It’s the app that brought us Lil Nas X, Bones Day, and almost every wonderful thing that’s been brought into our lives the last few years. Believe it or not, TikTok has become a place where love is the one trend that isn’t going anywhere.
While TikTok is in no way designed to be a dating app, some queer people are finding love on their For You Page. Dating, and especially dating while queer, can be difficult. Apps like TikTok help create a community and safe space for queer people.
While you might not get the traditional dating app experience, you can experience a unique time falling in love on TikTok. Shakespeare TikTokers Al (@nofearshakesqueer) and Kai (@kaicfox); political/philosophy TikTokers Lindsey (@smallfairygoth) and Beebe (@rousshoe); and film TikTokers Daejah (@Daejahtalkstv) and Alex (@alex.e.ws) all met through TikTok in different ways.
You can meet through mutual friends, as members of the same community, or maybe you made a witty comment on a cool TikTok; but instead of it being at a bar or in class, it’s in a comment section about a video about Bee Movie, as Beebe and Lindsey did.
So, how does it work? Again, TikTok is not a dating app. The company has not talked about the unintended consequences of it being a successful dating platform, but it still bears similarities to a dating app. Much like some people join dating apps just to swipe with zero intention of meeting a single soul, some join to simply lurk on the For You Page, scrolling to find their favourite content. Meanwhile, just like many daters join apps with big hopes and dreams, some join TikTok to try their hand at creating the next dance challenge or creating educational videos.
Al and Kai’s meet-cute happened through Shakespeare-Tok and an online reading of Much Ado About Nothing (where they were appropriately cast as Benedick and Beatrice). “Before we got put into a Snapchat group chat for creators, we knew of each other because we’re both massive nerds about Shakespeare,” Kai says.
A similar thing happened to Lindsey and Beebe within their niche dating pool. “One day Lindsey came up on my For You Page, talking about how the Bee Movie was capitalist propaganda and I thought that it was hilarious… doesn’t hurt I thought they were super cute, too,” says Beebe.
It’s easy to make connections on the app – a friendly comment or follow can do wonders (but don’t bank on a reply). But to really bond, it’s easier to move off-platform to other social media platforms. “You can only know someone so much through their influencer or online persona, regardless of whether that persona’s on Tinder or TikTok,” Alex says.
Remember how dating apps like Tinder gave Tinder Passport away for free at the beginning of the pandemic because we couldn’t travel? With the FYP showing people from across the globe, the world really is your oyster. “I wouldn’t have met A anywhere else,” says Daejah. “We’re in opposite parts of the world, how would that happen beyond paying for Tinder Passport or sheer luck?”
Because all three relationships started long-distance (cross-country and cross-Atlantic), they couldn’t do the typical ‘meet the friends’ at a bar or restaurant, so they leaned on other online platforms. “Discord and Zoom have changed the game — you can be a couple in front of friends if you’re not out, you can get closer with people in your niche you want to know, and you just have fun, safely,” says Al.
One bonus about finding love on TikTok is that because you don’t plan it, you meet them as friends, not as potential partners like you would on a dating app. “Because we met through TikTok we became very close before we even talked to each other about our feelings or had a chance to get physical,” says Lindsey.
I’m not telling you to start hunting for love through the most popular hashtags, because not everyone comes on this app looking for friendship. They want to use it like any other social media app, so just like any other app, a sense of privacy and boundaries is expected here (but you can expect the algorithm to know everything about you and your love life).
Just because it’s not designed first and foremost as a dating tool doesn’t mean love can’t happen there, does it?
Besides that, not every relationship that starts on this app works. Not every relationship from legitimate dating apps lasts forever either. But the beautiful thing is that whether you’re a TikTok couple or high school sweethearts, you still have the moments you realise someone’s got your heart, like Beebe climbing up a hill during a family holiday just to get one bar of signal to see if Lindsey texted them. You can still have the moment you meet for the first time, like hugging in Boston airport, so glad they’re finally in your arms as Al and Kai did. And you definitely can have the fairytale first date (and kiss), like Daejah taking Alex on a sunset picnic overlooking the Hudson River in New York City.
Yes, TikTok isn’t designed to be a dating app, but neither is your high school biology class, your local coffee shop, or your friend’s birthday party. Just because it’s not designed first and foremost as a dating tool doesn’t mean love can’t happen there, does it? Maybe it’s a friend, a random commenter, someone you met reading Shakespeare at 1 a.m. over a Zoom call.
It’s sneaky, the way love works on TikTok. And who knows, you could be the next love story people are talking about.