Your finger glides across the screen for hours on end, scouring through the potentials your dating app has to offer. You converse, you meet up for drinks (masked up and outdoors, of course), and then what?
Under normal circumstances, you could talk it out with your closest friends, but in-person interactions are limited, and this chat has moved online. During the pandemic, TikTok has become the go-to platform for people to commiserate on their dating lives, offer advice, and know that they’re not alone.
Specifically, groups of women who date men have formed virtual communities for dishing on all things online dating: the good, the bad, and the ugly. For these women, there is something incredibly affirming about knowing that other people have been through the same process they have in their dating adventures. Whether it’s getting ghosted, dealing with way-too-forward men, or figuring out how to make the first move, there’s a TikTok about it.
Thanks to the ability to “stitch” and “duet” videos, lively comments sections, and personalized For You pages, TikTok has become a useful platform for online dating content. Users are able to spark a conversation or question about dating with instant responses. The #onlinedating hashtag has almost 3 billion views, with many popular videos made by women.
When many areas went into lockdown began in spring 2020, this type of content flourished as people spent more time on both dating apps and TikTok. As millennials and Gen Z’ers alike were sent home with unexciting Twitter and Instagram feeds, there was a natural gravitation toward online dating with even fewer strings attached.
According to a year-end report by Tinder, 2020 saw unprecedented highs for the hookup app. On March 29, 2020, right when most of us began lockdown, Tinder broke its record for most activity in a single day, with over 3 billion swipes left or right.
This number continued to be surpassed throughout the year, as young people gravitated toward online dating. Currently, over 50% of users on Tinder are members of Gen Z.
TikTok users like Alaine Limjoco have found community by sharing and commiserating over their experiences, discussing dating men in an open, lighthearted way. Limjoco is one of many content creators who have pivoted from exclusively fashion and travel inspiration to talking openly and honestly about her experiences with dating men. She has made a conscious effort since starting her social media brand to create safe spaces for women to be themselves.
Limjoco (aka @thefashionbum), a blogger and influencer, began sharing stories from her dating life on TikTok after posting a “get ready with me” video she made before a date one night. In the 60-second clip, she shows herself drinking wine and doing a skincare routine before going out. The video received over 160,000 views. People in the comments wanted an update on how the date went.
Soon, Limjoco’s For You page was filled with dating app content, and she loved it. These videos ranged from “storytimes,” where a user will share dating exploits like they would with a close friend on FaceTime, to survey videos, where someone will send out a Google Form after a date to get feedback on what worked and what didn’t.
Her largely women following accepted this content with open arms. Limjoco has shared on her multiple platforms the comments that she has received from users applauding her for her intimate, unfiltered content.
“It was good to see other people in the same boat as me — you just don’t feel as alone,” Limjoco told BuzzFeed News.
Her Instagram, where she shares outfit and travel inspiration, has also become a space for open and honest “girl talk.” Limjoco holds “TMI Q&As” on that platform where she answers questions about dating, sex, education, religion, and so much more.
“A lot of young girls, especially when they don’t have older sisters or older cousins to look up to, when I voice my experiences, they feel as if I’m like a friend to them … and they don’t feel alone,” she said. Limjoco herself is enjoying the single life and believes that dating allows you to understand yourself, your likes, and your dislikes.
“Go into it with an open mind, no expectations whatsoever, and just have fun with it. Dating should be fun,” she said. She believes that people are taking dating less seriously and that there is liberation in that. “Hearing these stories of other people’s dating lives is just so funny and you make a lot of light out of it, so that’s what I really enjoy.”
With the surge of dating app content on TikTok has come some incredible creativity. Some users have even figured out how to turn bad hookups into incredible hooks. Singer Becky Carewe-Jeffries, better known as Becky CJ, has cultivated a following on TikTok thanks to her series “Turning Tinder Nightmares Into Piano Ballads.”
Prior to her Tinder content, Carawe-Jeffries shared mostly her own original music and creative covers of popular songs. She still shares this type of music, but her Tinder ballads remain the most popular videos on her page.
Carewe-Jeffries is in a committed relationship with her girlfriend, so she isn’t drawing from her own experiences on the app. Her content starts with a scroll through @tindernightmares on Instagram, and she then uses her musical knowledge to create songs that sound like radio hits.
“If the songs were terrible and I hadn’t really thought about structure ... I don’t think that they'd be having as much impact as they are having,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Part 1 of the series, a twist on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” got almost 7 million views and over 1 million likes. After the recognizable start, the content quickly gets graphic, and with it, Carewe-Jeffries had an entire corner of the app wanting more. The dramatic takes on these often vulgar and wildly inappropriate messages have showcased her talent and sense of humor.
Noting that many women receive lewd, explicit pickup lines from men on the apps, she added, “I do think that there is this kind of camaraderie about trying to protect each other and understanding that we all know that this kind of chat is happening when it probably shouldn’t be.”
The “chat” in question could be anything from unsolicited pictures to creepy pickup lines. Carawe-Jeffries’ content provides a lighthearted coping mechanism for the experiences that women who date men may have. Users like Limjoco and Carawe-Jeffries give these women a corner of the internet where they can be honest and find others with similar experiences.
A single scroll down the dating advice hashtag on TikTok will show you tons of women dishing on how to deal with mixed signals from men, how to prepare for a first date, and when to draw the line if he isn’t treating you right. Some tips are more lighthearted, like how to flirt with a guy on Tinder or Bumble, while others cover more serious topics, like what gaslighting may look like in action. Some female users even share psychological explanations of attraction, attachment styles, and relationship anxiety.
While many straight female users connect with her videos, Carewe-Jeffries creates content primarily for queer people like herself. While her songs largely focus on the creepy messages men send to women over Tinder, there is a universal cringe that entertains all.
“There is obviously a huge LGBT community on there, and I’ve found, as a 28-year-old woman, I’ve just got some experience to be able to help,” she said.
Carawe-Jeffries has shared several songs on TikTok about her experience as a queer woman and has opened her DMs to people that want to talk about coming to terms with their sexuality.
Naseem Shafaei, previously a Bumble brand ambassador and now a community leader for the dating site, notes that this wave of content in which women commiserate about dating men gives people an outlet they may have had before COVID. “It almost feels like TikTok is the pandemic version of the public bathroom conversations that women, like myself, have missed out on this past year.”
Shafaei admits to consuming just as much TikTok content as she creates and using it in her day-to-day life.
“It’s slowly become my informal resource page when I’m looking for witty pickup lines, safe dating tips, date outfit ideas, success stories, and even general dating advice,” she said.
Like Shafaei, many users will congregate in the comments section to express gratitude, share similar experiences, and have a good laugh with their internet friends (as Shafaei likes to call the strangers she connects with online).
Both the horror stories and the successes women have shared in these spaces have created bonds between them. Whether these users give advice or make playful jokes about their experiences, women who are online dating continue to log on, like, and share.
“In reality, dating is a really fun thing to do as long as you have a good head on your shoulders and you’re not stressing out or having all these expectations,” Limjoco said. “Because of the pandemic people are just doing it for fun.”