OPINION: “Couch Guy”: The Internet Hivemind

Laura Vance

There is nothing more unsatisfying as a youth of this age than seeing words like “Snapchat” and “Instagram” in published print. I feel like I’m Buzzfeed, smashing the life out of relevance between my bare, millennial hands. However, I’m afraid this situation is so dire that I must abandon my morals and finally speak about this month’s social media malignancy.  

 

The Video 

Recently on the social media platform TikTok, a video has reached beyond viral status and will forever reside in the “infamous” sector of the Social Media Hall of Fame. This video depicts a young woman surprising her long-distance boyfriend in his college apartment. Upon entering his room, however, he is found sitting on a couch next to three girls and doesn’t appear all too enthusiastic to see her. He stands up, somewhat reluctantly, and many speculate that he avoided her attempt to kiss him as he embraced her. 

A screenshot of @laurenzarras ‘s original and controversial “Couch Guy” video, depicting the hug with debated enthusiasm. Posted Sept. 21.

That’s when the comments started rolling in: “It’s so sweet you surprised your boyfriend and his girlfriend.”, “He hugged her like she was his aunt at Christmas dinner.”, “You can FEEL the awkward tension.” Each comment boasts hundreds of thousands of likes. Almost 30 million users have seen this on TikTok alone, not to mention the views on the videos that have been re-uploaded on nearly every other social media site, subject to millions more.  

 

The Response 

The verified @ryanair ‘s TikTok parody “Couch Guy” video, depicting a flight attendant surprising her pilot boyfriend, who is found flirting in the cockpit with another female pilot.

And just like that, a trend was born. The boyfriend was christened “Couch Guy,” and hundreds of videos have now been made in mockery of the boyfriend’s reaction, as well as the girlfriend defending him, usually captioned with the hashtag “#couchguy.” These videos will portray a clueless woman walking into a man’s apartment, where he is usually flanked with an obnoxious number of flirtatious women, before acting shocked and disappointed when his girlfriend “catches” him. Large, verified brands and companies, such as Ryanair, are even participating in their own parody as they reenact the video. With every combined post beneath the #couchguy hashtag, there are almost 1.2 billion views. The entire situation has been made into a caricature; a sadistic, inside joke shared between millions. 

When creators aren’t making fun of the couple, they’re meticulously critiquing the video, frame by frame, analyzing the boyfriend’s every move. Each of these TikTok Sherlock Holmes has one question in mind: Is the boyfriend cheating? Well, apparently, it’s up to millions of strangers to decide. 

TikTok user @wilfredooooo analyzing the infamous “Couch Guy” video with the clickbait caption of “ZOOM IN ON HIS PHONE SCREEN!!!” Posted on Oct. 2.

Many comments, which host countless likes in agreement, are offering the girlfriend “advice,” which really translates to strangers offering unwarranted opinions that are dripping with condescension. “Girl, the internet never agrees on ANYTHING,” one comment reads. “The fact they’re all agreeing now should tell you something.” So say thousands of comments of this nature, all with the tone that they know better than this naive, intellectually inferior girl.   

 

My Opinion: The Hivemind 

Here’s the deal. The entire video reeks of suspicion, and the fact that many individuals can relate to this video due to past experiences with cheating or otherwise unenthusiastic significant others is devastating. But the amount of users who are legitimately concerned and feel it is their moral obligation to share their two cents on the matter is truly pathetic. I know I am also giving my own two cents, but I don’t count. 

It shouldn’t shock me at this point, but the internet hivemind somehow always manages to catch me off guard. What starts as a harmless, kind of anticlimactic video has now snowballed its way into an internet phenomenon, to which every user and creator has the answer or solution to. It has grown and festered like a tumor, spreading to every unfortunate individual who stumbles across this situation, until everyone is convinced that it is their divine right to decide if some random guy is cheating on his girlfriend. This hivemind has made the executive decision that the boyfriend is cheating, and now every new victim irrefutably agrees. They cloak their nosiness with “concern” or “interest,” but in all reality, everyone is acting like they’re at a zoo, ogling at two exotic creatures in a form of crude entertainment. Are we that vapid of a society, that starved for entertainment? Frankly, I find it disgusting. And if you take two seconds of critical thought and zoom out, you will too. 

TikTok user @hannahkosh analyzing the “Couch Guy” video, uploaded Oct. 5.

First of all, these are real people. Yes, we’ve all heard that speech on the internet more times than we can possibly count, but this is a real woman in a real relationship with a real man. It is actually impossible to gather accurate information about a couple from a fifteen-second clip, and the potential harm to both of these individuals is catastrophic. How will this surplus of negative attention and mockery affect this young woman’s psyche? Will her future relationships be forever tainted by millions alluding to her stupidity and lack of emotional maturity regarding a matter that is exclusively personal?  

A concerning number of parody videos are mocking the girl for defending her boyfriend from the wrath of the public, causing them to turn on her as well. They ridicule her defenses and poke fun at her desperate attempt to save her own reputation, as well as her boyfriend’s.  This generation proudly dons a collective mask of apathy in situations like these, but I implore you to place yourself in this situation and gain an ounce of perspective.  

And what if, for argument’s sake, he wasn’t cheating. Perhaps their relationship was perfectly healthy, and the camera just happened to capture a poor moment. How will this affect what was once a completely functional relationship? Imagine the insecurity that stems from millions of self-proclaimed relationship therapists kindly informing you that your boyfriend is “a walking red flag.” It’s sick. 

I guess I’m just ultimately flabbergasted at the entitlement of today’s media consumers. All it took was one negative comment gaining traction, and suddenly everyone is in agreement about a hypothetical theory. Because that’s what it is: hypothetical. You can analyze the clip however you want, but there is simply no concrete evidence that he was cheating. And even if there was, there is no reason for millions to get involved. Regardless of how you try to skew it, the over-analyzation of this event is not out of concern. Call me crazy, but the last way I would like to discover that my boyfriend is cheating on me would be in front of the eyes of hundreds of millions of strangers. And forgive me, but I doubt that it how you would like to find out too. 

I think this all can be summarized in a sentence or two: Dear Internet Hivemind, please mind your own beeswax. Perhaps burn a calorie and try to form an opinion of your own.