Everyone on TikTok wants you to go into "monk mode" – here's why you probably shouldn't...
Another TikTok trend is taking over our For You page, this time promising to boost our productivity and overhaul! our! lives!
The "monk mode" challenge has been circulating in recent weeks and the #monkmodechallenge hashtag currently has a staggering 27.4M views. It's clear that people are engaging in the trend, which sets out strict rules for those taking part if they want to ~succeed~ in life. These rules include meditating for at least 10 minutes every day, exercising for 30 minutes every day, cutting out alcohol, sex and partying (to name a few) and more.
One TikToker describes "monk mode" as "refraining from the 3D matrix world to find your purpose and triple down" – whatever the heck that means. Whilst another implies that "monk mode" is all about "becoming the man that you could be" alongside a string of hashtags that really imply it's about money: #money #wealth #health #goal #gettingrich #makingmoney #hustle.
Now, I'm no expert (although I did get an A* in my Religious Studies GCSE, thank you very much), but I'm pretty sure that none of the above is what monks have in mind when they go into practice. According to the dictionary, a monk is a member of a male religious community that is usually separated from the outside world, and Buddhist monks are perhaps those who come to mind first when we think about who monks are and what their goal is.
Buddhist monks believe that life should centre around meditation, spiritual and physical labour, and good behaviour – which are all elements of TikTok's "monk mode" challenge. But, importantly, monks engage in these practises to achieve enlightenment, not increased productivity or success in their career.
In fact the very first Buddhist, Siddhartha Gautama – who lived around the fifth century B.C.E. – renounced his wealth. And one of the Four Noble Truths at the core of the religion states that all suffering comes from desire. Therefore, doesn't such a heavy focus on productivity and career-chasing go directly against this?
Although I can appreciate how practices like regular meditation and exercise can be beneficial to one's mental health, I think it's damaging – and exclusionary – to send out a message that doing these things, along with withdrawing from those around you, is going to bring success.
The truth is, not everyone has the privilege to go into "monk mode". At what point during the day does a single mother have time to meditate? How do those with mental health conditions safely isolate themselves from their loved ones? The list goes on, and on. It's giving: 'Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.' It's giving: 'If you work hard enough, you can escape poverty xoxo.' It's giving: 'Bro, put all your savings into crypto, trust me.'
There's other issues associated with the trend too. One TikToker points out how the trend could push some men towards 'red-pill' misogyny and incel communities. "You can fall into deep rabbit holes because you're lonely," the TikToker says, adding that this sometimes leads men to seek out "connections" they wouldn't usually make, or become caught up in an echo chamber of potentially harmful "masculine energy". And the trend does appear to be pretty gender exclusive. It takes me quite a few scrolls through the #monkmode hashtag to find just one video from a female TikToker... and even more scrolls to find another.
Of course, that's not to say that everyone participating in the "monk mode" challenge is going to become a radicalised red-pilled misogynist, and there'll be many people who find the challenge helps them improve their lives, be it in a physical, mental or professional capacity. What's more is that challenges like these can provide a great sense of stability and motivation, like the many challenges that have come before it, such as 75 Hard and the 12-3-30 treadmill workout.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that the "monk mode" challenge needs a more inclusive rebrand, with less of a focus on results and more focus on empowering those taking part – however they're able to do so. Importantly, let's remind ourselves that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to success, and what success is will be different for each and everyone of us. As is the path we take to achieve it.
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