If you’ve logged onto Instagram in the past week and seen an oddly posted, unflattering picture of your friend or relative and either did a double take or left scratching your head, you’re not alone; this newest social media trend has taken over feeds and spread across all the internet.
So, what is the “until tomorrow” challenge?
The trend challenges users to upload an embarrassing picture of themselves to Instagram — the catch? The caption can only say “until tomorrow,” so any explanation or accounting for the embarrassing picture has to be left out. Users leave the picture up for 24 hours, at which point they can delete the post, hence the name and caption “until tomorrow.”
The challenge spreads whenever other users like the oddly posted picture; the rules are that whenever someone likes the post, the person who posted it should DM them and challenge them to take part. The rules are lax — and honestly a little arbitrary — as there is no reward for following through with the challenge and no consequences for refraining from taking part.
If you’re asking how this whole craze got started, this is where things get fuzzy. As with most internet challenges and trends, the exact origin of the “until tomorrow” tag is unclear; some people claim it came from Instagram, others claim it was TikTok, and others say it was just born from the current social distancing practices and the boredom that can go hand in hand with it.
What’s clear is that the trend is popular; it’s found a niche on Instagram, garnering an impressive 2.2 million posts. Within the span of a few hours, I counted just over 30 “until tomorrow” posts on my own feed.
As it has grown in popularity, the tag has taken different forms too, as not everyone is adhering to the original outline of the trend. Model Daisy Lowe posted a picture with the tag, but her picture was anything but unflattering; she’s pictured draped in a beach towel, playfully sticking her tongue out at the camera.
One user even posted a lighthearted comment saying they “refuse to accept this as an embarrassing photo.” Her post has also been up for four days now, going against the “rules” of the game, yet there has been little backlash to the post, indicating the trend is indeed just meant to be fun.
Unlike Instagram, it’s niche on Twitter is far from positive; Twitter users have created an entirely new trend out of the “until tomorrow” challenge, tweeting funny complaints about the number of these posts they have seen when opening Instagram, airing their grievances with the challenge and asking what the tag means.
— nia ♥ (@niaforshortt) March 28, 2020
Surprisingly, the happy medium between Instagram’s love of the trend and Twitter’s hatred of it seems to be TikTok. The “until tomorrow” tag has 12.5 million views on TikTok, ranging from people expressing their confusion about the tag, offering their support or making fun of it.
Despite the approach an individual user takes (being irritated by the trend or supporting it), the videos are all meant to be funny, rather than making any sort of serious commentary about the trend or the people who take part.
But why would anyone want to post an unflattering picture of themselves?
Because of the current quarantine and social distancing measures being taken and the increased time spent at home, it’s unsurprising that people are searching for other ways to pass the time and for pleasant things to take their mind off of current world events. And in the 21st century, social media plays a huge role in that desire for a distraction.
The arbitrary nature of the “until tomorrow” challenge — with its loose rules and nonexistent repercussions — reflects our collective usage of humor as a coping mechanism during times of crisis and how the search for small moments of laughter is one of the most human things we can do at the moment. During the tumultuous 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle, the online world of memes thrived as people attempted to contextualize and laugh in the midst of a stressful situation.
It’s promising to see that this most recent challenge is less dangerous than previous ones, like the Kiki Challenge, the Tide pod craze or the Cinnamon Challenge, which had people jumping out of moving cars and eating Tide pods and obscene amounts of cinnamon. We seem to be seeking safety and familiarity right now, reflecting on sillier times and allowing the nostalgia of our “normal” life to sink in.
Now more than ever, people are staying home and handling real world issues; the glamour and perfection of social media, particularly on Instagram, has necessarily been put on hold. We’re not going out to eat as much or going to concerts or traveling the world, which means we’re not posting about it either.
A silly post or unflattering selfie is a small reminder that not everything is perfect — none of us are perfect — and when we strip away all of those externalities (vacations, fancy restaurants and such), we’re all struggling with the same problem right now and fighting to understand how the world works. “Until tomorrow” is social media’s response to the lack of grandiose content: reverting to showing everyday life.
So whether or not you’re a fan of the “until tomorrow” challenge, our attempt to find something else to talk about and laugh at is a reflection of our collective struggle.