Within the space of a few days, college student Robbie—now dubbed ‘Couch Guy’— became TikTok’s public enemy No. 1. But, as theories about his fidelity become more elaborate and thousands of internet sleuths continue to gather their ‘evidence,’ has it all gone too far?
On September 21, the internet was first introduced to ‘Couch Guy.’
In a video that millions have no doubt accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) memorized by now, TikTok user Lauren Zarras surprised her boyfriend, Robbie, at his college dorm.
Despite Lauren clearly being pleased enough with the reunion to upload it online for the world to see—even pairing the clip with Ellie Goulding’s emotional track ‘Still Falling For You,’—the internet was not at all happy with Robbie’s understated reaction.
The video was flooded with thousands upon thousands of comments warning Lauren that the situation was full of ‘red flags,’ with many even suggesting that Robbie was cheating on her based on the reactions of the girls sitting next to him on the couch.
“Breaks my heart that people can watch a special moment and bring so much negativity. Please think before you assume anything about my relationship,” Lauren responded, in a comment that is now being used as a meme beneath countless videos across TikTok.
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@laurenzarrasrobbie had no idea♬ still falling for you – audiobear
The original post now stands at a whopping 60 million views, 5 million likes, and 127,000 comments, with users across the app claiming their For You Page has been nothing but videos about the viral footage.
As the view count soared, and people became more invested in the relationship, people even started making posts breaking down the minute details of the video in an attempt to prove once and for all that Robbie was cheating.
From an alleged ‘hair tie’ on his wrist to the exact position of his phone in each frame of the video, no pixel was left unturned.
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@laurenzarras##duet with @souljawatchambassador ur great♬ Tears In Brasil – Piero Piccioni
The comparison to true crime is a sentiment echoed by thousands of critics of the whole phenomenon.
It’s not lost on people that the Couch Guy situation comes in the wake of the tragic murder of 22-year-old influencer Gabby Petito, where for a period of several days armchair detectives were analyzing every piece of evidence they could, racking up millions of views on TikTok.
The intensity with which people are investigating Couch Guy is almost at the same degree with which they were investigating an actual crime, and many are urging others to take a step back from the drama whirlpool and put things into perspective.
Some defend the criticism of the video and the over-analysis of Robbie’s behavior by suggesting that the couple are benefitting from the attention. Lauren has gone on to release merchandise inspired by the meme, and Robbie has joked about receiving money from TikTok’s creator fund.
But a significant issue with this mindset is that people had no way of predicting how the response would affect the lives of the real people in this video before it blew up.
Social media users are increasingly abandoning the classic warning to not judge people’s entire lives based on out-of-context videos, in favor of the more ‘entertaining’ conspiracy option.
People love a mystery. We love drama, and we love puzzles. Couch Guy has all the appeal of a real crime case without any of the implications of an actual crime. And sure, it’s fun to speculate over Squid Game theories, but for many, fiction isn’t quite as compelling as a real-life drama.
The issue is, situations like this are inadvertently discouraging us from taking a much-needed step back from the black hole that is internet drama, and perhaps causing us to turn a blind eye to the repercussions this could have on the real people involved.
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The internet is still firmly divided over the whole debacle, with some urging people to leave the couple alone now, and others maintaining that it’s all in good humor.
But as the view count on the original video starts to slow, and people begin to lose interest in the drama, many have been left wondering—what, or who, is next?