This year Mashable is celebrating the season of love with Horny on Main, an exploration of the many ways that thirsting for sex affects our lives.
Every app eventually becomes a dating app.
With Twitter and Instagram users , and Facebook trying to , it certainly appears that way. Even sites like , a social network site for neighborhoods, get in on the action with thirsty posts from users looking for dates (or, let’s be real, hookups).
Is TikTok any different?
“Users aren’t going on there to swipe left and right to match with someone,” Andrew Selepak, PhD, a media professor at the University of Florida and director of the graduate program in social media there, told Mashable. “But it doesn’t mean that people are not meeting on there, or starting relationships from virtual meetings over social media,” he continued. Like Twitter and Instagram, TikTok is the latest iteration of the “slide into DMs”-type of online dating.
Arguably, the most famous person so far to announce they’re looking for love on TikTok is YouTuber James Charles, who has amassed millions of subscribers in the beauty community (and has had his fair share of drama within it as well). “I made one major observation since downloading TikTok a few weeks ago, and it’s that this app is pretty much a dating app,” he said. “Everyone on here is either in a very cute relationship or is painfully single.”
Charles said he wanted to play “TikTok Bachelor” in an effort to put himself out there in 2020. He went on to describe his personality and interests as if writing his Tinder bio.
While Charles did not respond to Mashable’s request for comment, it’s easy to see what he’s talking about. Typing “date me” into the search bar yields hashtags that have millions upon millions of views, the most popular being “#someonedateme,” which has over 25 million views. Also popular are “#datemeplz,” “plsdateme,” and “reasonstodateme,” which have millions of views each.
TikTok users themselves are also questioning whether they could find love on the video-sharing app, with “#istiktokadatingapp” racking up millions of views.
Given that (just behind WhatsApp) and has amassed , its trends can make a serious impact. It has become not just a springboard for in practically record time, it’s also an outlet for those users — many of them in Generation Z — to express themselves.
Teens make TikToks about hot-button issues such as . . Memes, like jokes as a whole, can . It’s no surprise that teens have flocked to a social network that they use to communicate universal concerns and desires. While they might joke about needing a date and wanting a solution to loneliness, there’s a nugget of truth there.
These ‘toks are basically makeshift dating profiles, putting users’ best qualities on display — even if it’s text overlaid on video of them dancing to a viral song. The text may reveal their occupation, or desirable traits like ability to cook. But it’s the dancing or song choice in the video and how they really present themselves that displays a side of their personality dating apps can’t (at least presently).
“We love that the platform encourages people to be their authentic selves, whether that’s sharing the quirky side of a loving relationship or the endearing attributes that make someone TikTok’s most eligible bachelor,” said TikTok’s spokesperson.
User @lensgrunt’s TikTok is captioned under the “#someonedateme” hashtag, and it really does read like a makeshift dating profile. Grunt demonstrates his talent for photography by showing off his DSLR and points to his work ethic by dancing near a sign that reads “Discipline Equals Freedom.” Even the caption feels like something you’d see on Tinder.
“Everyone is posting ‘reasons why I’m single’ videos so I thought I might flip the concept on its head and see what happens,” Grunt told Mashable in an Instagram DM.
“I wanna do a little test, if you would seriously date me — like a serious date — I want you to like this,” Oberg’s audio proclaims. “No one else ‘like’ this if you won’t… I wanna see how many of you would really.” While Oberg did not respond to Mashable’s request for comment, Denis did. Her video had received more than 14,000 likes at the time of publication.
“I think TikTok is just an app that brings teens and young adults together because you never know who will be on your ‘for you’ page. And I have met many amazing people on TikTok,” she said over Instagram DM.
Unfortunately, you can’t discuss the cutesy, well-intentioned flirty TikToks without also acknowledging the darker side of the app. Given its young user base, . Underage teens have also participated in nudity “challenges,” where they drop their pants in front of a filter. This has led to predators posing as women to message them, according to a report from MEL Magazine.
Unlike apps like Instagram and Twitter, both of which are most popular with the 18-29 age demographic, TikTok’s target audience is between 13 and 17, according to Selepak. This leaves young people, particularly young women, vulnerable to receiving messages from older men.
“You never know who you will find, and many of us do try to find ‘dates’ or try to find a ‘boy/girl’ for them.”
“While the innocence of love might exist with people meeting and starting up relationships after contacting someone whose video they saw on TikTok, more devious things could also be occurring as well,” Selepak said. “Which makes it something parents should consider when their child creates a TikTok account for others to view.”
Even if a user isn’t underage, there is still potential for abuse. “In discussions with numerous women in particular, I have been shocked to hear how many of them receive DMs from strangers trying to hit on them, start up a conversation with sexual overtones, or ask for graphic content,” Selepak said. On TikTok, a user cannot message another unless they both follow each other. The app does, however, make it easy to link to other social platforms where users can DM strangers.
TikTok has exploded in the past two years, but it’s still in its infancy compared to other apps. Just as other social media networks — and dedicated dating apps — have made steps to curb similar behavior, TikTok may follow suit. There’s already a section of TikTok’s blog dedicated to safety awareness.
And, as with social media as a whole, despite TikTok’s problems, there is room for genuine connection. Denis told Mashable she posted her video because the sound component of the original went viral and produced other viral videos, giving it greater potential for hers to go viral as well — but also because “There are so many good looking boys on tiktok, and you never know who you will find, and many of us do try to find ‘dates’ or try to find a ‘boy/girl’ for them.”
Denis doesn’t think people wanting to date on TikTok is “serious serious,” but rather, a chance to see who likes and comments. But one “never knows” who will comment and like — a new friend, or something more, can arise. Denis has met many people on the app that she stays in contact with, she said.
Grunt said he did not expect dates to come from his TikTok, and that he hasn’t gotten any because the women interested him are not local. “It has garnered a lot of female followers, though,” he said.
No “TikTok power couples” have emerged just yet, but it’s all but inevitable. In any case, on social media, a follow may be even more flattering than a date.