A man laying in a road
A man laying in a road

Lying Flatism, The Work Trend Taking China by Storm and Maybe the U.S.

Paul Kiernan

Technology and advances have created a world filled with constant hustle and bustle, where the pursuit of success and material possessions often takes center stage, a growing movement known as "Lying Flatism" has emerged as a countercultural response.

We’ve seen, since the pandemic came, saw, and conquered a lot of changes in the work world. We witnessed the great resignation, the barely minimum Monday, quiet quitting, quiet hiring, and more phenomenon that seem to have stemmed from the mandatory hunkering down to stay alive. One thing that seems most prevalent is the people looking at their lives and daily routines and asking, why? Why am I killing myself to “get ahead?” What am I getting ahead of, and more importantly, what am I sacrificing to get ahead?

In China, a historically competitive society, these questions are being asked more frequently and out loud. China’s government is banking its future on self-reliance and domination in the tech sector. This has been the rule for a long time in China. Work for the good of the state. Work hard, be thankful, work more, and then die. But you’re doing it for the state. Many young Chinese workers have had it with the “996” formula, as they call it. Working from 9 AM til 9 PM 6 days a week. A considerable number of workers have said no to this, and they have started lying down. Unplugging, cutting down on work hours, quitting jobs, and just being present in the moment.

“Lying Flatism,” or tangping (躺平), is the new wave in China, and it’s disrupting the state’s plans. But this new wave of work defiance is not actually new, and it goes beyond just reacting to long hours; it’s a life philosophy, and it may be one that we can all get on board with. It’s not just happening in China, and it may soon be landing on the shores of the good ol’ US of A soon.

Technology and advances have created a world filled with constant hustle and bustle, where the pursuit of success and material possessions often takes center stage, a growing movement known as "Lying Flatism" has emerged as a countercultural response. Lying Flatism, also referred to as "Flatism," is an ideology that advocates for embracing minimalism, simplicity, and contentment in everyday life. Its proponents reject the notion of constant productivity and seek fulfillment in slowing down, disconnecting from the pressures of society, and appreciating the present moment. Let’s delve into the philosophy of Lying Flatism, its core principles, and the potential benefits and challenges it presents.

Origins and Principles of lying flatism

a can of Campbell's tomato soup

Lying flatism finds its roots in various philosophies and movements, such as minimalism, Zen Buddhism, and the slow living movement. It emerged in response to modern society's fast-paced, consumer-driven nature, where individuals often find themselves overwhelmed by a constant stream of demands, obligations, and material desires. Lying flatism challenges this paradigm by advocating for a radical simplification of one's life.

At its core, lying flatism encourages individuals to detach themselves from the pursuit of external achievements and find contentment in the present moment. It promotes the idea that true happiness lies not in accumulating material possessions or pursuing goals but rather in embracing simplicity, finding joy in small pleasures, and cultivating a sense of inner peace. Lying flatism invites individuals to reevaluate their priorities, shed unnecessary burdens, and focus on what truly matters.

The Practice of Lying Flatism

The practice of lying flatism revolves around several fundamental principles. First and foremost is the concept of minimalism, which entails decluttering one's physical and mental space. By reducing material possessions, simplifying daily routines, and eliminating distractions, lying flatism allows individuals to create an environment that fosters tranquility and mindfulness.

Another central aspect of lying flatism is the emphasis on rest and rejuvenation. Proponents of lying flatism believe in the importance of taking breaks, slowing down, and allowing oneself to rest without guilt. This notion challenges the prevailing idea that constant productivity is the ultimate measure of success. Instead, lying flatism recognizes the significance of self-care and replenishing one's physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Furthermore, lying flatism encourages individuals to disconnect from our hyperconnected world. It promotes digital detoxes, limiting screen time, and embracing solitude. By disconnecting from the constant barrage of information and external stimuli, lying flatism allows individuals to cultivate a deeper connection with themselves and the world around them.

Benefits and Challenges of Lying Flatism

Lying flatism offers several potential benefits for those who adopt its principles. By simplifying one's life, individuals may experience reduced stress, increased mental clarity, and enhanced overall well-being. Embracing minimalism can help individuals break free from the shackles of consumerism and find contentment in having less. Additionally, lying flatism may foster a greater appreciation for the present moment as individuals learn to savor small pleasures and find joy in simplicity.

However, lying flatism also presents its own set of challenges. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle can be met with skepticism or even resistance from others in a society that often measures success by external achievements and material possessions. Furthermore, the pressures and expectations of modern life can make it difficult to fully commit to the principles of lying flatism. Balancing the desire for simplicity with the realities of work, relationships, and societal expectations can be a delicate dance of navigating a complex world.

Additionally, the concept of time can pose a unique challenge for followers of lying flatism. While embracing leisure and rest is a central tenet, adherents may grapple with guilt or feelings of unproductivity when faced with societal expectations of constant productivity and busyness. Finding harmony between personal values and external pressures requires continuous self-reflection and discipline. Moreover, the lack of a prescribed roadmap or clear set of guidelines in lying flatism can leave individuals uncertain and unsure of how to incorporate its principles into their daily lives.

Nevertheless, those dedicated to the philosophy understand that the path to a simpler, more meaningful existence is not without its obstacles. They are willing to confront these challenges head-on to pursue a balanced and fulfilled life.

“All our lives we sweat and save/Building for a shallow grave/Must be something else we say/Somehow to defend this place/Everything must be this way/Everything must be this way, yeah” - The Doors
The Doors
A view into a coffee shop

State & Society

In China, the state and the demands put on the people to produce and now, to consume, to save the state are roadblocks to those pursuing lying flatism. Here in the US, with no government to scream for the good of the state, we still have hurdles to leap. The feelings of guilt and the displeasure of a judgemental society that sees stuff and things as signs of being a good person and a success get in the way of people finding balance in their lives and getting off the work more treadmill.

We witnessed this with the great resignation, people saying enough and asking why. People seeking to find more personal time, more time to enjoy life, and to stop trying to climb the corporate ladder because that’s what you do.

Artists and creative types have done this for centuries, working at their own pace, putting art and creativity ahead of working endlessly for reasons they cannot understand. The idea that you want to give your family the very best, so you work insane hours, weekends, and holidays seems counter-intuitive when viewed through the eyes of the lying flat proponents. All that work, those long hours, those weekends and holidays being with the company rather than the family, run counter to the reason for doing it. Giving the family the best, but are they getting the best if you’re not there with them?

Society says you must work and show that you work by buying things. In the end, what does that get you?

A Complete Detachment

The movement in China goes beyond refusing to work long hours and having no personal life. Lying flatists refuse to participate in a consumerist lifestyle. This means they shun pursuing high-paying jobs, the 996 workstyle, and purchasing expensive goods, wracking up credit debt. They also shun getting married and having children. In fact, most lying flatists shun community gatherings and society itself, preferring to remain alone. They find that personal efforts are no longer effective in improving their personal lives.

Even before lying flatism had its day in the sun, many countries worldwide are seeing a rise in singlehood; lying flatism reinforces the desire to be single.

Young people, in particular, are seeing the advantages of being single. They appreciate the increased autonomy and the lack of financial responsibilities that comes with being single.

In China, more young men are saying they feel happy being single. They also say they stay single to have more personal space. And many say that engaging in a romantic relationship is just not necessary.

Let the Rats Win

graffiti of a rat coming out of a brick wall

It’s important to note that the lying flatists are not against working; they are against the imposed need to buy more, build up credit, and give their entire lives to the job leaving themselves empty and wondering why.

The lying flat movement is not about being lazy, as they are sometimes judged. Nor are they selfish, as the Chinese state labels them, saying their lack of productivity is selfish, putting their own needs and lives ahead of the state.

When this movement hits the States, as it will, I can imagine the labels that will be dropped on those who choose to participate: losers, lazy, communists, and the like. But this just isn’t true. Lying flatists are not lazy, advocating everyone should stop working, or when you’re working, only give half measures. Not at all. They believe in working to achieve peace, simplicity, and comfort. They believe in working hard for a few months and then living life.

It’s about balance and perspective. It’s about asking why and not just doing it because that’s what we always do. It’s about purpose and not just consuming because that’s success. The rat race has been running for centuries, and as far as the lying flatists see things, no one wins that race, so why not let the rats win and the rest of us, we can truly enjoy life.

Drop Us a Line

At ThoughtLab, the work/life balance has always been important to us; people need to live and not just work. Balanced employees are happy employees. We expect great things from our team, but not at the cost of their lives.

What do you think? Drop us a line here at ThoughtLab and let us know what you think of lying flatism; we’d love to know.