People on TikTok keep boasting about what they do from 5am to 9am. I just lie in bed, if the dog will let me – The Guardian

I watch people preparing food, working out and doing laundry. But what if I don’t want to ‘maximise my potential’?
You will not be surprised to hear that there’s another TikTok microtrend to feel bad about. It’s called #my5to9 (4.6m views) and it’s a two-headed beast, covering what people do in the 5am to 9am slot before work and their 5pm to 9pm post-work schedules. It’s a wholesome if exhausting-looking sequence of workouts, food prep and domestic drudgery. I watched one user cook, prep the next day’s breakfast and lunch, do laundry, plump pillows, bathe, exfoliate and moisturise. Then I needed a lie-down to recover.
Given that sleep has already been hacked to death with everything from smart rings to ice baths, we are reaching a full 24-hour timetable of aspirational activity: there is no room for drooling or vacant downtime. It’s the logical conclusion of what essayist Jia Tolentino called the “always be optimising” mindset. Every second of time must be used well as we tick towards death. Why are you wasting yours reading this? At least listen to it on triple speed on the treadmill, loser.
My five to nines – both ends – are formless tranches of failure to optimise. The early shift is shivering by the back door as the geriatric dog takes his leisurely 5am stagger around the garden, or, if I’ve won the canine lottery, stuck in bed as if pinned there by the winner of this year’s Fat Bear Week (Bear Force One, 1,400lb), talking myself out of showering. The post-work shift is blank staring and crisps. “Crunching has replaced all my emotions,” I messaged my best friend recently. “Crunching is an emotion,” she replied.
The salvation of TikTok is that any emerging trend gets sharp, near-instantaneous pushback. One #my5to9 video is just a woman face-down on her bed; another denounces the genre as “performing productivity”. TikTok Marxist-feminist @c.a.i.t.l.y.n has recorded an elegant two-part structural critique of #my5to9 as merely “maximising your potential as both a worker and a consumer under capitalism”.
The next time I feel guilty, I’ll tell myself I’m pushing back against the expansion of the capitalist economy outside my paid hours, one crisp at a time.
Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist


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