Cottagecore. Barbiecore. Plazacore. Fairycore. Weirdcore. Normcore. If you can imagine it, there’s a -core for it.
A -core is a difficult thing to capture the meaning of. It overlaps with aesthetic and vibe, but is more grounded in reality; it is conveyed through the clothes you wear, the things you buy, the lifestyle you live. Above all, a -core speaks to an online presence, a community chiefly expressed through the way you live on the internet. It is searchable, replicable, easily identifiable.
But there’s a new -core sweeping teens’ feeds, one that is much harder to pin down: corecore.
What is corecore?
A Google search of corecore will give you articles from Time Magazine, Mashable, and Vice, all trying to define exactly what it is. Attempts to identify it range from lofty assertions that it’s Gen Z’s new art form, to dismissive takes which label it as a way to grab views without saying much. But corecore is something different, something those who grew up without the ubiquity of the internet have trouble grasping. It speaks to young people in a way that maybe no other social media trend has. To quote one TikTok commenter: “I’m pretty sure corecore is the answer/beginning of the movement that might actually change this world.”
Corecore videos, which exist primarily on TikTok (with 1.5 billion views on the hashtag as of this writing), can be melancholy or hopeful or a mix of both. They consist of clips from other TikToks, news stories, films and TV, music videos, or any other media which speaks to an exhaustion with the world and a desire to live life free from the influence of technology. A TikTok from user @highenquiries begins with a clip of a woman standing in front of an aisle at a grocery store full of Valentines-themed stuffed animals. Her voice is defeated as she says, “have y’all every just looked down an aisle at a store and just seen, like, landfill?” This is followed with videos of a young girl playing on an iPad at a restaurant while her grandfather eats in silence, a woman breaking down the time in her day to realize that between work and sleep she has to fit “a fulfilling life” into five hours, and a man asking the camera, “How—how long can I continue doing this?”
TikTok user @tamarciment goes more in depth on an explanation of what corecore really is, describing it as “a video style that juxtaposes the numbness of the internet with the profundity of the real world.” She argues that the videos are supposed to help social media users break free of what she calls “the loop,” the addictiveness of an infinite feed of content. Corecore videos are often melancholy, focusing on culture’s engagement with anything and everything that will keep them from thinking. But @tamarciment also discusses other -cores that have sprung from it, like hopecore, which contrasts the loop with media designed to “inspire, and remind us that humanity can be beautiful sometimes.” She sums it up by saying, “corecore is ultimately a mass realization that what we have, the 24/7 news cycle, instant consumerism, never-ending updates, limitless algorithms, is not what we want.”
Why does corecore matter?
It is true that people, not just teens, are addicted to social media. The Pew Research Center reports that 97% of teens in 2022 say they use the internet at least daily, almost half say they use it almost constantly. 54% of teens say it would be hard for them to give up social media. But statistics can’t capture teens’ feelings in the same way that the content they make themselves does. The rising popularity of corecore tells us that teens, while they may struggle to rid themselves of an internet-permeated life that came to them young, are trying to wake up. They crave reality, experiences, the beauty and depth of life.
Sometimes as Christians we can get so used to the words of Scripture that we forget the power that they have. Christ came that we may have life, and life to the full. Words like life and truth and salvation are in our mouths all the time, but how often do we stop to let them sink in?
Jesus opened the door to reality for us. Sin gives us a distorted, false, misleading image of the world. It draws us into things we don’t even want, keeps us coming back again over and over to what we know will only make us hopeless. Sin is the loop. Our salvation in Christ is an offering of total freedom from the loop. The gospel is a chance to wake up. Life in Christ is like walking through the fields you’ve only seen in pictures, wading in oceans that you couldn’t imagine were real. God gives us the exact hope and joy and abundant life that corecore shows teens are desperate for. They are not just looking away from the internet, they are looking for Jesus. And if there is one thing we know, it is that he is eager to be found.
If you want to dive deeper on these themes, check out the Axis Parent Guide to Smartphone Addiction!