We’re almost there. “2020, you gotta be savage. 2020, you gotta be bad,” are lyrics by IAMDDB that pretty much sum up everyone’s attitude towards the new year. But as we know, 2020 is not just a new year, and it’s not just a whole new decade. It seems as though 2020 has been prepositioned for many as their year to get things done. It’s the new set of 20s that aren’t conflated with flappers and finger curled hair. It feels like we’re finally in the future—so what does that mean?
2020 has always been sold to us as this futuristic era, where flying cars are the norm, and everyone is wearing metallic space gear (my 2020 style memo). It is essentially expected to be the essence of a human existence that’s entwined with technology. And like cars soaring through the air, which are yet to be a thing, there are countless other promises and predictions we failed to achieve by 2020.
In the year 2000, the UN promised to see the end of global poverty by 2020 (its poverty rates have now been cut by more than half). In a lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1911, a surgeon by the name of Richard Clement Lucas said that the “useless outer toes” would be gone and that our feet would evolve into one big toe—don’t ask. Co-author of the screenplay 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, was convinced that the houses of the future would not be kept on the ground and that moving houses would be done on a whim. “Whole communities may migrate south in the winter, or move to new lands whenever they feel the need for a change of scenery,” Clarke stated.
It feels as though the optimism for the new year is a response to the rise of nationalism and fascism across the world, as well as a riposte to Trumpian politics and Brexit deals. There’s also a sense of letting go of whatever it is you’re going through when heading into 2020. If you scroll through Twitter, you’ll see tweets along the lines of “2019 was like X, so 2020 could be like Y,” or “In 2020, we’re no longer accepting *insert toxic trait*.” My point is that we need to talk about the glamourisation of the pending new year.
2020 is less than two weeks away and with a divided general election at the end of 2019, we had a growth of austerity and homelessness in the UK, and the poverty gap keeps growing every day, among other things. You’d be oblivious to think that on 1 January things will have changed just because it’s 2020.
Many socio-political initiatives that have been voted in will come into fruition, impacting our lives through the macro and micro-decisions decided by the top one to five per cent of society. Nothing about that has changed.
On the other hand, this excitement towards the new year is infectious. The next ten years for many of us millennials and Gen Zs will mean being old enough to buy a house (one can dream), advance our careers and, who knows, maybe settle down with the person we shouldn’t have ghosted. All these factors will be, and already are, influenced by those we vote into power. With the recent elections showing the generational gap between the Conservative and Labour party, it’s also a time for hard-hitting questions across the dinner table.
As much as the idea of a bright 2020 might represent hope, there is an element of pressure for achieving all your goals by the new year; whether that’s written across notebooks that share the message ‘How the fuck is it 2020?’ following this mentality of ‘getting that bread’, while also trying to maintain a green, ethical and sustainable lifestyle.
I can already feel the stress of making 2020 the best year yet, which hopefully, it will be. But a word of advice—let’s not burn out before the new decade begins.
One thing I’m taking from 2019? Love Island’s key phrase: it is what it is.
It’s no secret the 80s are back, and in acknowledging the resurgence of scrunchies and SoundCloud overflowing with synthpop there’s one trend that never really left: hustle culture. A recent New York Times article, Why Are Young People Pretending To Love Work, mentioned coworking giant WeWork, where it is common to find signs like ‘Hustle Harder’ and ‘Stop When You Are Done’.
Somewhere around Netflix’s Girlboss series adaptation, described as a “tone-deaf rallying cry to millennial narcissists”, hustle culture became a subject of mockery. Yet, here it is, still a dominant ideology in 2019 (people who worship Elon Musk are very much alive and well). They say culture is a pendulum, and so the more recent self-care phenomenon appeared to enter internet culture as a true antithesis to the daily grind. Although there were initially obvious benefits to this idea in its purest sense, (self-love and prioritising health = good), the rush-to-market approach taken by brands to repackage rest and mental health as purchasable (aka the self-care industrial complex) has created a new sort of essential oil-infused dystopian reality.
With self-care often pitted as the solution to hustle culture, you’d think the social media sphere would have polarised into contrasting ideologies. But these trends have more in common than appears. Both lend themselves equally to earnestness and commodification. They’re shaped around the concept of self-improvement, and they’re both powerful mechanisms for social identity construction, and the transition of ‘wants’ into ‘needs.’
In fact, many brands and individuals have chosen to champion them simultaneously. Nike, long-time pioneers of ‘just doing it’, recently co-hosted a ‘Self Care Saturday’ in LA with Urban Outfitters that featured crystal facials (whatever that might mean). And Girlboss—one of the pioneers of the glossier-but-make-it-corporate marketing of hustle culture—has a ‘wellness’ brand pillar.
Strangely, rather than living side by side, hustle culture and self care have come together in a strange marriage. It’s 2019, and you still need to get that bread, but also remember to use your meditation app.
Now both these cultures are likely also a response to an increasingly uncertain future. For young people, this has produced a kind of unapologetically paradoxical, post-woke, “material girl in a dying world” mentality. The consensus seems to be when the system is broken, all we can really do is focus on improving ourselves and our direct and online communities. And unfortunately, the reality of self-improvement in the late 10s is that there’s always something new to need.
While hustle culture and self-are both put the responsibility on the individual, we should seek to examine the systems that purposefully encourage hyper-individualism in the view of needing consumers to need—and shop.
Even as self-care reaches the end of internet-earnestness and joins hustle culture and Girlboss in the parody phase, it’s anything but the end for their collective cultural influence. The self-care meets hustle culture paradox will live on through years of future content, as we continue to shape a large portion of our identities through a branded hierarchy of needs.
This article was written by Pitch Portal for Screen Shot as part of its recent project in collaboration with Screen Shot and the V&A Museum: Let’s (Not) Get This Bread.