TikTok has had all facets of culture in a chokehold for the last two years. From the early days, when FYPs were flooded with endless 'Say So' dances to propelling niche aesthetics into the trend cycle, it's hard to escape the platform's influence.
If you've happened to go on a mindless scroll of late, you've likely encountered the 'emotional support water bottle' girlie movement.
The hashtag #emotionalsupportwaterbottle has clocked just over 53.3 million views — and counting. If you explore the hashtag, you'll find a young woman clutching her bottle on her first day of a nursing placement, adorably excitable bottle unboxing videos and of course, calming nighttime routines that involve a lot of icy water.
For young Aussie girls, the classic Frank Green bottle has basically become an aesthetic statement in itself too.
Like many recent cultural phenomenons, the pandemic's immense impact on our psyche can be partly attributed to our water bottle dependence.
I remember the first unofficial rumblings of the 'emotional support water bottle' dating back to mid-to-late 2019 when the 'VSCO girl' aesthetic began to pop off. The VSCO girl was always seen wearing checkerboard Vans and denim cutoffs, accessorised with a scrunchie on her wrist and, of course, a pastel-coloured water bottle in hand to round out the 'fit.
Months later, our lives were thrown into disarray, and thus we were all searching for a sense of comfort. Some of us found it in reruns of our favourite teen dramas, and others found it in the object permanence of a big, beautiful water bottle.
Object attachment is probably something most of us thought we were over when our parents packed away our favourite plush toys and blankies for good. However, given the initial months of lockdown had us regressing to our childhood comforts, its prevalence makes sense.
"Object attachment is the experience a person has when they feel an emotional attachment to an inanimate object and may even feel a sense of loss if they were to part with the object," reads a 2020 study conducted around object attachment as we get older.
TikToker Maia Knight perfectly sums up our collective feelings towards our many emotional support objects in this video — as the chaos of everyday life grows, our 'things' (or reliable little treats, as TikTok would say) become our only form of grounding.
"But there really is truth to the fact that almost nothing relieves my anxiety quite like knowing that, wherever I am, I have the ability to pause, take a sip of water, and continue onwards," said Refinery29 writer Emma Truetsky last year, echoing the sentiment.
I similarly identify as an emotional support water bottle girlie. My favourite vessel comes everywhere with me — to the gym, work, sitting pretty in the passenger seat while running errands. It's a new two-litre, colossal pink Frank Green one that has transformed my water intake and morphed into a fifth limb recently. On days without it, I genuinely feel a little frazzled and confused at the thought of having to buy a single-use plastic bottle. In saying this, a water bottle's environmental friendliness could be another contributing factor to why Gen Z and millennials have latched onto the trend — it's an easy (and cute) way to show mother nature a little TLC.
While the pandemic is partly responsible for our obsession, TikTok has paved the way for a new generation of wellness gurus we love to follow. While some advice can be completely off-base (and misinformed), our growing obsession with hydration and its many health benefits go hand-in-hand with the emotional support water bottle trend. For example, countless 'What I Eat In A Day' videos start with a young woman in matching activewear gulping down water from her neutral-toned bottle as she explains how to clock in just over two litres a day.
While, in this instance, the simple act of 'staying hydrated' might feel like an off-shoot of 'That Girl' culture, the emotional support water bottle does symbolise TikTok's ability to code objects with meaning through propelling a meme.
Much like how TikTok made listening to Phoebe Bridgers a symbol of early-20s bisexual despair, the emotional support water bottle is now a symbol of our conversations around wellness, mental health and consumerism. After all, on TikTok, everyone can be a girlie — a Summer girlie, a pop girlie, a tote bag girlie, or of course, an emotional support water bottle girlie.