Exposing Cheaters On 'Messy TikTok' Is An Addictive New Trend

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Two young women looking at a phone in shock

Messy TikTok could give Regina George’s "Burn Book" a run for its money. 

From cheating exes to back-stabbing best friends, no one is safe from the wrath of scorned TikTok users who are exposing their personal lives online. 

Watching these videos feels like overhearing something you shouldn’t have. Part of you wants to scroll away and pretend you didn’t see a thing, but another part of you wants to follow along for part two.

Our affinity for this type of TikTok content probably lives in the same part of the brain that knows why reality TV is often referred to as "trash," but tunes into every season of the latest reality shows on Bravo, E!, and more anyway.

And that's where #MessyTikTok comes in.

What is Messy TikTok?

#MessyTikTok is a subculture on the video-sharing app in which users share wild stories from their past relationships and call out people who wronged them online. 

A recent trend started by Mandi Kay Bowles encouraged users to share their craziest story of how they discovered the partner — ex-partner we hope — was cheating on them. 

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Bowles had a story of her own in which she revealed she spotted a hair that was not her own on her boyfriend’s sweatshirt and confronted him about it. 

Of course, he denied it but she soon received a Facebook message from a woman asking if Mandi’s boyfriend was also her boyfriend. He was.

Another user stitched Bowle's original video to share his cheating story. On a rare night off the night shift, Jon Sinn took his then-girlfriend out to a local bar. Only to discover that other patrons were all too familiar with his ex. 

One man even knew exactly what his bedroom looked like and that Jon’s girlfriend was regularly cheating on him. 

The comments on these videos are equally as addictive. One commenter on Mandi’s video spoke of how she caught her ex searching if Gemini and Aquarius are compatible. She is an Aries

Another woman went to a restaurant with some friends only to walk in on her partner in the middle of his engagement party. 

And if exposing your ex online isn’t enough revenge, you could always join the extra messy TikTok trend of filming your acts of vengeance

On Jan. 12 Holly Nicole went viral for a video of her sprinkling containers of glitter all over her exes home after discovering he had cheated on her.

@hollynicoleeee_

It’s not key his car in 2021.. no, it’s glitter his EVERYTHING 2021 ##fyp ##cheaters

♬ Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood

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Commenters were divided on whether this was fair dues or toxic behavior. Personally, I just respected the creativity. 

Even though we might cringe and grimace at these videos, we can’t stop watching.

There’s something painfully addictive about watching someone’s personal catastrophes unfold online. 

Part of the obsession is probably due, in part, to empathy. We feel some sense of attachment to these stories. 

When we watch reality TV, we feel a sense of connection with these total strangers, often more than we would with scripted shows. 

This is probably amplified even more when we watch people online who are going through real-life drama without the company of a film crew.  

Even though many of us have not and would not throw glitter all over our exes apartment or expose their cheating online, we get to feed that small part of us that wants to. 

When watching these TikTok videos, we live vicariously through these people without risking our own reputations. 

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But the fallout from these videos must be enormous. So what keeps TikTok users oversharing online?

These videos rack up millions of views from complete strangers, so it's not hard to imagine a bitter ex might have a thing or two to say. 

This fallout is probably part of the incentive behind making these videos. Some people might want to stir up drama, or even need this kind of online exposure to reveal infidelity. 

One TikTok trend that blew up on the app in late 2020 saw relationships crumble left, right and center after girls began using a sound to expose men they were talking to who already had girlfriends. 

These videos showed girls singing along to the lyrics, “I like you; I don’t give a **** about your…”— before the sound switches to an automated voice — “girlfriend. Actually, why don’t you tell her?”

These videos were especially controversial, as those who posted them often came under fire for pursuing people in relationships or being insensitive to those who were cheated on by calling it out in this way. 

But, perhaps, even a negative interaction online is better than no interaction at all

Oversharing on social media to seek out a sense of inclusion or a quick-fix of human connection is no new phenomenon. Countless studies have been done on this

In times when real-life interactions are few and far between, seeking out connections with strangers online is increasingly appealing. 

Posting or watching a quick 60 second video online is much less time-consuming than picking up the phone to chat with a friend. And given how much attention these videos receive, it’s no wonder people feel encouraged to make their own. 

That said,  this burst of attention is short-lived and the long-term impact of oversharing online is much more permanent.

So it might be better to stick to being the person mindlessly scrolling through these videos than to become the one scattering glitter all over an ex's bedroom.

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