In the digital age, narratives are constantly evolving, shaped by fleeting online trends that captivate millions. At the forefront of this revolution is TikTok, the app in which any story can find voice, rhythm, and resonance. Currently, one of the most notable TikTok trends is "#CoreCore": a rapidly growing trend depicting tales of male vulnerability, resilience, and introspection. The trend offers a poignant glimpse into men's mental health as users make videos compiling of short melancholic clips of people narrating their intimate struggles with sombre music in the background.
But what is it that makes these snippets of raw emotion resonate with millions of viewers? Why are people so captivated by men's descriptions of loneliness, self-image, and their issues with society?
I am a 2nd year Psychology student at the University of Warwick and I often find myself closely observing the evolution of social media narratives (particularly on TikTok) and their impact on society, specifically in the field of men's mental health. Conversations about well-being are becoming increasingly relevant, so now more than ever it is crucial to understand how platforms like TikTok contribute to said conversations and why they hold so much significance in our digitally inclined era. In this article, we explore the #CoreCore phenomenon in depth, hoping to unpack its appeal to masses and shed light on TikTok's powerful spotlight on the intricacies of men’s mental health.
At the heart of the #CoreCore trend lies a profound variation from conventional portrayals of masculinity. On a societal level, expectations and gendered stereotypes have led to the damaging perception that for men to discuss emotional issues is a sign of weakness. For me, this trend is trying to make the point to that traditional notion that men are to be seen as stoic, strong, and unyielding in the face of adversity is now a dated and problematic view. As users watch these CoreCore videos that show this cathartic masculine display, it pushes back against previous stereotypes, offering men a digital space in which vulnerability isn't just accepted, it's celebrated. This is clearly a popular viewpoint as the engagement that these videos are getting is extremely impressive with the currently most viewed video (showing mindless scrolling followed by videos of planets to demonstrate a sense of how small we are and how our lives are ultimately futile) reaching 4.2 million likes, and the trend as a whole (videos listed under the hashtag) reaching a whopping 6.5 billion views.
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Another element of CoreCore that intrigued me was that many of the videos follow themes of nature and taking a break from technology. For example, there are many videos of people enjoying natural landscapes—be it through hiking, interactions with animals, or playing sport. However, the irony of this paradoxical notion amused me as the videos themselves are of course a form of social media consumption, viewed on electronic devices. This irony poses an interesting contradiction about the human relationship with technology as we seek authentic, off-screen experiences but are so reliant on platforms such as TikTok to discover and share these authentic adventures. When looking at CoreCore, it is clear that there are intentions to open a dialogue around men’s mental health and what it is now like to live as a man. Despite having continued and promoted the discussion around men's mental health, it's essential to consider the two-fold impact of such narratives.
The advantages posed by CoreCore are rife as the trend encourages open discussion about subjects often considered ‘taboo’ for men (e.g. loneliness, self-doubt, and emotional struggle). This creates a sense of solidarity, making male viewers, who may potentially be struggling mentally, feel less isolated in their personal hardships. The importance of this community of young men who are struggling being built is shown by the engagement numbers on the videos, signifying a community eager to engage with these serious topics.
Although, like any trend discussing sensitive issues, the potential downsides to the trend are, too, rife. One aspect I was wary of was the seemingly melancholic romanticising of suffering, and the portrayal as a defining aspect and complete description of masculinity. Whilst the intention of the creators of these CoreCore videos is seemingly in the right place, it's crucial to be aware of these potential downsides, as they raise questions about the responsibilities social media platforms, and users, share in fostering healthy perspectives on topics as important as mental health. My final wonder is regarding the longevity of CoreCore, whether the trend will evolve to be a movement that fundamentally changes the dialogue around men’s mental health, or of it it is a style of video that will ultimately ‘die out’? The potential of CoreCore should not be underestimated though, as I believe if continued carefully (by managing to evade the romanticising of suffering or incubating toxicity), it could provide a revolutionary effect on the style of discussions on men’s mental health. The sheer volume of engagement numbers (6.5 billion views and counting) suggests that there is an audience for such change, and CoreCore may be at the forefront of it. The #CoreCore trend on TikTok has struck a chord with many, whilst also drawing attention to the complexities of men's mental health. Furthermore, it opposes traditional stereotypes of masculinity in showing famous role models in a vulnerable state and highlights the positives and negatives of the ongoing online dialogue around sensitive topics. As a result, I believe CoreCore to be more than a mere fad as it demonstrates the new consciousness around what it means to be a man in today's digital age.