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Imagine your child scrolling through TikTok to suddenly come across a young female who guarantees him his life will never be the same if he follows her lead. She proceeds to tell kids that for twenty-one days they must say, “Universe, I am open and ready for you to start conspiring in my favor to make my dreams come true! And I request for a clear sign in my reality to come to me today! I am open, I am ready.”
With more than 2.3 million views, this video comes from TikTok influencer and “manifestation coach” Alex Tripod. Alex is among thousands of manifestation coaches and influencers on TikTok, arguably the most popular social media platform for Gen Z. The “manifestation” hashtag already has over 17 billion views, despite there being only one billion users on TikTok.
At a basic level, manifestation is about “manifesting” one’s wishes into reality. However, this is not merely the same as positive thinking. Manifestation is based upon a pseudoscientific theory known as the Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction conceives of everything as existing in a constant state of vibration, and that which is vibrating at a similar consistency will be drawn to each other.
The idea is that if you can control your vibrations, you can attract that of similar consistencies and thus, manifest what you want into reality. The Law of Attraction arose from New Thought, a movement founded by the American mesmerist Phineas Quimby (1802-1866). Millennials may have also unintentionally discovered New Thought through Rhonda Byrne’s, “The Secret” (2006).
Gen Z is now encountering New Thought, through TikTok. These manifestation coaches are teaching Gen Z about the “3-6-9 technique”: write down what you desire three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times in the evening, every day if needed. This technique is not merely an exercise of self-reflective journaling, but an attempt to “conspire with the universe” to make one’s own dreams come true.
If one’s dreams do not come true, that may be because they are focusing more on thinking rather than feeling, according to Samantha, another popular manifestation coach on TikTok. Samantha, who goes by the username of Simplifying.Sam, explains in a viral video:
Manifestations are based upon feelings, literally the sensations in your body. Manifestation or Law of Attraction will not respond to your thoughts. So this is when you start realizing that it doesn’t really matter what you think, it just matters what you feel. Which is why I’m telling you to only pick one low resistance thought that always brings you into a vibration of happiness or peace.
Considering the two years of lockdowns and Covid unrest, it is unsurprising that much of Gen Z is searching for happiness and peace. The lockdowns certainly explain the increase in the popularity of manifestation efforts on TikTok.
For the younger generation influenced by New Thought, positive feelings are not sufficient in and of themselves, they are a means to a real manifestation of their own wants and desires. They are the medium that connects one to some larger cosmic mall, or Amazon.
It may be easy for some people to quickly scoff at the popularity of #manifestation among teenagers and young adults. However, it is important to remember that a number of surveys show much of Gen Z to be lonely, anxious, and even depressed. Against this backdrop, there needs to be understanding as to why manifestation coaches on TikTok are becoming increasingly appealing.
Those who are resistant and skeptical of New Thought manifestation theories should be quick to offer alternative ideas and practices for the younger generation to employ. Social media can often act as a marketplace of ideas, and it is important for parents, educators, and leaders of all sorts to be aware of what young people are watching.
Taylor J. Anderson received his B.A. in Christian Studies and an M.A. in History from Grand Canyon University. He currently works as a Grading Assistant for undergraduate classes at the same institution.