The Real Relationship Hustlers of TikTok

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Anna Kai believes into fooling herself. On TikTok, under the name @itsmaybeboth, she markets beauty products for Garnier, Nivea and Nexxus hair care, as well as giving relationship advice to her 1.3 million followers. “If you can convince yourself that a man who doesn’t love you really loves you, why can’t you convince yourself that you will find a man who really loves you?”

For Blaine Anderson, finding the right partner is all about savvy marketing, which “nice guys often suck at,” a note on her website says. She has hacks for every possible scenario you might encounter during the dating process: how to text like a “high-value person,” what mistakes to avoid on a first date, how to attract women, and the best ways to seduce them without talking. In case you were curious, it starts with good posture and grooming. “If you haven’t shopped since the Obama administration, it’s time,” she says in a video uploaded to TikTok in May.

“As a relationship therapist, I’ve spent my entire career studying the art of attraction and human psychology, so I know these things work,” Toronto-based psychotherapist Kimberly Moffitt said in a 2022 TikTok video. Maybe your crush is shy and you want to know if he’s “micro-flirting” with you? One sign: dirty jokes. “An aggressive guy will just string you along,” she said, “but a shy guy will actually test the waters first.”

If you haven’t heard, let me tell you, these are great times for dating influencers. According to a new survey of single adults ages 18 to 62 by the app Flirtini, one in four people rely on TikTok as their primary source for relationship information, and nearly 50 percent of those surveyed turn to social media for dating advice.

This phenomenon has created an ecosystem of opinionated, overzealous, trend-chasing dating influencers who think they know what’s best for you. The market is now filled with gurus offering romantic hacks and how-tos to anyone willing to listen. From credentialed therapists and life coaches to that annoying friend who just recently discovered bell hooks. all about love And they want to share what they’ve learned and nowadays brand themselves as dating influencers. The impact has been seismic. On TikTok, the hashtags #datingadvice and #relationshipadvice have been viewed over 16 billion times.

And it’s not all bad advice. Kai’s advice to de-stigmatize yourself is actually quite smart. (Kai and the other influencers mentioned in this story did not respond to messages seeking comment.) There’s just one problem: Misinformation about relationships is spreading rapidly.

growing number The majority of young adults now get their news from TikTok, according to a 2023 Pew Research Center study, “so it makes sense that they would turn to the app for relationship advice, too,” says Liesel Sharabi, a professor at Arizona State University who specializes in technology’s impact on interpersonal relationships. The growing reliance on the platform as a go-to source for romantic guidance has led many users to form parasocial relationships with advice-giving influencers. Unlike face-to-face, IRL relationships, these tend to be one-sided. But emotionally, they feel like the real thing.

“Someone may feel like they’re getting dating advice from a trusted friend because they’ve developed such a strong sense of familiarity and connection with that person,” says Sharabi. “The problem is that when it comes to dating, there are so many people calling themselves experts on TikTok without any training or qualifications, making it hard to distinguish fact from opinion.”

Not all advice is the same. As dating influencers become more popular on social media, it’s becoming harder to stop the spread of relationship misinformation. Sharabi says this is “false or misleading information about relationships that cannot be evaluated using scientific data and that can perpetuate harmful stereotypes.”

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