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Mack Z: U of A student navigates virality while maintaining authenticity

“It’s not always easy being a student. Find things that work for you,” Mackenzie Merriott says.

University students are well-acquainted with a laundry list of essentials that keep us ticking. For many, this means relying on caffeinated beverages and scheduling apps. However, Mackenzie Merriott, a third-year honours physiology student at the University of Alberta, takes a slightly different approach.

Merriott documents her unordinary study habits in lifestyle videos on TikTok. Waking up at 3:00 a.m. to study, and relying on bone broth and raw liver for scholarly functionality, has sparked both criticism and genuine intrigue from millions of viewers worldwide.  

Merriott, who goes by ‘Mack Z’ on TikTok, is colloquially referred to as ‘Bone Broth Girl’ by fascinated viewers on the app. Her content focuses on productivity and caters to university and high school students. Although viewers have questioned if her videos are satirical, Merriott said the content is “true to [her] lifestyle.”

”Obviously social media is going to only show the best parts. You’re only getting a single day of my week,” Merriott said. “Not every day is perfect, for sure. But, I try to be as authentic as possible.”

Initially, Merriott started posting her life on social media out of pure boredom last year during winter semester. This, and a sports injury she sustained in high school, made it important for her to have a creative outlet. She found that outlet by making TikToks.

”I was gonna play sports in university. But then I was injured,” she explained. “I wasn’t super fulfilled. So I wanted some sort of creative outlet, and I started making TikToks.”

Originally, her friends were the only ones watching the videos. However, in the 2023 fall semester, the videos began to gain traction.

“That’s when I noticed the difference,” she said. As her platform grew online, so did her fame in real life. Merriott said people started recognizing her in Edmonton.

“It’s been funny. A couple people on campus, grocery stores — all over.”

Waking up to study earlier helps Merriott “turn off,” positively impacts her grades

Although Merriott is a third-year physiology student, she switched into the program in her second-year. She revealed that her eccentric study structure only began after transitioning into university.

”My first two years of university, I was not doing this routine at all,” she explained. “I was always disciplined, but the actual waking up earlier only came when I started posting my TikToks.”

Merriott found that structuring her time differently has helped her academically. Prior to adopting this schedule, studying at night made it difficult for her to “turn off” her mind and stop revising due to perfectionist tendencies.

”In my [first] two years, it was kind of miserable,” she joked. “When you study in the morning, you can get a dedicated amount of work done.” For Merriott, her very early morning schedule has made her more balanced, which she said has reflected positively on her grades.

Despite backlash, Merriott stays committed to living life on her own terms

While her study schedule is a fairly recent development, Meriott’s palate has always been diverse.

In the past, Merriott has tried vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free diets. Now, she focuses on what makes her feel the best.

Some may call Merriott’s lifestyle disciplined and unsustainable, but she believes that “what is disciplined is up to the individual.”

”For me, socializing didn’t ever come easy,” she said. Although viewers online might consider Merriott’s lifestyle as extreme, she finds that “it’s not too straining” as someone who knows when to push and when to relax.

Merriott’s lifestyle has also been subject to criticism for her lack of socialization with others. However, it doesn’t affect her.

“Maybe I’m more introverted,” she admitted. “But it doesn’t really bother me too much.”

Merriott encourages students to find outlets that work for them

In the court of public opinion, sharing your life online exposes you to criticism from people you’ve never met. Merriott received a fair share of negative public reception in response to her content, especially when her videos started gaining more traction.

“I don’t read the comments as much. Because I just don’t think it’s helpful,” she said. “If my videos inspire some people — that’s the only reason I keep making them.”

Merriott has one year left in her undergraduate degree, after which she hopes to pursue a post-graduate program.

”I don’t feel like I know myself enough to settle on something right now. But I definitely know there’s more schooling after my undergrad,” Merriott said. “My goal right now is to keep my grade point average in a place where I [can] keep my options open for whatever I might feel.”

Merriott encouraged students to find outlets to fulfill themselves, because it’s not easy being a student.

“Find things that work for you, just to get through the four years. And be yourself. I think that’ll take you far.”

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

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