"Romanticise your life," a saying that has spread like wildfire on TikTok for the past year, could be a primary catalyst in the surge of Main Character Syndrome, which is a common belief where individuals are self-proclaimed protagonists in their own lives. A simplified explanation of this occurrence could date back to the 1998 movie The Truman Show, where the titular character lived in a reality show during his life, unbeknownst to him.
While it is no surprise that this was brought upon by the narcissistic tendencies and self-centered behaviors amplified by the presence of social media, Main Character Syndrome roots in one psychological finding. As of date, it is currently not listed anywhere in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, nor is it medically classified into any type of illnesses, but psychologist Dr. Michael G Wetter elaborated on how "... [the Main Character Syndrome] is the inevitable consequence of the natural human desire to be recognized and validated merging with the rapidly evolving technology that allows for immediate and widespread self-promotion."
This condition reigns supreme in TikTok with several creators spearheading it, thus specializing in these types of videos, as well as smaller creators who come up with similar themes every once in a while. Yasmine Sahid began her main character journey back in 2020, where she rose to fame after romanticizing the life of a college student who went to visit home. Yasmine then widened her main character arc with oddly-specific prompts such as somebody's irritating friend who once went on a 6-week student exchange to Europe. In a polarising manner, thousands of smaller creators emerged to record themselves having picnics by the lake, dressing a certain way for a trip to the local library, taking walks around their neighborhood, and kissing their partners in the rain as an attempt to exude that coming-of-age main character energy. One question remains: to what extent could the Main Character Syndrome evolve from an aesthetically pleasing TikTok content to alarming signs of narcissism?
According to Dr. Shungu Hilda M'gadzah, Director/DEI Lead Consultant Psychologist at Inclusion Psychologists Limited, "The impact of Main Character Syndrome can vary significantly depending on its severity. In extreme cases, it can result in people losing touch with reality and becoming consumed by their worlds."
"Young people can often feel the need to escape from their reality, whether that's from the pandemic or other societal pressures. Social media provides them with the tools to escape but it can be all-consuming and self-perpetuating."
"The syndrome is not always extreme and can often be managed. It's about not allowing it to take over and not considering your needs and problems to always be more important than others."
The idea of romanticizing one's life leads us to appreciate the beauty in the mundane; that there has to be something worth celebrating in going to the laundromat, picking out fresh produce at the grocery store, or simply walking your dog around the town you are convinced you have outgrown. Whether the belief that the world revolves around you extends strictly on your TikToks or expands to how you approach real life to the point that it disrupts your relationships that surely is a boundary worth noting. After all, we are in charge of our storylines.