Days after Google workers emerged as the latest victims of the tech industry’s string of layoffs — you know it’s bad when Apple’s Tim Cook is heralded as Silicon Valley’s resident proletariat hero for bravely slashing his salary to just under $50 million — yet another category of professionals are feeling the corporate pressure: “Day-in-the-Life” TikTokers.
As big tech companies — and adjacent media organizations like Vox, CNN and NBC — continue to ax staffers, a new genre of inadvertently dystopian content has cropped up on TikTok — influencers swapping idyllic, acai-bowl-fueled day-in-my-life videos for layoff vlogs.
it is a little crazy seeing the actual people who did the vlogs getting fired pic.twitter.com/XhGRokCz6u— M (@diamondmolar) January 23, 2023
Often beginning with the tried-and-true (and definitely-not-staged) clips of millennials awaking in their muted-neutral-toned bedrooms, these videos, which have since found renewed viral relevance as companies continue to prioritize executive perks over the wellbeing of their workers restructure, quickly take a turn for the unnerving.
“A day in my life getting laid off at Google,” TikToker @nicolesdailyblog began her now ultra-viral video from last week, her voiceover miraculously — and eerily — maintaining its signature aspirational chipperness.
@nicolesdailyvlog The Google layoffs were not how I expected to start off 2023, but I know it’s only up from here #techlayoffs #googlelayoffs #techgirl #corporatelife #techvlog #dayinmylife #techlayoffs2023 ♬ Flowers - Miley Cyrus
After recounting having received a “really ominous text” from her boss — one she said she “had no idea what it was gonna be about” prior to checking the news and realizing she had lost access to all of her professional accounts — the grim, unaesthetic, reality of her situation began to sink in. “I called my boss back, and we just sobbed over the phone,” she explained, detailing that she and her team members took to text to determine who in their section had survived the cull, a testament to the broader corporate call, one she likened to “a really bad game of Russian roulette.”
“The worst part is that it seems like no one was consulted on this decision, and everyone was just finding out about the layoffs at the same time,” she continued, noting that there was “no consistency” in who survived, as the cuts were “not performance-based.”
After checking the hustle-porn cesspool that is LinkedIn, a move she admitted was “not great for my mental health,” Nicole proceeded to do what pretty much most corporate SoCal-ers would do in her situation: Head to Disneyland. (Disney Adults: The monarchs of turning “unemployment” into “funemployment.”)
While Nicole’s subversion of the day-in-the-life vlog is nothing new — TikTok is saturated with videos depicting influencers inadvertently documenting their last day at their gigs — the new wave of layoffs add a new, twisted melancholy to the one-aestheticized world of post-pandemic hustle culture.
The TikTok generation is different pic.twitter.com/faVXQ9WqSR— @jason (@Jason) January 24, 2023
Since the first days of lockdown in 2020, remote workers hopped on TikTok’s newfound popularity, their romanticized visions of WFH and start-up life, a rosy perspective that likely began as a coping mechanism amid — say it with me, “unprecedented” times — seeped into the regular docket of aspirational social programming. An equally cozy and infuriating juxtaposition to the realities of frontline workers risking their lives to keep society functioning as COVID spread across the country, this new breed of vloggers embodied the labor economy they represented — uncanny and fundamentally unstable.
“Many people predicted that the digitization of the pandemic economy in 2020, such as the rise in streaming entertainment and online food-delivery apps and at-home fitness, were ‘accelerations,’ pushing us all into a future that was coming anyway,” The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson told writer Isabel Fattal in her latest piece, “The Tech-Layoff ‘Contagion.’” “In this interpretation, the pandemic was a time machine, hastening the 2030s and raising tech valuations accordingly. Hiring boomed across tech, as companies added tens of thousands of workers to meet this expectation of acceleration.”
But as the reality of the early 2020s shifted closer and closer to its pre-pandemic state, corporate culture followed suit. As Fattal so expertly put it: “Perhaps the pandemic wasn’t really an accelerant. Maybe it was a bubble.”
And now we’re watching a day-in-the-life of those who have been a part of that bubble bursting.