When I saw TikTok influencer Rod’s recent video about his morning routine, I breathed a shuddering sigh of dread and relief. With Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like A Woman” playing in the background, Rod gets ready for his day. “Let’s go girls,” he lip-syncs to the song, motioning toward two personalities set to accompany him on his remote office job: “Anxiety about getting fired” and “Addiction to coffee.” “Just one of many guests I have throughout the work day,” the caption reads. Rod looks up at his minions, already exhausted. “Come on,” he says with a resigned sigh.
I had, foolishly and narcissistically, assumed I was the only person I knew filled with the relentless anxiety that I was going to lose my job in one way or another. Any misstep, any small mistake or awkward comment, could result in a manager saying, you know what, I’m over this employee. Bye.
But of course, I’m not. How could I be? Young people — a term I use to encompass both millennial and Gen Z adults under 40 — face job precarity, financial insecurity, and mental health struggles unlike anything seen in decades. Rod’s honest admission to his own neuroses, charmingly cloaked in humor, is a reminder of the many ways we’ve learned to cope with a work environment defined by instability.
TikTok, with its short video format notorious for inspiring dance trends and viral comedy skits, has emerged as a new home for worklife commentary. Rod is just one of many influencers creating videos that speak to the anxiety, frustration, and annoyance many young people feel about our jobs and careers. These creators, who satirize corporate jargon, poke fun at HR’s lackluster attempts to improve employee mental health, and joke about the farce of taking a vacation, reveal how young people are increasingly questioning whether the 9-to-5 status quo is really all that healthy or desirable.
Taking a nod from a long history of comedians who’ve used humor to expose the bleak realities of how we live, these young TikTok creators are using dry wit and satire to make a larger point: that the way we are expected to work, to devote our entire identities to our jobs or…