Decoding the World’s Obsession with “Goblin Mode”

Goblin Mode

Many people are embracing their inner goblin to cope with feeling overwhelmed.

Do you find yourself struggling to maintain a positive and productive attitude at work? Are you becoming increasingly irritable or disengaged from constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience this state of mind, and some turn on their ‌ “goblin mode” to cope with it. The term “goblin mode” gained popularity in February 2022 when a social media user tweeted a fake article in which actor Julia Fox was quoted using it to describe her relationship with Kanye West. The headline was “Julia Fox discusses her difficult relationship with Kanye West, stating, He wasn’t fond of it when I entered Goblin mode.” 

Despite Fox later clarifying in an Instagram story that she had never used the term before, it caught on and became widely used on social media platforms. Its popularity continued to grow, and it was even chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year for 2022. 

According to Oxford publishers, the gradual lifting of COVID restrictions since February was what continues to fuel the popularity of the term. It describes the attitude of individuals who rejected returning to “normal life” or rebelled against the unattainable standards and unsustainable lifestyles often portrayed on social media.

How did “goblin mode” end up as the Oxford Word of the Year 2022

In essence, goblin mode behaviors are characterized by being self-centered, lazy, careless or greedy in a manner of disregarding societal standards or expectations. These behaviors are not typical and happen in an informal and relaxed manner, not necessarily part of a normal daily routine. It can be seen as a form of indulging in comfort or pleasure at an unusual time, in an unstructured way and without succumbing to social norms.

To exemplify what goblin mode is, David McNamee, a self-proclaimed “real-life goblin” says, “Goblin mode is like waking up at 2 a.m. and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long T-shirt to make a strange snack, like melted cheese on saltines.” 

For the first time ever, Oxford Languages deviated from the usual language-data analysis process and decided to let the public vote for the Word of the Year. They asked people to choose between the top three expressions of the year—goblin mode, metaverse and #IStandWith. More than 300,000 people participated in the vote and an overwhelming majority—about 93 percent—voted in favor of “goblin mode”, reflecting the term’s relatability.

The website PC Gamer even made a passionate appeal for people to vote for the term, encouraging them to prioritize self-care and enjoyment over societal expectations. As a result, many people voted for the term, showing their support for the “goblin style of living”.

According to Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, the term has become more relatable as it describes feeling overwhelmed, something many people have felt due to recent events, such as the pandemic and the lockdown. 

Grathwohl adds, “It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealised, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds”. This is evident in the growing popularity of platforms like BeReal, where users go into “goblin mode” and share unfiltered and unedited images to showcase their more vulnerable sides and even their moments of feeling overwhelmed or stressed. 

How entering “goblin mode” can help you

The practice of engaging in “goblin mode” can have several potential advantages, including:

Feeling relaxed and less stressed

One of the main benefits of engaging in “goblin mode” is to relax and reduce stress. This can be achieved by taking a break, spending time alone and engaging in self-care activities. 

Mary Spillane, a mental health expert for the Headspace app, states that goblin mode is a natural coping mechanism for stress. She explains that it is normal for people to take time for themselves or spend time alone, as it allows them to “process their thoughts and emotions, feel more rested and get to know themselves better”. 

Empowers authenticity

The goblin mode allows people to break free from societal expectations and be their authentic selves. Jennifer Alumbaugh, a licensed marriage and family therapist who now works as a mindset coach, echoes similar thoughts and adds that the mainstreaming of goblin mode can be particularly useful for individuals with disabilities. 

According to Alumbaugh, many people with disabilities have found increased autonomy and freedom by being able to work from home. They no longer have to deal with dress codes and impractical clothing, and they can work in spaces that are comfortable for them, even if that means working from bed. This type of flexibility allows them to work in a way that accommodates their needs and preferences.

But “goblin mode” has its downsides too

It’s important to note that being in a goblin mode can lead to negative consequences, such as a lack of motivation, isolation, depression and unhealthy habits. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, New York City-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind, emphasizes that extremes in any aspect of life, including self-care and physical appearance, are not healthy. 

She adds, “I don’t like seeing my patients obsessed with every aspect of their physical appearance to the point where they constantly feel the need to alter it via aesthetic surgery. On the other hand, it’s a sign of depression if someone remains in a constant goblin mode and cares nothing about their appearance. There must be a happy medium.” 

It’s also crucial to remember that the concept of “goblin mode” should not be used as a pretext for shirking responsibilities and avoiding personal growth and development. Additionally, if you are experiencing negative emotions or behavior at work, it is important to address the root causes and seek help from a professional, such as a therapist or counselor.

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Header image courtesy of Pexels


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