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The ‘Office Siren’ Trend And Motorcycle Thirst Traps: TikTok & Its Love For Delusions

The ‘Office Siren’ Trend And Motorcycle Thirst Traps: TikTok & Its Love For Delusions

‘Delulu is the solulu’ should be, at this point, an expired TikTok moment. And yet, against all odds, the fanciful mindset persists. It might appear in a different form, or under another name, but make no mistake: delusional thinking is still a huge part of TikTok’s bread and butter, and it continues to underpin new trends two years after it went viral. 

However, there’s something about the persistence of our shared delusion on the internet that makes me wonder: at what point is our refusal to live in our own realities a problem? Is living a delulu lifestyle harmless, or does it say something about how we feel about our lives, or even ourselves?

The term ‘delulu’ originated in the K-pop fandom — reportedly appearing as early as 2013 — and was used to describe fans who acted as though they were genuinely destined to be in relationships with their idols.

In 2022, this casual use of ‘delusional’ took off on TikTok, which gleefully reclaimed the word not as a negative term used to describe cringe parasocial relationships, but as an empowering tool that was basically a new buzzword for manifestation (or as it has been called lately, ‘lucky girl syndrome’).

Instead of being a means to mock intense fans, “delulu is the solulu” evolved into a mantra to encourage people — usually women — to aim high, refuse rejection, give into their repressed inhibitions and maintain cheerful spirits by any means necessary. Even if that meant lying to yourself (though no one would call it that). 


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At the time, this embracing of delusion sparked all kinds of concerns by those in the offline world: “What’s wrong with Gen Z? Is delusion like this harmful? Surely this can’t be healthy?”

Others welcomed delulu as a form of resistance. Is this sense of ‘delusion’ actually radical optimism in the face of increasingly harrowing realities? Perhaps being ‘delulu’ could even be considered feminist, if it gives women who historically do not have the self confidence to chase their dreams the assurance to take that leap?

The initial responses by psychologists to ‘delulu is the solulu’ were mixed. Some expressed concern about what it says about our own self esteem and happiness, but others suggested a little bit of unrealistic escapism is okay as a treat, so long as it’s not used as a way to avoid processing the more unpleasant or confronting parts of our lives. 

Noosha Anzab, principal psychologist at Cana Psychology, is less keen on suggestions that delusions can be positive — because by definition, delusions suggest a break from reality that isn’t healthy.

“Why take a word that is negatively geared to describe manifesting or faking it till you make it?” she asked me. “Why take that and give it such a negative label and run with it? 

“Is it just this really poorly worded, harmless way of saying, ‘I’m burying my head in the sand and just going to say every day is great’? Or is it really a cry for help and a way to say that ‘I’m not okay’?”

The answer depends on who you ask — but, either way,  since ‘delulu’ was at its peak popularity in 2022, some delusional trends on the app have taken a concerning turn from whimsical and cute to, well, harmful.

In recent years, makeup styles have made a noticeable shift from aesthetics like “cold girl” and “clean girl” to archetypes like “mob wife” and “old money”, because now, these looks don’t just reflect the colours we like but the lifestyle we want to live — the main characters we wish to embody someday. Even if those characters don’t exist in real life.

The clothes we wear, the way we pin our hair, it has weight and power if you’re delulu enough. It tells a story — one that we can control with a single swipe of eyeliner or the right pairs of shoes.

Take the ‘office siren’ trend, for instance — a style of dressing for women who work in offices that is supposed to be seductive, while maintaining aesthetics associated with workplaces (or, more problematically, schools). Think sexy librarian, or hot CEO.

The outfits initially were about being fashion forward and creative, but as the trend went viral, it became increasingly sensual, hence the ‘siren’ part of the name. But, paradoxically, this also means they’re no longer suitable for the workplace.

Many TikTok users have gone on to accuse the ‘office siren’ aesthetic of being delusionally inappropriate for any office setting. Some women even feel a sense of anxiety — valid or not — about how the office siren trend could exacerbate harassment.

Here, it is worth noting that it’s likely women are going to be sexualised in the workplace regardless of their attire, and blaming women for these instances isn’t fair. Women should not be expected to alter their outfits—especially if they fit the conventions of workplace attire—to avoid any harassment in an office environment.

Screenshot via TikTok.

Unfortunately, ‘office siren’ becoming sexy workwear is not the only time delusion on the app has gotten out of hand — this also became a problem when #BookTok and #Biketok collided. There’s a corner of the app where romance readers fawn over men who ride motorbikes, and in return, the men play into their fantasies. However, a woman then went viral for saying “uwu” to a stranger in a Barnes and Noble, simply because she saw his motorbike in a parking lot — likely a result of videos like this one, where bikers hang out at bookstores for attention. And how do we even begin unpacking the sexualising of a minor on TikTok by adult women simply because he was a biker?

It’s one thing to choose to wear rose coloured glasses to soften the sharper edges of life — but it’s another to make up a new reality that dismisses real issues and puts your own or others’ well being at risk. And all of this is not even for something real, but for a symbol of the real? 

Because really, most of these delusions actually prioritise symbols of something they want over the real thing.

A guy wearing a motorbike helmet is actually a symbol of a trope, not synonymous of one, but for some BookTokers, there isn’t a difference. Dressing as an “office siren” is not actually being sexy — being sexy is being sexy — but the symbol of sexuality is what people are chasing.

TikTok’s pursual of symbols over the reality the symbols convey can be noted in even the most basic of trends: if you don’t have an inheritance, it’s okay! Old money makeup is the way to go, because what’s the difference between wealth and a symbol of wealth? 

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The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote about our obsession with “signs” over the reality they’re supposed to convey back in the 1980s, in his book Simulacra and Simulation. With every new TikTok trend, he becomes more relevant.

Baudrillard writes that, in a postmodern society, our lives are more saturated with mass media. The result is a society that increasingly relies on “signs” or symbols, leaving us more disconnected than ever. 

He argues that in order to preserve or study things, we have to destroy them. He talks about this in specific reference to ethnography, but it is reminiscent of our use of social media and how TikTok delusions work — in order to have a meetcute with a motorbike rider at a bookshop, for example, you actually have to destroy what the meetcute is (an organic meeting with someone you have a romantic connection with), because the truth is by chasing it on purpose it’s not going to be organic at all.

We’re essentially simulating realities we want to make real — but does that actually make them real? What happens when a “sign” or symbol becomes a better indicator of a thing than the thing itself? Or when the thing being referenced never actually existed to begin with?

Interestingly, Anzab said something similar — she believes taking part in ‘delulu is the solulu’ inherently erodes our sense of self.

“When you go on a date with someone who is so far removed from who you want to be with because you just scapegoated ‘delulu is the solulu’, and then you end up having a shocking date, afterwards your self worth is questioned, and you start criticising yourself or you feel guilt or you feel shame and then guess what — you’re back to feeling like shit,” she said.

“And when that happens, it’s normal that we get depressive symptoms, and then you develop low interpersonal trust, there’s lower family functioning.

“[Social media] can be great when it is used as a tool to learn, develop, grow. But when it is used as a tool to detach from your own reality and from your external world by going into this pseudo world of online, then we start to think, [is this] a form of structural disassociation? Is it a form of disconnecting from the self? What’s going on with the self? Why do we have to depart our own identity so hard so fast?”

And look… the world is not the most fun place to be right now. Gen Z is facing a housing crisis, extreme weather due to climate change, job insecurity, a soaring cost of living, and a general sense of doom. At the same time, genocides across the world are unfolding on our phone screens right after videos of celebrities on red carpets. We’re watching Architectural Digest episodes while waiting in line for our 11th rental inspection of the week.

In many ways, it’s hard to say what is real when disconnection is everywhere, and in every part of our lives. 

But really, the only thing we truly have is ourselves — and perhaps there is something special in choosing to be honest with ourselves, to be optimistic but not delusional, and compassionate but not dishonest. 

The rest of the world can skew reality for us  — different powers are competing for your attention all the time, the media and politicians skew reality and facts for their own narratives. 

When living in a post-truth society, perhaps it’s important now more than ever that we don’t normalise living inauthentically. At a time where fake realities are the norm, what is actually radical is challenging them.  

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