“Girl, he ain’t loyal.” “It’s a red flag.” “She is fighting for her life in these comments.” The TikTok community spun out of control when a video of a girlfriend surprising her long-distance boyfriend at college went viral last week. Other users responded immediately by sharing their thoughts on the 15-second clip in which the boyfriend appears to have a flat, delayed response to his girlfriend’s arrival. They were quick to point out the boyfriend’s suspicious behavior on the couch where he is seen to be sitting and were eager to warn the girlfriend of suspected “red flags.” Thus, the debate of “Couch Guy” was born, and speculation surrounding his relationship began.
Subsequent TikTok videos replayed, slowed down, zoomed in, and examined the suspicious movements flagged in the video. The TikTok community most notably pointed out a potential phone swap, a possible hand of another girl on Couch Guy’s back, and an awkward tone shift in the room upon the girlfriend’s arrival. People have also created parodies mocking the video by highlighting Couch Guy’s suspicious nature. Even The Daily Show recently covered the Couch Guy incident in one of their bits. This publicity and popularity, in turn, spun more debate about the accuracy of this “evidence” gleaned from a shoddy video.
As much of the hype focused on examining Couch Guy’s behavior, some users were also quick to encourage exercising caution about running with the rest of the TikTok crowd. They warned people about jumping to conclusions, and this criticism is not unfounded. Couch Guy posted a video after the fact, indicting people of prematurely concluding that he was an unfaithful partner in his relationship. The girlfriend posted a similar message. Unfortunately, the primary response to these posts were more rumors and denial of the girlfriend’s remarks.
The case of Couch Guy speaks to something bigger than the state of his relationship. The overwhelming response on the app was a quick judgment about the matter despite having limited information about the relationship. This lack of context did not stop the video from trending and users running with this trend. Couch Guy demonstrates a tendency for people to prematurely jump to conclusions based solely off of speculation, a large problem TikTok has exposed. We are so quick to form judgments without taking a second to process and think; yet, even when presented with conflicting information, as put forward by Couch Guy and the girlfriend themselves, users still disregarded these opinions as it conflicts with their primary judgements. I am not innocent of this, either. A part of me wants to engage with this controversy, perhaps because I love true crime and want to solve a mystery, but there may not be any mystery to begin with.
These widespread judgmental responses can have drastic results. One TikTok user reported that Couch Guy has faced harsh backlash from students on his campus. The other girl sitting next to Couch Guy was accused of being his “side piece,” and is also facing criticism from peers and strangers alike. Perhaps Couch Guy is indeed cheating, but perhaps he is not. The only people who are in the best position to judge these facts are those that are actually in the relationship, not users on an app who saw fifteen seconds of a two-year relationship. Couch Guy exhibits our intrusive tendency to insert ourselves into relationships that we know nothing about, as well as our heuristic to speak before thinking. So rather than speculating about whether or not Couch Guy is “guilty,” I encourage you to stop and think before adding fuel to the fire. Before hopping onto the next trend, it would behoove many to take a moment to consider just exactly what rumors are being insinuated and how they may affect those involved. Imagine being on the couch.