‘Hot Girl Summer’ Is a State of Mind

“You don’t have to ask for permission to be hot online,” Ms. Sundberg said. “You can take up space and perform and create your own power dynamics between yourself and your audience. I think being hot online is sort of pure and, debatably, what social media was originally for.”

Since May, women have been commemorating their graduation days by filling their social media timelines with photos of themselves in caps and gowns, along with captions alluding to their own hotness. “Real hot girls major in STEM,” read the mortarboard of one graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Ariana Nathani, a 25-year-old podcaster and event planner, has noticed the new usage of “hot.”

“There’s not one thing that defines what hot is,” she said. “It’s confidence. It’s the way you dress, the way that you present yourself to other people. That doesn’t mean you have to be the most symmetrically, physically perfect human being. I feel like that isn’t even as desirable anymore. Our definition of attraction and attractiveness has expanded so much.”

David Ko, an interior designer in Los Angeles, has a growing list of fairly banal phenomena that he defines as hot. They include tan lines, going on vacation, sugar-free candy, iced coffee, texting right back and trucker hats.

“There’s a campiness to it,” Mr. Ko, 30, said.

That ironic tone comes through loud and clear on social media. Since 2020, TikTok users have been posting videos of themselves doing activities that they deem hot to a snippet of Megan Thee Stallion’s feminist anthem “Girls in the Hood.” The videos begin with a snippet of audio taken from a Coach commercial in which Megan Thee Stallion explains that she can’t talk right now, because she is busy being hot. The activities shown in the videos include tapping on a laptop, doing homework on a Saturday night and cleaning crevices of student housing with sponges and brushes.

Nylon has reported on tinned fish as a “hot girl food,” and Vice noted the rise of the so-called “hot girl walk,” a phenomenon started by the TikTok influencer Mia Lind that encourages young women to go on four-mile walks while remaining focused on self-affirming thoughts in three areas: what they are grateful for; their goals in life and how they plan to accomplish them; and how hot they are. “You may not think of any boys or any boy drama,” Ms. Lind said in the video that laid out the ground rules.