Let’s face it, quarantine has left us clinging onto any semblance of human interaction we can find. Even rarer? Romantic interaction, which, for some, can seem like a dream in this socially distanced, masked-up environment. Yet there are still plenty of reminders for single people on TikTok that love is alive and well during the pandemic. If your FYP is flooded with cutesy couple content that makes you feel more single than ever, you're not alone.
TikTok has seen rapid growth in just the past year alone, jumping from nearly 40 million users in the United States in October 2019 to over 100 million in August 2020. Content about relationships is highly popular on the platform, where happily-in-love partners film their daily routines, reminisce about how their love story first began, make fun of each other’s silly quirks, and engage in various challenges like #fliptheswitch, the Q&A challenge, the “pretending to be each other for a day” challenge, and more. If watching these videos is fun for you, then by all means, keep scrolling — but if it weighs on your mental health, it might be time to seek out other types of content.
Leanna Yuan, 19, has never been in a romantic relationship before and admits that all the couples videos on TikTok spark feelings of jealousy. “Part of me is like, oh my gosh, that is so cute and wholesome. But also, there is a point at which it does get annoying to see,” she says. “I sent one couple-y thing to my friend and now everything on my FYP is just couple-y things. The TikTok algorithm just shoves it in your face.”
The algorithm is indeed the enemy. One lighthearted decision to engage with a TikTok can result in an endless stretch of couples content dominating your feed, reinforcing feelings you may not have realized existed before.
TikTok creator Audrey Peters, 23, is known for her blunt, unabashed takes on dating and pop culture. She has come to fully embrace her singlehood as a powerful state of being, but admits that even she, the queen of roasting men to her 228,000 followers, finds herself feeling down sometimes after viewing TikToks of happy couples on repeat.
How does Peters put things into perspective? The answer is simple — it’s called the vibe check. Peters sets her iPhone alarm every hour of the day to remind herself to take a deep breath and remember any feelings of negativity are temporary, not permanent.
If she ever gets sick of watching people fall in love on TikTok, she knows what to do. “I can literally delete this app and just be done with it.” Peters quips.
Carly Weinstein, a TikToker who uses her platform to spread self-love and positivity, tells Elite Daily how it’s tough to be single living in New York City after graduating college. “I just think there’s a pressure to always be in a relationship, especially for millennials,” Weinstein says. She adds that sharing relationship content can be a good way to get views and up your chances of going viral.
As a young female TikTok creator, Weinstein admits she faces pressure from her 117,000 followers to share dating stories and relationship content. Instead, she addresses the demand with self-deprecating humor about being single with the hope that it'll help other people feel less alone.
“The issue with TikTok and young users is that it doesn’t give them a full perspective of what a relationship looks like. It almost depicts an unreal version of it,” says Dr. Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist who specializes in therapy for couples and millennials.
Even if a video displays an authentic slice of a particular relationship (instead of being scripted or staged), it's not a true representation of how two people always feel about each other. Viewers are not given access to the kinds of conversations or real arguments these couples are having outside of the 30-second video they’re packaging for their loyal audiences. According to Dr. Strongin, this limited view of what a relationship looks like can have a “detrimental effect” and “isolate young people even more.”
“When you’re single and have a lot of friends in relationships, you’re not watching your friends in a relationship all the time and you can choose to be a third wheel,” she says. The difference on TikTok is that it’s constantly being fed to you. “Social media and over-consumption of it is causing in increase in anxiety and mood disorders.”
This rings especially true when consuming hours of content that emphasizes an online couple’s relationship on the surface level. Not only can this contribute to heightened anxiety, but it also can increase feelings of FOMO, says Liz Higgins, LMFT, founder of Millennial Life Counseling.
“Just like there are a lot of couples who look like they’re having the best time of their life during [the pandemic], we have to think about the others who aren’t posting how hard it is,” Higgins says. “They might come out of this not in a relationship anymore. There’s a lot of polarization that can happen in a relationship under intense stress like what we’re seeing in the world right now.”
TikTok isn’t all bad, though. Higgins recommends creating balance by intentionally seeking out content that makes you feel good. Andrew Kim, 20, tells Elite Daily he likes watching videos about dating and relationships made by creators who share his identities. “I am a Korean-American who identifies as gay, and I come from a religious background," he says. He adds that finding relatable content created by "regular people" — not influencers — feels helpful and uplifting.
As long as you watch TikTok with a grain of salt and a discerning eye, there truly is a way to have fun with it. Contrary to what the app may have you believe, relationships require good ole tender loving care — not just dance moves and lip-syncing skills. Chances are, the TikTok couple that seems to get along beautifully in their tiny studio apartment during quarantine had their fair share of fights and rough patches. They might even be jealous of you.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, clinical psychologist
Liz Higgins, LMFT, founder of Millennial Life Counseling