The term “girl failure” is in its social media adolescence, with only 3.2 million views on TikTok. Yet it’s a vital indication of the desire to convert personal losses into newfound moments of social bonding.
Following the onset of the pandemic, TikTok was downloaded 850 million times in 2020 (Business of Apps, 2023). Users flocked to the platform for new ways of shaping their endless housebound days. Among emerging trends was the That Girl concept. The persona is ephemeral – how to achieve That Girl status has no clear-cut roadmap. Rather, it stems from endless hours of content that offers insights into at-home workout routines, skincare steps, organised closets and “what I eat in a day” videos – all of which elicit a specifically hard-to-satisfy yearning to embody the curated lifestyle seen on screen.
Women are routinely invited to understand themselves and others online through artfully curated displays of voyeuristic consumption (Fisher-Quann, 2022). But, with the global polycrisis affecting all areas of life, there’s budding pushback against expected perfectionism. In January, a viral tweet by @ricshatty stated: “Enough girlbosses I need girlfailures. Just an absolute loser of a female character. More women who suck!!!!!”
Girl Failure offers a humorous umbrella to mitigate social adversities stemming from global recessions, post-pandemic (dis)integration and climate crisis anxiety. A Girl Failure is allowed to speak of not having savings, struggling to navigate dating apps and grappling with mental wellbeing without fear of being marked as a disaster – in contrast to the chronically unattainable That Girl ethos.