Three months ago, Macey Irving, an 18-year-old in Ontario, Canada, manifested a boyfriend.
One night, she wrote down specific qualities she wanted in a “perfect” partner: tall, dark hair, green eyes, into conspiracy theories, extroverted, not cocky. At the bottom of the page, she wrote, “with harm to none, I summon my ‘perfect’ person into my life.” A month later, they met someone who fit the exact qualities she’d written down.
“I was surprised because we were talking and I said, ‘What color eyes do you have?’ just to make sure that I was checking off a box and they were like, ‘green eyes’ and I was like, OK, these are checking too many boxes. I was like, ‘OK, this is my manifestation,’” Irving tells NYLON.
Ultimately, Irving decided not to date this person because she wanted to focus on school, but she couldn’t believe the manifestation worked. “I felt like I needed to work on my manifestations for something bigger,” they said. “There are much more important things, like career and all that.”
Irving is one of the hundreds of thousands of people using TikTok to learn about manifesting. Whether it’s manifesting love, cash, or career opportunities, the platform is full of people who want things and even more ways to get them. The hashtag #manifestation currently has more than 15 billion views. In a time when dating feels like a hellscape, we’re witnessing the live collapse of nearly every system, and we’re still on the hook for student loans, you might as well try lighting some incense and asking for what it is that you really want. There’s a range of ways to manifest that include everything from the spiritual — being in touch with yourself, journaling, meditation — to the straight-up witchy, like writing seven times in a row that you want your crush to text you while lighting sage over your iPhone.
“Manifestation is a catchall phrase for spell work, for setting intentions, for creating a more honest experience for yourself for what you are looking for in this lifetime,” says Aliza Kelly, astrologer and author of This Is Your Destiny: Using Astrology to Manifest Your Best Life. “For me, manifesting is not just about getting things — it’s also about living an honest life and living a life that is aligned with who you are, what you desire and the ways you want to show up in the world.”
Kelly says there are two parts to manifestation — one exists in the physical realm, which are action items like applying to jobs you want or touring apartments you’re interested in, and the other exists in the spiritual realm, where we do things like set intentions, create vision boards, do rituals, or light candles and incense. For manifestation to work, you must do both in tandem.
“You can’t just do one magical ritual candle work and not follow it up with actionable items in the physical world,” she says.
Shawn Owens runs @blondechile, a TikTok account where he offers actionable ways to manifest for his 73,000 followers. He says he’s been able to manifest things like luxury apartments out of nowhere — and even manifested our interview. He tells me in June, he wrote down that he wanted to have a feature in a magazine, and six months later, he got an email from NYLON.
“Honestly, it scares me sometimes when I look at things I've spoken or thought about that I see come,” Owens says. “It’s all about trusting in that journey. It might not come as quickly as you want it. I set the intentions; I let the universe do its work. I feel like anything that is for you, you can attract to your life if you open yourself up to it.”
Owens meditates daily, as well as practices visualization, where you get really specific about visualizing yourself in situations you want to be in or posing a question that your future self would know the answer to and recording your response. He also practices scripting, which is writing out in detail things you want in your life in the form of very detailed journaling.
“Visualization is the best manifestation technique,” Owens says. “I’ve used that technique to manifest my apartment; I started to visualize myself in that space. Be specific about making coffee or decorating things to embody the energy of the thing you’re trying to attract in your life,” he says. “I feel like manifesting is just as easy as breathing. It’s a part of you.”
Of course, because TikTok has a robust #WitchTok community, there are also many manifestation methods that skew a little witchier. Some of these manifestation techniques feel more like spells to conjure things you want, rather than practices like meditation, which feel like they have a spiritual health or wellness component. One of these witchier manifestations is the 777 method, which the user @babywitchred explains in a video that has gained 8.5 million views since August 2021. She wanted to manifest a guy contacting her in a matter of minutes because he is so obsessed with her. First, she writes the numbers 1-7 on a piece of paper three times. In the first row, she writes the person’s name seven times, in the second row, she wrote: “John Doe is heavily obsessed with only me.” In the next row, “John Doe is texting me right now.” She finished by writing one sentence that sums up exactly what she wants. In her case: “John Doe is so obsessed with me. Anytime he tries to forget about me, he remembers me most. He cannot stop thinking about contacting me. He is contacting me any second now,” and then writes “thank you” to the universe three times.
If you’re skeptical, the user @babywitchred has posted several videos of messages from followers explaining how the 777 method worked for them. Manifesting isn’t just used for love (a waste of magic, TBH), but people also use it for things like fertility, growing your business or for money or friendships.
But manifesting shouldn’t just be a quick-fix to get something you want, even if it feels innocuous. Alex Kazemi, author of Pop Magick: A Simple Guide to Bending Your Reality (whose fans include Madonna), warns that manifesting should be done with the utmost of care, intention, and with a sense of selflessness. He warns that when manifesting is done in service of your own ego, it becomes like “a genie that people don’t know how to handle,” he tells NYLON.
Something like manifesting a boyfriend can be “very dangerous in that you are messing with another person’s will and tampering and changing the timeline of your own self’s will in a way that will come back threefold,” Kazemi says, citing the example of how you could wish for money, but then only get it because someone dies and you inherit it. “There’s no service to the world or to others if John Doe is going to text you. You will receive that with a sense of chaos.”
Along with work in the physical and spiritual realms, proponents of manifestation have been using ambient, dreamscape sounds, which occasionally will go viral on the platform. Users are told to save the sound to their favorites, and if they do so, something good will happen. A recent sound that went viral in November had TikTok creators claiming finding $800 on the ground or “getting a boyfriend out of nowhere.”
Haters in the comments are quick to label videos like this as “Gen Z chain mail” or point out confirmation bias, or the Law of Attraction, which is the tendency to seek out information that supports our beliefs. But whether it’s coincidence or confirmation bias or simply that we only see videos from a small slice of people the sound and other manifesting methods “worked,” for — you can’t deny these methods are working for a lot of TikTok users.
Kelly thinks Tiktok can be a good way to get into manifestation, but recommends a more comprehensive approach to go along with watching videos.
“Those surface-level ways only go so far, and when they are operating in that domain, it can look like a parlor trick without all the other insight and wisdom and deep meditation and reflection and exploration and mentorship to support a practice,” she says, adding: “I love gateways into spirituality, so if someone finds manifestation through a 15-second video, hopefully they’ll continue to go deeper.”
If you’re new to manifesting, Kelly recommends starting by journaling to get more in touch with what you really want. She recommends a “brain dump” in a journal, where you set a 10-minute timer and write your wants, wishes, and desires, or what she describes as the “who, what, where, when, why of your psyche.”
“Set a timer for 10 minutes and unapologetically, shamelessly express your truth. Oftentimes, the biggest hurdle we have, through not just manifestation, but anything in our life, is shame — us being embarrassed to be a certain way or feeling like we’re not good enough or it’s too far-fetched to desire those types of things,” she says. “Overcoming that is going to allow you to start to be honest about what you really want and then you can build manifestations from there.”
She also adds that, despite manifesting seeming like a quick way to get what we desire most — it’s not always about getting things or achieving things; it’s not always a means to an end — and it’s not always as sexy as getting a luxury apartment or finding cash on the ground.
“Not every manifestation is about saying ‘I want money or love.’ Some manifestations are about saying ‘I need to release. I need to let go. I need healing,’” she says. “Work with all of the things that are going on and not just the things that sound good.”
Kazemi recommends practicing “safe magic,” or trying to do something that’s not rooted in your own self-interest.
“Desire in itself is not inherently negative,” he says, adding that the universe is good and does generally want to give us things, but the key is to detach from the outcome.
“If we could understand magic outside of getting things and see it as an alchemy of change and internally nurturing ourselves,” he says, “it will be so much more fulfilling.”