Junk Explained: Who Is ‘Couch Guy’ & Why Is TikTok So Concerned With A College Relationship?
'Couch Guy' has become a huge meme as the internet passionately debates whether a college student cheated on his girlfriend.
If there’s ever been something that explains the concept of “chronically online” best, it’s Couch Guy and the discourse that has followed a single TikTok over the last week.
For those who don’t spend every waking minute scrolling on TikTok, you might’ve missed the conversation around Couch Guy — a guy sitting on a couch, who seemed unamused and unexcited by his girlfriend “surprising” him at college.
But for most, it’s been pretty hard to miss. Between the dissection of the original video with theories and breakdowns to the numerous parodies that have flooded the app, Couch Guy has become the internet’s new favourite thing.
me tryna explain the couch guy tiktok scandal to ppl who aren’t chronically online pic.twitter.com/0xspkSYV2u
— kate (@KateOShea98) October 3, 2021
So let’s breakdown what exactly ‘Couch Guy TikTok’ is and how this whole mess started.
Who Is Couch Guy?
On September 22, college student Lauren Zarras uploaded, what she thought would be, an innocent video surprising her boyfriend, Robbie, at college.
“Robbie had no idea,” her caption read — and Zarras really had no idea what was in store for her either.
Set to Ellie Goulding’s ‘Still Falling For You’, Zarras followed the trend of long-distance couples surprising their partners at different schools. While comment sections under these videos are normally filled with people talking about how adorable the recorded reunions are, this was not the case for Zarras.
Instead, with 60 million views, her comments were filled with people nitpicking every moment of the 19-second video. From the way Robbie didn’t immediately stand up, to the other people in the room giggling, to the three girls on the couch avoiding looking at Zarras directly, ‘Couch Guy’ immediately became a thing.
“The girls look sus, the boys look amused, the boyfriend looks scared. Sis… please ask questions,” one person commented. “Three girls, three guys…….. sis you interrupted the party,” said another.
“You can FEEL the awkward tension bro,” noted someone else. “He hugged her like she was his aunt at Christmas dinner.”
Even Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran weighed in, adding “Use these two words wisely, Lauren. ‘I’m out’.”
As anyone would when hundreds of thousands of people attack your relationship, Zarras immediately got defensive over the remarks about her relationship.
“Breaks my heart that people can watch a special moment and bring so much negativity. Please think before you assume anything about my relationship,” she wrote under her original video, which has also become a line that people have mocked as they parody the reunion.
“These comments are just getting ridiculous and I don’t know why you guys are assuming so much about our relationship,” she continued, snapping at anyone who voiced their concerns in the comments.
— clown (@amiritte) October 3, 2021
In a number of follow-up videos, Zarras defended her relationship and debunked theories about what was happening in the room as she entered. But with each new TikTok she uploads, people find ways to link her new content back to ‘Couch Guy’.
To add another layer to the whole thing, Couch Guy then even created a TikTok page himself — that some speculate Zarras had a hand in — to further quash claims that he was unfaithful. “Remember not everything is true crime. Don’t be a parasocial creep. Get some fresh air. Take care,” he wrote in a TikTok.
But because the internet is, well, the internet, despite being “heartbroken” over people picking apart her relationship, Zarras tried to make a quick buck by selling Couch Guy merch — t-shirts that depict Robbie on the couch alone, and not with the three random women like Zarras’ original video showed.
The internet truly is the bad place.
Why Are People So Invested In Couch Guy?
To understand the true power of Couch Guy TikTok, one just has to look at the #CouchGuy tag that has already amassed has 650 million views and counting despite only being active for a little over a week.
In it, you can find people slowing down the original video to analyse specific moments that would usually go unnoticed. For example, TikTok detectives immediately noticed the girl next to Robbie slyly handing back his phone. Another pointed out the same girl scooting over twice when Zarras entered the room.
Others noted how strange it was that Robbie had a hair tie around his wrist when he has short hair. And some focused on what appeared to be a girl’s hand on Robbie’s back as his girlfriend entered the room. There were even theories to debunk the theories that already existed. People really dived in deep.
There’s no denying that people are invested. ‘Boyfriend moves away for school then cheats’ is a classic tale many women have sadly experienced. As is the feeling of having female “friends” that aren’t really your friends at all, as they laugh behind your back and to your face when you enter the room just like poor Lauren Zarras experienced.
“These girls on the couch… are not your friends. Before you say, ‘Oh, you don’t even know them,’ I know them. We ALL know them. It’s one of the reasons why your video resonated so much with, at the time, 34 million people,” TikTok user Liene Stevens perfectly put it. “We’ve all had ‘friends’ like this in our lives. They should have been jumping up in line to give you a hug the minute you walked in the door.”
“They should not be sitting there embarrassed that you walked in the room — because real friends will hype you up when you’re in the room and will hype you up when you’re not in the room.”
The ‘Couch Guy TikTok’ discourse became so big that it even made its way to TV through The View. On September 30, the show’s panelists discussed what they thought of the clip taking Lauren Zarras’ silly little clip of her surprise to a whole new audience.
“I don’t think surprises are a good idea,” host Sunny Hostin said about the clip. “Especially when you’re trying to surprise a boyfriend who just went away to college. He didn’t look that excited.”
The Journey From Couch Guy To Meme
To watch an entire app unite to poke fun at a random college couple, who’ll probably break up in a few months anyway, sure is a strange concept.
But because the situation is so relatable — and for the mere fact that Zarras simply refuses to acknowledge the things clearly happening in her own video, like Robbie covertly taking his phone back from his female friend — people are just so heavily involved. And just like Gabby Petito’s treatment on TikTok proved to us, people really do just love to pick out the nefarious aspects of content even when it doesn’t exist if that means more engagement.
It’s how the TikTok algorithm works: The more users see content trending, the more they want to get involved in any way they can in the hopes of going viral themselves. And so, like with any small thing on the internet these days, Couch Guy has now become a massive meme.
Most on ‘Couch Guy Slander TikTok’ have parodied the not-so-wholesome reunion for a few laughs by making Robbie’s cheating crystal clear or by replacing him with things like married men and animals.
And while some people have used #CouchGuy show off what a real
Couch Guy Couch Man looks like, others have used the opportunity to joke about the situation and critique just how online everyone’s become because of this whole thing.
In conclusion, we all really need to go outside and touch some grass.
Michelle Rennex is a senior writer at Junkee. She tweets at @michellerennex.