TikTok’s Dream Worlds Thrived in a Nightmare Year

At the height In the summer – August 15th, to be exact – 6 million people frequented Quincy’s Tavern, a steampunk-inspired venue with bottles and brews lining the walls and yellow ambient lighting behind the bar. That would be far too many customers for a regular bar out Bricks and mortar, but luckily Quincy’s Tavern exists in an immaterial realm between two worlds: the internet and people’s imaginations. It’s an empire with a growing population and an ever-expanding map. It’s TikTok in 2022, a place where you can step into a fantasy pub, childhood dream, or your favorite book or movie with a flick of the thumb.

While economic pressures have made reality an increasingly less attractive place to live, numerous TikTok trends have offered a form of escape over the past year. Over 14 billion people have now watched videos about “shifting,” a meditation-like practice in which people believe they can “shift” into other realities, often beloved fantasy locations like Hogwarts. Meanwhile, accounts dedicated to dreamlike frontier spaces are increasingly popping up – eerie yet exciting, these videos allow viewers to “float through places you’ve visited in your dreams”.

While “Dreamcore” isn’t always reassuring, no one could call it trite. It’s an alternative to reality, similar to numerous other aesthetic “-cores” that emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic and have since grown in popularity – fairycore, cottagecore, goblincore.

“The idea of ​​a fantasy tavern to me is like a ‘save point’ or sanctuary from the zombie hordes or villains outside,” says 28-year-old content creator Quincy, who lives in Arizona and asked WIRED not to reveal his full name privacy reasons. “It’s a place where you know you can rest at least for a moment before you get back to your adventure.”

In the August video, which racked up 6 million views, Quincy greets viewers by saying, “Hello traveller, welcome back to Quincy’s Tavern.” With a tea towel slung over his shoulder, he leans into the camera for the viewer’s sentiment actually sitting on a stool at his bar. Then he encourages life: “It’s completely normal to be cautious and behave a little more cautiously in new situations.” In the comments section, people discuss pregnancy, moving and job interviews and thank Quincy for his comforting words.

“Providing content that is calming, encouraging, or just aesthetically pleasing is now one of my favorite things to do,” says Quincy. According to TikTok’s analytics tools, Quincy’s Tavern patrons range in age from 18 to 35 and often say they find the online bar a “safe place” and a “peaceful moment amidst the chaos.”

Martina Jonsson is a 25-year-old Masters student in Media and Communications at Malmo University in Sweden, who will be completing her first-year thesis this fall, entitled ‘You Must Start Romanticizing Your Life’: A Textual Analysis of Representing the Cottagecore Aesthetics of ‘Das ‘good lives’ in a precarious world.” Jonsson’s research examined how the increasing insecurity of neoliberal society manifested itself in cottagecore content, in which people imagined “an alternative to capitalism” via images and videos of an idealized rural life.

https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-dream-worlds/ TikTok’s Dream Worlds Thrived in a Nightmare Year

Zack Zwiezen

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