Couch Guy: why people are watching

shame as a tool

couch guyAs is often the case, my daughter says to me something that just doesn’t register. A few days ago, she asked “Have you heard about Couch Guy?” It is her apparent obligation to keep me up to date on cultural trends. I had no idea what/who she was talking about.

If you go on Yahoo, you can type in Couch Guy Tiktok and find the video; it’s less than a minute. It is ostensibly about a young woman surprising her long-distance boyfriend. What it became is what NBC News suggested how internet sleuthing can be toxic.

“The video, posted Sept. 21 by Lauren Zarras, shows her boyfriend, Robbie…surrounded by friends and sitting on a couch next to three other women.

“Many of the people who have commented on the video.. suggested that Robbie was, in fact, not happy to see Zarras. Some went so far as to accuse him of being unfaithful to her. Not long after it went viral, TikTokers began meticulously combing through the video…”

My first position was to be the grumpy old man and think, “Why should anyone care about this?” But as someone who recognizes that how people communicate matters, I found myself utterly fascinated. Not by Robbie, the couch guy, for whom I feel bad that people find the need to so scrutinize ten seconds of his life.

Now some folks – I found several examples that won’t bother linking to – who ‘analyzed” the video out the sense that it was hot copy, even though they thought it was a lame narrative.

However, this phenomenon – I have to say obsession – provides some odd validation for these online sleuths. Indeed, for those who have rooted out racism and violence, e.g., that is an accomplishment.

Conversely

The NBC piece discussed Morgan Forte, 23, who has “experienced what happens when it feels as though the internet has collectively decided to pick apart your life based on a seconds-long clip.

“Forte, of Jacksonville, Florida, said she posted a short video of her parents dancing a few years ago. Some claimed that Forte’s mother was acting grumpy in the clip.

“When the video blew up, getting about 15 million views across accounts that had shared it, some commenters began saying Forte’s father should leave her mother because of her demeanor in the video.” As they say, OMG.

Experienced

Producer and activist Monica Lewinsky – yes, that Monica Lewinsky – is an anti-bullying advocate. She has produced a movie called 15 Minutes of Shame which she discussed recently on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

As Rolling Stone quoted her, “’One of the factors in the film is around the idea of how shame has been used since the beginning of time as a social tool.’ With the onset of the internet and tabloid culture — the problem worsened.”

John Della Volpe reported on new polling:

1) Nearly 2/3 of Americans who use platforms believe life was better without them.
2) 42% of #GenZ addicted, can’t stop if they tried.

It’s useless to rant, “You kids, don’t you have better things to do?” For many of them, the answer is no.