December 9, 2023 - 8:00am

This week, social media site X once again managed to raise uproar over a TikTok video, this time featuring  “Dinks”, an acronym for dual-income, no-kids couples. While the video comes across as obnoxious, and rightly so, there’s a key aspect that X users overlooked — the couple at the centre of it wasn’t serious. They were joking. 

As it turns out, it was just one of several memes posted to TikTok, a joke format in the spirit of the once-popular “Shit People Say” videos, which at the beginning of the last decade parodied stereotypes ranging from everything from one’s culture to gender to subcultural affiliation. These were obviously caricatures, much like the Dinks craze.

But this week’s Dink episode also isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a regular, and politicised, back-and-forth that happens on an almost weekly basis. Right-wing or more broadly “anti-woke” commentators on X attack TikTok users they assume to be (and who occasionally may actually be) liberal, in order to paint TikTok as a cesspool. Accounts like @LibsofTikTok have capitalised on this tendency by aggregating — or cherry-picking, depending on your vantage point — videos showing off the worst traits of the app’s liberal users, resulting in all sorts of misunderstandings.

A non-exhaustive list of other examples includes a woman complaining about being rejected by a matchmaker as well as a largely X-inspired “trend” of people reading Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” and “stanning” him.

This mindset has spilled over from the cultural war zone into electoral politics. For instance, in a recent Republican debate Nikki Haley claimed that “for every 30 minutes someone spends on TikTok, they become 17% more antisemitic.” This followed Representative Mike Gallagher’s assertion in the Free Press that TikTok is indoctrinating young people into supporting Hamas, allegedly with assistance from the CCP. 

The problem isn’t that the critics are always wrong, either in the abstract or about the specific TikTok videos they’re attacking. It’s fair to wonder why a product manager who earns a high salary and has excellent benefits is making lifestyle videos for social media over work. But the real issue is that the objective often seems to be attacking TikTokers or the platform in general, and the attacks aren’t always informed. Quite often, the critiques degenerate into the internet trope of “making up a guy to be angry at”.

Not only does this guide the discourse in such a way that it misses how TikTok is a powerful and sometimes dangerous platform, but the critics chip away at their own credibility. The Right and anti-woke centre routinely make the same error the Left does: shadowboxing stereotypes of their enemies. This results in further political polarisation, which begets a negative cycle in which groups over-generalise based on short videos, make it go viral, and then mock the straw man they inadvertently create.

Like whining about violent video games, rap music, or the Left’s incessant moaning about how a particular celebrity is an undercover Nazi, the sugar rush of sensationalist accusations will never galvanise real change. Eventually, people wise up and get sick of the performance.

Katherine Dee is a writer. To read more of her work, visit