TikTok users love an assumption.
From body language “experts” to amateur true crime sleuths, the app has earned a reputation for fuelling unsubstantiated assumptions about people based on videos that are mere seconds long.
And despite several damaging examples over the past year— think, the Gabby Petito case or West Elm Caleb— it seems we have yet to learn our lesson, as the boyfriend of international supermodel, Bella Hadid, has become the latest subject of TikTok’s speculation.
Marc Kalman, the art director who has been dating Bella since 2021, is facing criticism after a viral TikTok accused him of being “toxic AF” at her birthday party on October 9th.
Posted by user @jelena.unforgetable (Jelena is the couple name for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, who broke up in 2018), the TikTok shows photos and a video clip from the model’s 26th birthday party in which Bella and friends are smiling, while Marc is not.
The video, which amassed over 5 million views and 646K likes in 48 hours, claims that Marc’s “mood the whole night” was killing Bella’s vibe.
TikTok users have flooded the comment section with judgments about Marc and his alleged treatment of Bella based on the 10-second video.
“Am I the only one that gets bad vibes from him,” wrote @getosmainhoe_.
“Something is off..,” commented theteaishot.1.
“They are probably living their best life together but he gives me bad vibes idk,” said @tinistcessel.
Others have come to Marc’s defence, calling him Bella’s biggest supporter and claiming that he likely felt uncomfortable in front of the cameras, as he is more introverted.
Commentary creator Hannah Zook, who often speaks on pop culture and celebrity PR strategy, called out the TikTok sleuth “schtick” in a stitch of the video.
“I feel like this ‘normal people acting like they’re body language experts’ schtick has got to stop,” she starts.
Hannah goes on to say that at the time of recording her stitch, @jelena.unforgetable’s video had over 600K views and 60K likes.
“This random person on TikTok— who knows their age?— deciding that Bella Hadid’s boyfriend doesn’t like her because of his facial expressions at the dinner table of her birthday party,” she says. “Mind you, we do not know this man. This man is not famous. He doesn’t know that he needs to be performing [for] a camera, like other celebrities kind of have to.”
She says that even if Marc was a celebrity, it is “so invasive” to speculate on someone’s intentions based on their body language when “everyone has a different response to everything.”
Exactly one year ago in October 2021, TikTok users faced similar criticism off the back of #CouchGuy (real name Robbie) who went viral when his girlfriend Lauren surprised him at college and posted his reaction on the app.
TikTok creators took to the platform, suggesting that the video was one big “red flag.” Claiming that his reaction and body language were suspicious, plenty of users came to the conclusion that Robbie was cheating on Lauren and that she should break up with him— all based on one 20-second video.
The video and subsequent theories around Robbie’s behaviour went viral. Within a matter of days, the college student was branded a cheater by tens of millions of people on the internet. Though none of these TikTok sleuths knew the couple, Lauren was harshly judged for staying with Robbie.
Robbie eventually detailed the consequences of this viral moment for himself and Lauren— both of whom were just ‘regular’ people without a following or celebrity status— in an op-ed for Slate, claiming the situation deeply impacted his real life.
“I was the subject of frame-by-frame body language analyses, armchair diagnoses of psychopathy, comparisons to convicted murderers, and general discussions about my ‘bad vibes’,” he wrote. “My anxiety rests only in the prospect that the invasive TikTok sleuthing I experienced was not an isolated instance, but rather—as tech writer Ryan Broderick has suggested—the latest manifestation of a large-scale sleuthing culture.”
While these viral pile-ons tend to die down just as quickly as they emerge, the aftermath may impact those on the receiving end for years to come.