fyp ♬ original sound – 🥭

With more than 70% of TikTok’s user base falling into the 18-34 age range, trends on the app serve purposes beyond marketing tools.

TikTok platforms young cultural tastemakers, with niche in-app communities built around fashion, food, art, music, and even philosophy.

One avenue within philosophy that does well on TikTok is the discussion of nihilism. Deriving from the Latin “nihil,” meaning “nothing,” the term refers to the belief that life has no objective meaning, and that all values are baseless.

The hashtags #nihilism, #optimisticnihilism, and #antinihilism respectively have more than 200 million, 150 million, and 40 million views on the app. There is clear interest online among young people who are learning about these concepts, and figuring out how they apply practically.

Friedrich Nietzche is the philosopher most often associated with nihilism. Though his writing was often critical of the acceptance of suffering within society, he once famously wrote that “hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”

As a student of philosophy, 23-year-old Savannah is fascinated by the collective rejection of that quote that appears through the hopecore hashtag.

“Seeing people on TikTok who, a majority of them probably don’t understand Nietzche and his foundational texts, just instinctively deciding in favour of existing with hope is so interesting,” she says.

“It feels like people have just collectively chosen to believe that relinquishing inherent purpose doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And the fact that it’s kids propelling the idea that we make our own purpose based on their own lives and not scholars is kind of radical.”

Cole Hastings, a YouTube video essayist, credits postmodernism with many of the questions that arise in young people about purpose and meaning.

He argues that the loss of 20th century grand narratives that once centred religion or science have left a generation feeling untethered to one real truth.

The unprecedented level of access to information paired with the lack of a central belief system places significant responsibility on the individual to figure out their own purpose and direction.

@zenonrest all i wish for is a world where girls can be whoever they aspire to be. where they are accepted and appreciated for the great things they do. #brittanybroski #feminism #women #womencorecore #hopecore #education #sports #womensrights #equality #equalrights #barbie #barbiemovie #girls #foryoupage #fyp #foryou #olympics #paralympics #broskireport ♬ original sound – Zenon rest

“The ability to have freedom to believe in whatever you want to believe in and create your own subjective truth is something quite incompatible with the human psyche, because we all crave, to some degree in our lives, meaning and certainty,” he says. 

Scrolling through the hashtag for a few minutes demonstrates that some young people are approaching the idea of deriving meaning with kindness to both themselves and human capability. 

Posts to the hopecore hashtag aren’t exclusive to TikTok. On Instagram, more than 14 thousand posts have been made.

One user, an 18-year-old with 19.7 thousand followers, has dedicated his account to posting wholesome memes with photos of monkeys.

The monkey theme is in line with a fundraiser attached to the page for Friends of Bonobos, a charity for the endangered ape species. 

“My motivation behind these posts is a mix of my mental state and content from other accounts I interact with on my feed,” he tells us. “I was mainly inspired to start these posts from my favourite accounts, but continued due to the love and support I got from people telling me that my posts made a difference to their day.”

A screenshot of a post on instagram featuring 2 monkeys hugging, with text that reads "the grief might end someday but the love never will"
The account is dedicated to messages accompanied by monkey photos [Instagram: @1monkegaming]

He also voiced a desire for posts with these kinds of messages to “overpower doom scrolling.” Though the concept dates back decades, the term “doom scrolling” reemerged a few years ago in response to news surrounding the pandemic, the US elections, and global climate and racial justice movements. It refers to excessively spending time on the internet consuming negative news.

The relationship between online activity and mental health is a widely studied dynamic. A 2022 study in the Health Communication journal demonstrated links between this kind of internet usage and poor health.

Results of polling showed “greater mental and physical ill-being among those with higher levels of problematic news consumption compared to those with lower levels, even after controlling for demographics, personality traits, and overall news use.”

To Rachel, a 21-year-old student, what’s being created on TikTok through hopecore strikes a balance between doom scrolling and burying your head in the sand.

“It’s way too easy to examine the state of the world through the headlines and convince yourself everything is doomed. But whenever I do see one of these posts, it’s just as easy to feel that sense of hope. There’s a real difference between ignorantly pretending that everything is okay, and acknowledging the real stressors in the world as well as our ability to overcome,” she says.

While the origins of the trend are unclear, what emerges palpable is the desire among young people for more content in this vein. It’s possible that, as with countless trends of the past, this hashtag will exist as a burst of shared self expression that fizzles out once it stops garnering likes. 

But it’s also possible that it speaks to something wider. Perhaps it’s a way of posting online that re-contextualises complicated feelings and allows young people to navigate the senses of dread and longing that permeate daily life.

Featured image by @1monkegaming on Instagram.

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