What TikTok Is Teaching Kids About Men, Women and Relationships
Scroll through TikTok and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll come across a reference to a Simp. The video goes like this: A boy does something nice for a girl, the video creator then rags on the guy for being nice to a girl and not getting anything in return. The creator then calls him a “Simp” or welcomes him to “Simp Nation”.
It seems like a strange and innocuous term until you realize exactly what it means. A Simp is a boy who is nice to a girl in the hopes that he might get something back, ie. a date or sex. He’s called a Simp not because he’s in the wrong for expecting something back, but because he acted “submissively” and should have demanded what he wanted, not exhibited “submissive behaviors” to get it. Essentially, it boils down to this: a Simp is a weak man.
Many of the videos you see about Simps have captions like, “When she says he’s just a friend and you believe her,” which suggests that you shouldn’t believe your partner and should control who she’s friends with. Or, “When she rants to you about her relationship problems and you comfort her,” suggesting that a male friend shouldn’t comfort a female friend as the boy will essentially not get a “return on investment.”
It goes without saying that we’ve all known for sometime that social media can have a negative effect on adolescents, but TikTok has managed to turn “negative effects” into an artform.
Here’s how widespread the term “Simp” is.
The concept of the Simp is inherently insulting to both men and women. It suggests that men shouldn’t be nice and that being nice is weakness. It also suggests that, when men are nice, it means that they want something. It suggests that women manipulate men into being nice to get things.
And, above all, it forms a toxic concept of what a relationship is. In Simp Nation, the boy listens to his girlfriend or female friend or crush, trusts her, and attempts to do kind things for her. Being calling him a Simp, you are essentially attempting to emasculate him by saying that all of these things make him a weak man.
Every social media platform has groups that promote such toxic behaviors but, on TikTok, it’s not just one group displaying these attitudes. The most prominent TikTokers utilize this term. Charli D’Amelio remains the most followed account on TikTok and she regularly uses the term. If you want an idea of how many people have watched “Simp” TikToks, there’s 564.6M views on videos with the hashtag #simp. Imagine how much that number increases when you consider that not everyone uses the hashtag.
Both men and women alike refer to Simps and yet both men and women alike are hurt by it. The people who use it are typically in the age of the most prominent, “famous” TikTokers: from late teens to early 20s. The people who are watching it? They’re mainly between the ages of 16 to 24. In fact, when TikTok was created, it set out to target the teen and young adult world and they’ve very much done exactly that. Although there are certain restrictions on accounts for kids under 16, children as young as 13 are allowed on the app. As we very well know, it’s not that hard to fake an age online though, so it remains unknown who is watching who is under that age limit.
We need to address what we’re teaching kids about relationships.
The type of talk that surrounds “Simp Nation” isn’t just about teasing boys and girls and it isn’t simple or painless. This kind of talk promotes abusive behaviors. The TikTok’s most popular demographic has never had an easy time with relationships. Teen dating violence is something that’s not new, but it is something that has been on the rise for decades.
A study done by JAMA Pediatrics found that, out of nearly 2,200 homicides of young people from 2003 to 2016, 7 percent were at the hands of current or former intimate partners. Of these victims, girls make up 90 percent.
Breakups or jealousy lead to more than a quarter of the homicides. You know, like the jealousy of what happens “when she says he’s just a friend and you believe her.” Or rather, what happens when you decide that you shouldn’t believe her because believing her makes you a Simp.
Encouraging emotionally abusive behaviors can lead to others — particularly young others who are in their formative years — acting out such behaviors. And emotional abuse, though dangerous and deadly in and of itself, can lead to physical violence as well.
You’re not going to get kids off TikTok, but you can help.
It’s easy to say, “Well, I’ll just make sure I don’t let my kid create a TikTok.”
Well, one in five kids have secret social media accounts to hide from their parents. Telling your kids that they can’t have a TikTok profile is the same thing as telling them they can’t watch “Game of Thrones”. If you have HBO, they’ll find a way to watch. If you have a computer/phone/tablet/anything that can go online, they’ll find a way on social media.
You can’t control what your kids see and you can’t necessarily control how they interpret what they see. What you can do is stay informed about what they’re seeing online. What’s trending on TikTok? Who is the new big personality? And be aware of how your kids are acting in relationships. How they talk to and about their friends (like if you hear your son call another boy a Simp) can help you get a glimpse into how they’re thinking about themselves and others.
TikTok has become another place to help toxic behaviors thrive. And we need to prevent it from going further than Simp Nation.