Since the emergence of social media, debates have been consistently sparked about the line drawn between moderate use and a concerning degree of disengagement from real-life interactions.
The most recent social media phenomena that begs this question is TikTok's ‘bedrotting’ trend. ‘Bedrotting’ involves users spending extended periods of time using social media, sleeping, eating, watching TV and other inactive hobbies in bed, perhaps paradoxically under the pretence of actually enhancing mental health. To many who have embraced it, 'bedrotting' is a form of self-care offering a reprieve from the stresses of everyday life.
When we examine the social media aspect of ‘bedrotting’, the question arises as to whether social media has a positive impact in this context. A recent study from Neyshabur University of Medical Sciences described the positive effects of social media which included “accessing other people’s health experiences and expert health information, managing depression, emotional support and community building, expanding and strengthening offline networks and interactions, self-expression and self-identity, establishing and maintaining relationships.” However, concern has been expressed at the potentially unhealthy levels of isolation and disconnection involved in ‘bedrotting’. The aforementioned study also found the negative implications of high social media usage included “anxiety, depression, loneliness, poor sleep quality, poor mental health indicators, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, increased levels of psychological distress, cyber bullying, body image dissatisfaction, fear of missing out and decreased life satisfaction.” In addition, while 'bedrotting' may pose several negative impacts on mental health, its effects on physical health must not be disregarded. This can be attributed to the sedentary lifestyle promoted through ‘bedrotting’ which can lead to reduced physical activity and compromised sleep quality.
To better understand the both positive and negative impacts of ‘bedrotting’, I reached out to a 19-year-old ‘bedrotting’ enthusiast from Chelmsford named Ed.
Ed has been practising ‘bedrotting’ since he started his new online job this summer. His typical day starts at 8:58 am, just two minutes before he opens his laptop to start work. Apart from a lunch break, his workspace remains his bed until around 6 pm. If he's not going out with friends in the evening, he usually stays in bed until the end of the day.
Ed is a regular 'bedrotter' usually practicing from Monday to Friday, and he admits that the frequency of his practice has increased since he started working. Interestingly, he views this lifestyle as advantageous. To him, the comfort of working from his bed feels beneficial. "Getting paid to work from my bed [has] been pretty great," he told me, asserting that he can deliver the same quality and amount of work from his unconventional and cosy setup.
However, in spite of Ed’s praise of ‘bedrotting’ he does concede that the lifestyle affects his motivation levels. He admits to feeling less driven while working from bed compared to when he goes into an office setting. Despite this, he keeps a regular sleep schedule, sleeping every day for 8 hours from 1 am to 9 am.
When asked about the effect he believes ‘bedrotting’ is having on his social relationships, Ed explains that the potential isolation from 'bedrotting' is mitigated by his active social life outside his 'bedrotting' hours. He goes out as much as he stays in bed while awake, maintaining a balance in his life.
Ed's interview afforded me a valuable new perspective into the nuanced reality of 'bedrotting'. It showed not only the allure of this emerging Tiktok trend but also its disadvantages to motivation. Most notably perhaps, it demonstrates the possibility of practising ‘bedrotting’ without affecting one’s perceived mental health levels.
Initially, I thought of 'bedrotting' as an inherently detrimental practice to mental health, given its sedentary and isolated nature. However, Ed's story shows that for some, 'bedrotting' can be intergrated in a more productive way into people’s lifestyle. Whilst it's crucial to note that this does not eliminate potential concerns for others, the variation in experiences and responses to 'bedrotting' are a testament to the complexity of this trend. This serves as a reminder that moderation, social balance and personal context are vital when partaking in trends such as ‘bedrotting’.
Having said this, 'bedrotting' is not simply a trend on TikTok that we will eventually see become extinct. It's becoming a cultural phenomenon that is influencing the way that particularly Gen Z and even some millennials live. This shift in behaviour demonstrates a larger societal change towards remote work and social media consumption, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a lifestyle that will most likely become more prevalent as new technology such as the recent Apple Vision Pro (expected to be released in 2024) will enhance the convenience and appeal of 'bedrotting’. The reason I think the Apple Vision Pro will particularly cause ‘bedrotting’ to become more popular is that it is set to offer a ‘high-quality immersive experience’ that can be used from the comfort of a bed. The device will also have features that support work, entertainment, and social media, meaning it may further blur the lines between the physical and digital reality, potentially causing 'bedrotting' to be the new norm rather than a brief fad.
Throughout the Gen-Z generation, the traditional separations between work, entertainment, and rest time are already becoming blurred in a way that is increasingly accepted and normalised. Despite the convenience of this trend, that seems so appealing for many, questions must be asked on a larger societal scale about whether merging our offices, bedrooms, and entertainment centres is a good idea. If this is the direction that we are heading in, we may face issues such as potential generational divides surrounding the differences in personal and professional boundaries. As we ponder these questions it becomes ever clear that the impact of 'bedrotting' extends far beyond a few individuals on Tiktok, as rather it outlines our changing relationship with technology and space during this digital revolution that we are currently living in.
In conclusion, 'bedrotting', isn't the straightforward Tiktok fad as I had initially assumed it to be. Whilst in theory it is neither negative nor entirely beneficial, it is clear that more people need to look into this lifestyle as I found that since writing this article very little to no work has been done on this.
While the charm and perceived benefits of 'bedrotting' are appealing, such as the ease of working from one's bed, the negatives are not to be dismissed lightly. As a member of Gen-Z myself, I often find myself having conversations with friends talking about how our attention spans aren’t what they used to be, largely due to Tiktok and other forms of social media. The key word for me in this entire subject is ‘convenience’ as we have the ability, through watching TikToks for example, to find unlimited amounts of entertainment, as the feed quite literally never ends and you can keep scrolling until you find something that interests you. This will affect our attention spans in all facets of life as things that previously seemed normal become more tedious and difficult to cope with. Examples of this cited by friends of mine are things as mundane as waiting for a bus, reading, queuing and much more becoming almost painful to our overstimulated brains. I predict that we will continue to see increased diagnoses of depression and ADHD as bingeing social media content for extended periods of time becomes common practice. The 'bedrotting' phenomenon serves as a warning that digital trends redefine our lifestyles, posing challenges we must address for the sake of our future mental and physical wellbeing.
Sadagheyani, H.E. and Tatari, F. (2021), "Investigating the role of social media on mental health", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 41-51. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-06-2020-0039
Ra CK, Cho J, Stone MD, De La Cerda J, Goldenson NI, Moroney E, Tung I, Lee SS, Leventhal AM. Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents. JAMA. 2018 Jul 17;320(3):255-263. . doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.8931. PMID: 30027248; PMCID: PMC6553065.