From That Girl to Goblin Mode: How Social Media is Embracing Anti-Aesthetics

Apr 28, 2022


From That Girl to Goblin Mode: How Social Media is Embracing Anti-Aesthetics

Until the beginning of this year, your social media feeds were likely full of influencers showing their 20-step morning routine to becoming “That Girl”. That Girl always has time to go for a run, do yoga, journal, make a gourmet breakfast with a green smoothie, complete a 15-step skincare regimen, Dyson Airwrap her hair, create a “glass skin” makeup look and put together a chic outfit all before 7AM.

@lifeof_georgiaGRWM: “clean girl” aesthetic ✨✨✨ ##cleangirl ##cleangirlaesthetic ##dewymakeup ##grwm ##olaplex ##olaplexbun ##thatgirl ##thatgirlaesthetic♬ déjà vu sickmix – Sickickmusic

The aesthetics of That Girl (also known as It Girl or Clean Girl) are an extension of the girlboss hustle-culture, which has been controversial but pervasive over the past few years. The aesthetics boomed when COVID lockdown restrictions began to lift, with people excited to get back to real life while putting their best foot forward.

@tiffanynganit’s a mindset ladies ???❤️‍?? ##pinkpilatesprincess ##itgirl ##thatgirlessentials ##howtobethatgirlin2022 ##aestheticlife ##aestheticroutine ##victoriassecret ##busyyetpretty ##manifestation ##lawofattraction ##becomingherchallenge♬ оригинальный звук – Scout Edit

The beauty and fashion communities devoured That Girl content, resulting in minimalist outfits and glazed-donut skin trending for months. Brands capitalised on this trend, with many skincare brands creating aesthetic content surrounding in-depth skincare routines and niche products.

So, why have social media users begun rejecting this aesthetic?

To put it simply, the idea of That Girl is unachievable within the confines of most people’s daily lives. The aesthetic requires constant upkeep to match social media-set standards of what someone’s life should look like. The constant pressure to keep up appearances has made people feel guilty for not setting enough time aside for copious amounts of self care.

This guilt has resulted in a social-media wide rebellion: goblin mode.

Goblin mode is a direct rejection of toxic productivity and influencer culture. Essentially, goblin mode is letting yourself be and enjoying life in whatever way you please. It embraces creature comforts such as spending the day in bed bingeing your latest Netflix obsession, pouring the end of a bag of crisps in your mouth, and leaving the house in your pyjamas to get some milk from the shops. Goblin mode has also introduced us to Feral Girl Summer—a continuation of Hot Girl Summer, but significantly more unhinged.

@horrible.glitter##feralgirlsummer ##thatgirl ##aloyoga♬ Manifest – Meditationclass(remind daily)

Over the past two years our loungewear became workwear, sofas became desks and bedrooms became offices. In a difficult time, we began to prioritise physical comfort over keeping up appearances.

Where That Girl aesthetics require everyone to follow a similar routine and appearance, goblin mode is unique to each person. Your inner goblin has no restrictions, and is a state of mind people can tap in and out of when they want. Goblin mode accepts all types of hot messes and rejects all glorified notions of self-improvement.

@darthvscoI her and she is me. ##florida ##gulfcoast ##usmc ##beachin ##beachbaby4life ##hick ##feralgirlsummer ##feralgirls ##stevienicks ##dixiechicks ##thechicks ##vintage ##hotmomsummer♬ Santeria – Sublime

Part of the reason goblin mode has taken over social media so quickly is because it’s simply accepting real life. While goblin mode is trying to normalise the lack of aesthetics, this is something that is already the norm. Some people might find inner peace in following 45-minute yoga classes, followed by avocado on toast and 30 minutes of journaling, but for the overwhelming majority, we just want to sit in bed with Netflix and snacks.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the elements that combine to create the That Girl aesthetic. But That Girl has had its time in the social media spotlight, and users are on to the next trend, which just happens to be the polar opposite.

Goblin mode has been accelerated into the spotlight as a result of the demand for authenticity. Social media users are tired of the perfectly curated feeds of activities that are unrealistic for the everyday person.

Before goblin came onto the scene, we began seeing the rise of “photo dumps” on Instagram during the pandemic—the first indication that aesthetic feeds were losing their grip. Rather than perfectly edited photos and videos, a photo dump is a low-effort, random collection of photos that conveys a story or mood.


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A post shared by emma chamberlain (@emmachamberlain)

While a beautifully edited photo paints an idyllic picture, a photo dump paints a fuller picture and reveals much more about a person’s life and personality. In a time where people could only rely on social media for some form of connection to other people, photo dumps thrived.

To some, the concept of goblin mode is far overdue. Gen Zs particularly are tired of living up to ridiculous career and life expectations set by older generations and are happy accepting their most toxic selves. They are tired of living up to an “ideal woman” archetype that balances their work life, social life and looking perfect, especially given the social climate of a pandemic ending and a potential world war beginning.

Do we think the goblin mode trend will last? Short answer: no. This is social media we’re talking about here…

Our Influencer marketing agency and Social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

If you want to receive our industry insights, visit our Influencer Marketing & Social Media blog.

@ Socially Powerful



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James Hacking


Socially Powerful, founded in 2017, stood as pioneers of the influencer marketing industry. Today we are a global social marketing agency and technology company.

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