TikTok ‘5 to 9’ trend shows quiet quitting hasn’t killed hustle culture

The hashtag #5to9 has almost 50 million views, and the trend’s popularity has inspired countless parodies – as well as critiques for promoting difficult-to-attain ideals. — AP

For all the social-media posts and ink spilled on quiet quitting, hustle culture is alive and well on TikTok. One trend with proven staying power is “5 to 9 before 9 to 5”, documenting impressive morning routines.

The videos, mostly from women, show a raft of accomplishments – make the bed, go to the gym, shower, get dressed, cook breakfast, journal, meditate, read a book – all completed before the traditional workday begins.

Another version of the trend shows after-work evening routines, from 5pm to 9pm. Many of the TikToks are produced by professional influencers, featuring luxury apartments, gyms and skincare brands.

The hashtag #5to9 has almost 50 million views, and the trend’s popularity has inspired countless parodies – as well as critiques for promoting difficult-to-attain ideals. In one TikTok, fashion writer Mandy Lee draws parallels between the “5 to 9” trend and the “girlboss” era of the 2010s.

“Glamorising being busy was really really prominent during that time,” she said. “Watching this 5 to 9 trend really evolve, it feels like relaxation – and just not being productive at all – is still something that people see as weakness.”

Artist Tyla Maiden pokes fun in another video, highlighting how unlikely it is many people will adopt the concept. “Let’s be for real: You’re getting an 8.45 to 9 from me, maybe an 8.30 if I’m feeling like it,” she said. “Either way, you know I’m making myself a full breakfast, that’s non-negotiable. And I’m not putting on real pants.”

Maiden said the video, made about a week into a new job that allows her to work remotely, was meant to serve as a “reality check” for anyone who feels inferior for not accomplishing a laundry list of tasks before 9am. The clip has taken off and now has over 260,000 views.

“I just don’t like the pressure trends like these can put on yourself to achieve this level of ‘productivity’ outside of your full-time jobs,” Maiden said in an email.

One central theme in “5 to 9” videos is a fixation with optimising time and ourselves, said Rahaf Harfoush, a digital anthropologist whose book Hustle And Float breaks down the forces that shape hustle culture.

Since so many parts of our leisure time is tracked – Spotify tells you how many minutes of music you’ve listened to, Kindle tells you how many pages you’ve read, your iPhone tells you how much screen time you’ve gotten today – it becomes natural to impose those metrics on ourselves, she said.

“It’s very much regimented, very strict, very uniform,” she said, almost as though you’re assembly-line manufacturing your routine. “I think to myself, ‘What is the message that is being presented here?’ The message is, every hour needs to be worthwhile, and the value of time is determined by these societal standards, because not all time is equal.”

Harfoush said the 5-to-9 videos can be a type of coping mechanism and expression of control after more than two years of emotional, cultural and political turmoil. “But it's important to ask ourselves, what are we losing when we amplify these types of narratives?” she said. “We're losing messy, unstructured time, we're losing spontaneity. We're losing the right to simply exist.”

As the millions of views demonstrate, there often is something mysteriously compelling about these videos. Even after the pandemic brought new attention to the dangers of burnout, their popularity shows it’s extremely hard to let go of deeply held beliefs about the need to be constantly productive, Harfoush said.

“Even if mentally, you’re like, ‘I know this is silly, I know this is not real,’ there are parts of us that have been trained to recognise certain narratives and certain values and certain behaviours,” Harfoush said. “It’s not your conscious that you have to worry about, it’s your subconscious listening that you have to worry about.” – Bloomberg

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