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Dear TikTok, Couch Guy is my Final Straw

In case you’ve been living under a TikTok free rock the past couple of weeks, a video has been circulating of a girl surprising her long-distance boyfriend at his college. She comes into his apartment to find him sitting on the couch with three other girls and he greets her with (what the internet deems to be) inadequate enthusiasm. 

Now, the video was posted as a cute rendezvous of long-distance partners, probably meant to inspire others and provoke “awws”. However, TikTok did not receive it in this way. Not only did it blow up in popularity, but the entirety of TikTok was consumed with parody videos imitating the original TikTok and home detectives trying to prove that he got caught trying to cheat. With this, came an outpour of comments insisting that the girl posting the video must break up with her boyfriend.

This is the funny thing about TikTok, it’s this environment where everyone hyper-focuses on random people and their lives for a few weeks and then we move on. In those few weeks, all of TikTok is consumed by these people. The creators churn out videos about it because they know they’ll have great outreach, and we viewers are subjected to it because it’s what everyone else is watching. This is the ‘beauty’ of the TikTok algorithm.

Since we spend so much time scrolling, the algorithm really determines a lot of the stuff we see on a day-to-day basis. Our interests and the things we care about are more and more often being dictated by what we see on TikTok. While I have faith in our healthy sense of skepticism to ward off any really dangerous things like misinformation – I have less faith in TikToks algorithm to show us meaningful content. I could genuinely care less about a guy on a couch wearing a scrunchie, and I think all of us except the two people actually in the relationship would be inclined to agree.

I don’t want to dive too deeply into the psychology behind viral videos and the heavy curation of our consumption habits but content like this makes it hard not to. We’re all unique people with diverse interests and passions, usually reflected in our feeds. This makes it super interesting to see the moments that reflect how we are all living an algorithmically chosen shared experience. Like how your feed can be all aesthetic morning routines and cat videos yet you still end up seeing dozens of videos about some girl’s supposedly sketchy boyfriend (or the ‘berries and cream’ sound). Don’t get me wrong, I like using TikTok, but when things like this hit my page I’m really struck by the absurdity of it all. My for you page feels like a unique and nicely curated place until these kinds of viral videos bring that false sense of reality crashing down on me. I should just listen to Camus’ philosophy and roll with it, and stop trying to find meaning in online spaces.

I could honestly go on for hours about the huge impact TikTok has had on globalization and our interactions with one another – but that would make for a long and relatively uninteresting article, perhaps for another day when I have more coffee in my system and less cynicism in my heart.

All I can say for now is that the future may be in your control, but your feed certainly isn’t.

Sierra is a second-year student at UVic, studying philosophy, sociology and all things human. When she's not studying, she loves finding new recipes, watching crime dramas and roaming the aisles of Russell Books.
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