What time do you start your day? I might be exposing myself here, but this morning I rolled out of bed at 8:14am with approximately 16 minutes before I was required to log on and work. A chaotic approach, I admit. More importantly, one that would not fly under the newest productivity trend surfacing on TikTok.
If you're a regular on the app, you'll have noticed a very keen crop of users rising at the ungodly hour of 5am, posting videos of their morning routines before they begin the eight-hour work day. Others are picking up where the work day "ends", documenting their habits from 5pm to 9pm. Both are variations of the current 5-9 trend sweeping TikTok, one that continues to put productivity on a pedestal, despite all the think-pieces (like this one), memes, internet flotsam and claims of a vibe shift, hoping – no, praying, that we've moved on.
We may have announced the death of the girl boss, her head atop our figurative pikes, with fresh screams from 'that girl' echoing in the distance. We may have cut ourselves free from the rhetoric that "we all have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyoncé" – the Queen herself even summoning us to quit our jobs in her new single Break My Soul. And at this point, we've all read (or skimmed over) Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Even still, the legacy of hustle culture lives on. Like the ugly antique armchair passed down as a family heirloom, we've inherited the aesthetic of the girl boss and we don't know where to dump it.
What is the 5-9 trend on TikTok?
Personally, routines make up a large part of my TikTok diet, and the video style was at its height during our 'that girl' obsession. The 5-9 trend is an offshoot of this and varies slightly depending on what time of day the creator is focusing on.
Like Cassie in Euphoria, who shot up at 4am to beautify every inch of her body before school, a morning 5-9 submission looks a little like this: A person, normally a thin white wealthy woman, puts on a load of laundry, slaps on a matching set of activewear putting in an hour at the gym or going for a picturesque run. She then comes home, showers, makes coffee and always some kind of smoothie for breakfast; journals then at long last, sits down to work from home. There's even videos overlaid with the sound of Kim Kardashian saying, "get your f*cking ass up and work". A tragedy.
As for a nighttime variant? There's exercise too, on top of the person whipping up a very "healthy" meal for one. Followed by some more cleaning, maybe some Netflix, and usually a cup of tea and a book to cap it off.
It's important to note, that the people we're hearing from most are not shift workers or juggling more than one job, and most of them are women, bringing into focus the unpaid labour, be it housework or body-policing spun as self-care, expected of us on top of regular work. Another unwelcome reminder of just how pervasive patriarchy is to all of this.
How does the trend tie in with capitalism?
As with most things touched by wellness culture, somehow, we've managed to put a stylisted gloss on the most banal facts of life – throwing our crusty socks into the washing machine, eating something green so as to not get scurvy and die. But this is not wellness for health's sake. It's wellness to boost productivity, or more accurately perceived productivity, and our efficiency as consumers – capitalism marketed with a side of green juice.
Somehow, we've found ourselves dividing our time into three shifts, and while we're only getting paid for one of them, they're all geared around maximising our potential as workers and consumers even if at first glance it's set out as pleasure. As TikTok user Caitlyn points out, "what is most interesting to me is that the 5-9 trend is clearly an inversion of 9-5, which just goes to show how significantly our working day and capitalism has come to shape our understanding of time".
“People are doing this on their own accord", she furthers. "They’re not being forced or asked by their employers to do it." Which is how we end up with almost meta situations like the 5-9 trend, where we're creating aesthetics that further entrench, not just productivity, but as Caitlyn says, "producing that productivity". We buy the clothes, to prime ourselves to do the work, so that we're fit enough to do the work, so that we can buy the clothes.
Still following? The girl boss may be dead, but her aesthetics live on, not because they're worthy, but because we're yet to make a dint in late-stage capitalism. So while my 8:14 wakeup is not recommended, this is definitely no incentive to wind it back.