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Self-Expression on the Subway?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By Amie Ahn and Ariel Lee Nov. 9, 2023

A sleek Tube blitzes through the veiled tunnels and solitary stations that comprise the London Underground. Passengers lounge and laze on the convoy’s cerulean blue seats, idly awaiting their stop. Amongst the tranquil bliss of the passenger cart, a lady arises from her chair, draws out her phone, and struts valiantly down the tube’s columns, her hair twirling wildly in the air while her lip syncs to the lyrics of “Greedy” by Tate McRae. Ever since 22-year-old influencer Sabrina Bahsoon pioneered this viral trend in August on TikTok, her stride has flooded the feeds of users, with the original video garnering over 12 million likes. The trend has been dubbed the “Tube Girl” challenge, as it was originally filmed on the London Tube. Although the challenge has evolved into an avante-garde mechanism for confidence growth by inducing people to challenge social norms and outside pressures to conform, it has also revealed concerns over the trend being a public inconvenience.

Harry Kang art

TikTok viewers often leave comments expressing how amazed they are with the girl’s confidence and how they could never do the trend, reflecting the various reasons viewers fear to genuinely express themselves in public spaces: fear of standing out, embarrassment and societal norms.

Subway riders are typically expected to conform to strict etiquettes: talking on the phone or eating is discouraged, and it is preferred for everyone to go unnoticed. These social pressures can have harmful effects, such as feeling lost, frustrated and ostracized from friends or family. Bringing back one’s authenticity is not an easy journey, but with this trend, participants are using #tubegirl as a tool for breaking out of social boundaries and their comfort zone. It has become part of their goals to overcome social anxiety, and participation in the challenge has given participants a new perspective: people are able to look at everyday life in public with a brighter view since they worry less about what others think about them. This portrays the freedom one feels after breaking out of the box society has made; they learn that what others think of one’s appearance, personality or other qualities should not interfere with their happiness. Thus, the Tube Girl trend is an excellent method for empowerment to reject the public’s judging eye and to choose self-confidence.

“The tube girl trend builds self-confidence, but it can also be extremely obnoxious to others. However, it definitely depends on the specific person because they might like the trend, but they could also be opposed to performing the challenge themselves., Sophomore Angela Xue said.

On the other hand, critics of the trend argue that it encourages toxic self-obsession and promotes “main character syndrome,” where one often fails to consider the feelings of those around them. Main character syndrome began as a way to encourage people to make the most out of their lives, framing themselves as the “main character” of their own story. However, it was soon criticized about the unrealistic portrayals of one’s life and how it could cause people to be consumed in their own romanticized life, separating them from reality.

Others also criticize participants for not considering others’ thoughts on them doing such a trend in public tubes. Critics view Tube Girls as rude, arguing that they could violate the privacy of those in the public spaces in which they are filming. However, those in the public can not reasonably expect privacy. The Tube girl trend focuses on the girl filming the video, largely disregarding the bystanders caught in the camera’s crosshairs. People minding their own business on the subway may not want to be filmed, but it is unreasonable to grant them the freedom from being recorded in a public space.

Conversely, other trends are bothersome or outright harmful. For example, in 2021, a challenge where students steal or vandalize school property, called “devious licks,” resulted in harmful impacts to the schools and students. It is important to differentiate from these trends and note that the Tube Girl trend merely tries to promote self-expression in public areas. After all, it only involves one person filming themselves on their phone and it does not pester anyone else.

“People should always respect others around them, so they might have to come up with new compromises and solutions if it is particularly bothering somebody, but everyone should be able to express themselves and do what they want.” Freshman Ria Kumar said.

However, since social media can be very toxic, one’s confidence and self esteem should not be based entirely on the attention they receive on social media or image. Moreover, casting aside constricting social expectations and being overly self conscious in favor of doing what you want in public spaces is not always a symptom of main character syndrome, especially in the case of Tube Girl.

Labeling Tube Girl as overly self-promoting or obnoxious is unfounded. The trend promotes a positive message, and people should have the right to take on the challenge as a way to start increasing their confidence in public spaces. Following social norms every second of every day of your life becomes suffocating, so it is very refreshing to see more and more people join a trend to break out of their comfort zone. Seeing these girls on social media radiating with confidence, breaking free from the chains of social norms and the expectations of those around them also inspires others to put themselves out there and create their own definition of “normal.”


About the contributors

Amie Ahn

staff writer

Amie Ahn is a freshman at Leland High School and is a writer for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys eating, sleeping, and spending time with her friends.

Ariel Lee

staff writer

Ariel Lee is a freshman at Leland High School and is a page writer for her first year in journalism. In her free time, she likes to sleep, do nothing, binge shows (kdramas), and listen to music.

Harry Kang

viewpoint page editor and artist

Harry Kang is a junior at Leland High School who works as an artist and the page editor for the Viewpoint page. In his free time, he likes to procrastinate and listen to old Korean music.

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