Rod Thill Is Using Humor and Relatability to Help Us Cope

rod thill

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Rod Thill is something of a TikTok sensation thanks to his videos that find the sweet spot between humor, vulnerability, and the all-too-common experience of millennial anxiety.

It’s become a cliche to describe the last few years as ‘unprecedented times’, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And Thill, known on TikTok simply as Rod and @justme.rod on Instagram, has been there for us almost throughout. That's why he has been named one of the Verywell Mind 25, an award honoring those who are using their platform to move our collective conversations around mental health forward.

For those of us who had to grow used to working from home, the Chicago native became someone we could relate to with his trademark brand of humor and his popular sketch videos. What makes him so popular is the way he blends millennial pop culture wit with mental health and anxiety awareness, and the work stresses many of us know all too well. 

His videos have been said to fall under the category of Corporate Millennial TikTok. He’ll highlight the stress and anxiety you’re likely to feel during a typical workday, whether it be making light of the urge to get home and relax on a Friday or simply joking about the frustrations of trying to send the right email. 

Building Community Around Millennial Angst, Overwork, and Men's Mental Health

And in particular, Thill has helped to shine a light on men’s mental health, something that all too often goes under the radar. For Thill growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, mental health—particularly in men—wasn’t really discussed.

He began going to therapy in 2016, and realized that therapy isn’t just for solving issues—it improves communication and your own understanding of yourself. Certainly, Thill has been on a journey, and he’s helping others to go on similar journeys too. 

Thill had long been a fan of short-form video platforms like Vine, and he first joined TikTok in 2019. But, it was a year later that he began really creating content. He started to blow up on the app in October 2020, around half a year into the pandemic, and two and a half years later he boasts 1.6 million followers. His videos have amassed almost 100 million likes altogether. 

Thill told ONE37pm that, since graduating from college in 2012, he'd never been unemployed. However, he doesn’t adopt the attitude that overworking is healthy. On the contrary, he’s previously discussed concepts like the four-day working week and increased maternity and paternity leave, suggesting that they could benefit both workers and employers. 

In 2021, Thill began fundraising for The Jed Foundation, a non-profit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teenagers and young adults. He promised that if $10,000 was raised, he’d re-create the performance of the song ‘Bet On It’ from High School Musical 2, and donors indeed exceeded the target, raising a total of $10,781 for the organization through GoFundMe.

And last year, Thill created his own newsletter, WorkDaze, which comes out every Monday and Friday. In his own words, the newsletter explores “work culture and how it intersects with mental health, social media, and millennial humor”. 

Of late, he’s discussed issues such as inclusivity in the workplaces—and how employees can hold their employers accountable—as well as insecurities, asking for a raise without burning bridges, and how to stop comparing yourself to other people.

His videos do a great job highlighting the very real work people with office jobs have to do in order to stay grounded, often with punchy text statements set to popular TikTok songs. In one video he starts off by saying "takes a week off for my mental health" and then cuts to "going back to work combatting everything I healed during vacation".

He is also a big advocate for the power of nostalgia, often in the form of music. He believes that for stressed-out millennials, revisiting the songs of the early 2000s can bring joy and mental calmness. For example, he starts one video writing "me literally 5 minutes after having a menty b" and then cuts to him dancing to a nostalgic pop song.

Like his TikTok videos, his newsletters look at corporate culture and link it to mental health, but perhaps go into more depth. 

How Rod Stays True to Himself and Evolves With the Times

While he’s known for his work-focused TikToks, Thill actually quit his job in sales—and told his followers. And while most were supportive, some did question the decision. “Even the fact of me quitting my job, people were like, ‘Well, why would you do that?’” Thill said to the Chicago Tribune in 2021. “That’s the mentality...that’s why people don’t quit their jobs, because they feel like they’re a failure if they pursue something that makes them feel better mentally.”

And, sometimes when a social media star or influencer gets more popular, fans can feel disillusioned. Indeed, Thill can sometimes receive comments from followers suggesting that he’s ‘too big’ for them. But he remains grounded and dedicated to his audience, it’s just that negativity is part and parcel of the social media experience. 

And, while Covid-19 hasn’t totally gone away, we’ve been moving further from the epicenter of the pandemic. So, is Thill’s content going to be changing? He’s a big fan of cooking, and it’s something that we might see more of on his TikTok account. In fact, he told the Rachael Ray Show that he originally wanted to be a chef, with his love of cooking coming from his grandma. And when he lost her during the pandemic, his therapist suggested that he cook her favorite Greek meals as a way to cope when he misses her. 

He’s still a frequent TikToker, but his recent videos are quite varied. In one, he jokes about visiting New York City as someone from Chicago, while in another he takes a look at what Spring Break is like in your 30s. But elsewhere, he looks at work meetings, crying for no reason, and interpersonal relationships at work. 

Thill has tapped into a real niche, and it’s clear from his 1.6 million followers that many people relate to him. And, with such a focus on mental health, it’s easy to see why.