Though I’m a big fan of Instagram and Facebook, I couldn’t get on the TikTok train—and I certainly didn’t ever think I’d be part of a TikTok couple. But a few weeks into the stay-at-home order in Boston, my friend kept sending me TikTok videos. With more time to kill than what I knew to do with, I started watching them. And to my delight and surprise, they were, well, funny. Eventually, to make my viewing experience more comfortable, I downloaded the app. Hearing my giggles from our living room or bedroom, my boyfriend became intrigued by what I was up to. And somehow, we both grew addicted to our TikTok couple breaks. Every day, we escape from our work, snuggle together and watch the dances, the challenges, and the mini stand-up routines. I’ve even convinced him to partake in two videos, though he won’t let me post them publicly. Mostly though, TikTok has become a surprising stress-reliever and dose of humor in an otherwise frustrating period. Apparently, though, we’re not the only couple benefitting from this platform.
Here, psychologists explain how TikTok—yep, TikTok!—can bring couples closer:
It puts you in a good mood.
Don’t give yourself a hard time if you’re struggling to remain positive 24/7 in a pandemic. That’s an unrealistic goal for anyone, no matter how glass-half-full you tend to be as a human. However, allowing yourself to be consistently negative isn’t great for your mental health or relationship. Because TikTok increases positive emotions—a.k.a., laughter!—licensed psychologist Dr. Jeanna Pagnotta, Ph.D. says, it enhances the connection between couples. How so? She explains that when couples are both in good moods, they tend to be less critical and defensive. “TikTok is a great tool for bringing lightness and humor into relationships, as it encourages couples to come together to play and have fun intentionally,” she continues. “This outlet may be especially valuable in current times when tensions are running high, and couples don’t have much space from one another.”
It teaches you how to work together as a team.
When I first persuaded my boyfriend to do the ‘Flipped the Switch’ challenge on TikTok, where you stand in front of a bathroom mirror, dance, turn off the lights and switch clothes, he was hesitant. But when I showed him a few examples, he hopped on board, and we discussed how we could make it funny. I’d wear a bathrobe with a headband, and he’d wear his Patagonia. Once it was time to swap our outfits, we’d both look ridiculous: him in a fluffy robe, putting on lipstick, and me swimming in his layers of clothes. It didn’t take longer than 15 minutes, but at that time, we functioned as a ‘crew set.’
Licensed marriage and family therapist and author Sofia Robirosa, MBA, LMFT, CAP says teamwork is essential for a functioning partnership, and TikTok facilitates this learning. “Teamwork is a powerful way to connect in a relationship because it brings you closer by the common goal, and creates memories and pride in what you can do as a couple,” she continues. “It is also a predictor about how you may act like a couple when needing to work as a team, such as: how to divide chores, address finances, parent together, even plan a wedding or a large purchase like a home.”
It allows you to share an emotional experience together.
Not all of TikTok is hilarious—some of the content is thought-provoking and even emotional at times. While we do tend to favor the funny stuff, having any sort of shared emotional experience will enhance feelings of closeness, according to Dr. Pagnotta. “Laughing together over a TikTok, you both find funny, or feeling inspired by something, in the same way, can make you feel connected and aligned with your partner—which strengthens the attachment bond,” she explains.
And for those duos who are actively creating videos together, being playful and vulnerable with one another increases your levels of trust and builds your communication skills. “These activities can bring out different sides of your partner’s personality, which can increase your admiration and appreciation for them,” she adds.
It can lower your stress levels.
To put it lightly: a lot of TikTok is dancing. And for my boyfriend and I—who are both millennials who um, aren’t great at following steps—it’s fantastic to see what folks can do with their bodies. Sometimes, we’ve been tempted to try and yes, end up failing, but we laugh it off. Licensed mental health counselor, Clara Bossie, LMFT-S, CEDS, E-RYT says that the mere act of grooving can lower stress levels and fight against depression. If that wasn’t enough, she says partners are building social connectivity during the creative process. How so? “By performing 'sensorimotor demands’ as a pair such as recalling dance steps, holding hands, executing turns, recognizing rhythm, synchronizing movements with music, and most of all...moving in tandem together,” she explains.
It gives you a break from your regular routine.
Right now, it’s easy to confuse Tuesday with Friday, or even Saturday with Monday, as we spend countless hours under the same roof. Part of why our TikTok couple breaks are so beneficial for us that they provide an outlet to escape from the monotony of the current time. As Dr. Pagonotta explains, having videos to watch or make together restores feelings of excitement and shake up the repetitive routine. “Creating shared meaning is a key part of a relationship building. This entails building a life together through shared interests, values, and experiences,” she continues. “TikTok lends itself nicely to this concept by encouraging couples to not only share mutually-appreciated content with one another but also to create something as a team. Through their TikTok’s, couples co-construct their relationship narratives and present themselves to their community.” Or to put it merely: Since right now, you can’t go to a bar or go on a trip, TikTok can serve as your mini escape from reality.
It counteracts the typical harmful effects of screen time on relationships.
Most of the time, having too much screen times can impact your relationship negatively. But if you’re tuning-in to one screen, at the same time, together, it can be beneficial, according to Dr. Pagnotta. As she explains, a key predictor in a couple’s happiness is the concept of ‘turning toward’ vs. ‘turning away’ from your partner. Those who are satisfied in their relationships will consistently turn toward their partner and engage with them, while those who are not connected will do just the opposite. “Typically, screen time and social media provide endless opportunities for couples to withdraw and turn away from one another, which can create conflict and dissatisfaction within the relationship,” she continues. “But, when couples watch or create content together as a TikTok couple; however, social media use becomes an opportunity for them to join together rather than a time to turn inward and away from one another. The communal and playful nature of TikTok helps both partners feel engaged and included. In this way, watching or creating content on TikTok satisfies both the need for social media and the need for quality time. It’s the best of both worlds.”