MIA FREEDMAN: 'Why I didn't post a 2023 recap reel.'

This article originally appeared on Mia Freedman's Babble, a newsletter delivering content on pop culture, modern life and being a Gen Xer in a Gen Z world. Sign up here.

Oh, the pressure. At this time of year, I usually take time off making content of all kinds which is both a relief and uncomfortable. A relief because at every other time of year, I am a content-making machine and not doing that feels a wee bit like getting off a treadmill and resting my brain.

The discomfort comes from the fact that I feel most myself, most happy, most in flow in the two following situations:

  1. Hanging with my family when everyone is in good form

  2. Making content

By content, I mostly mean writing or podcasting. Social feels like a bit more of a burden. Like feeding a ravenous beast that will never be satisfied. How much engagement is enough. How many followers are enough. How much business growth is enough.

It would be easy to say that all that pressure is external but for me, it's an internal voice that drives me far more than any external measure. And it's exhausting inside my head. The voice never shuts up. Except? For a few weeks at this time of year.

Sort of.

When you run a business, holidays hit different. You can put your out-of-office on and check your phone less and even delete Slack. But you can't ever check out completely. Also, you don't accrue annual leave days when you're the boss. The good part about that is that you don't have to get anyone to approve your leave and in theory, you can take as many holidays as you want. The bad part is that you don't because you can't. Not if you want your business to survive, let alone thrive.


And every person who starts a business wants it to thrive. The stakes are almost always high.

So, 2023 recaps.

Social was full of them in the past couple of weeks: carefully edited reels with carefully chosen soundtracks. A year in the life of me. This isn't a totally new thing. High-profile creators have been doing recap reels for a few years now but this year it became a thing that regular people did too, especially Gen Zs and Millennials.

Watch: Some Outlouders have shared their Words of the Year last 2017. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

If you didn't share a recap reel, did 2023 even happen? That's a headline I clicked on last week which took me to Taylor Lorenz's Washington Post story on the recap reel phenomenon and how it was making people feel like sh*t.

"Videos including the hashtag #2023recap have amassed a collective 1.6 billion views on TikTok. '2023 recap' was listed as one of the most popular searches on Instagram in the days leading up to New Year's Eve. Snapchat is incentivizing recap video creation by prompting users to create TikTok-like 2023 recap videos for the app.


"In yearly recap videos, you — or your friends, cousins, or people you barely know — string together dozens of videos and photos from the past 12 months, often set to the beat of a trending audio track. This new year, they've become an online phenomenon, allowing users an outlet to reflect while also generating anxiety and pressure among young people to commodify their lives into viral content. The trend also shows how the content formats and behaviour of professional influencers are increasingly being adopted by average users.

"Apps have begun making it easier to package the year into a digestible format for a while now. In 2016, an app called Top Nine went viral, allowing Instagram users to share a grid of their top 9 posts. That same year Spotify introduced Spotify Wrapped, a personalized round up of each user's listening activity. Strava, a social fitness app, now provides users with an annual report of their fitness activity, and Goodreads, a platform for book lovers, offers a 'Year in Books' feature summarising users' reading accomplishments. On TikTok, yearly recap videos became popular with high-profile content creators, eventually trickling down to average users.

"'You're getting a recap fed to you in every form of content,' said Arujo.

"The ideas that one should romanticize their life, be the main character and treat life like a movie have become commonplace on TikTok. So it's no surprise that users would begin regurgitating their memories into cinematic highlight reels. 'We have democratised being a content creator where now even your aunt is posting an app downloaded slide show of videos that summarised her year,' said Luke Anderson, a producer in Los Angeles.


"Leo Velazquez, a corporate trainer for an insurance company in Orange County, said that he witnessed a friend having a crisis over his 2023 recap video. His friend posted on Instagram Story saying that it took him 17 edits to create his final 2023 recap video after losing footage in between versions. Velazquez felt like the whole process seemed like too much, and since he hadn't travelled much in 2023, he didn't feel like he had any good content. 'There's so much effort into posting these videos,' he said."

I've been reflecting a lot these past few weeks about the kinds of content we post on social and why we do it. More on that soon — I have another newsletter half written in my head because remember the part where I said it can be hard for me to turn the content-making voice off.

Interestingly though, I did not for one moment consider making or posting a recap reel of my 2023 and not for one moment do I think that makes me better than anyone who did. It just felt like work in a way that writing this newsletter right now does not feel like work.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud where Holly, Jessie and Mia look back at their words from last year before revealing the new word that will shape the mood of 2024.


My favourite content to make is when I want to process how I feel about something in the way I now understand most people do inside their own heads or by having conversations IRL with people they actually know. Or by writing in journals? That seems to be something some people like doing? I am not a journal-ler, perhaps because making content has been my job since I was 19 and writing things that nobody reads feels... wasteful? Pointless? One of my friends who has also been a professional writer since she was a teenager and who also has no interest in journalling used to say, "I don't write anything longer than a cheque unless I'm being paid." Remember cheques? I don't think my children have ever seen one. Even their grandparents transfer money directly into their accounts on birthdays.

The reason I make content though, is to connect.

I have complicated feelings about my 2023 and spending hours and hours curating footage to somehow encapsulate those feelings and packaging up video snippets of all the things I did in the past 12 months seemed impossible and not something I wanted to do. For what? For who?

Instead, I'm reflecting on 2023 in my head. Processing, processing. And thinking about my word of the year for 2024.

Did you choose a word? Tell us in the comments section below.

Feature Image: TikTok @ligorbunova &@mxdhln.