“It’ll come to you when you least expect it.” It’s the dreaded and cliché piece of dating advice from friends and family that everyone has heard at some point. It implies that the perfect relationship will come to us when we aren’t looking for it, but also takes away the autonomy many people crave when it comes to dating. At least that’s how I felt whenever I heard it in the aftermath of plenty of failed talking stages, which is why I turned to TikTok dating advice for two years of attempts at turning my luck around.
There’s now so much dating advice at our fingertips that extends beyond that overused phrase. The hashtags #datingadvice and #relationshipadvice have 13.2 billion and 12.7 billion views on TikTok, respectively, so it’s clear people are turning to the short-form video app to try and figure out how to improve their love lives. It seems like certain TikTok users are willing to do it all for love, including manicuring their nails a certain way and never texting twice in a row. After feeling unlucky in love, I knew I wanted long-term commitment, and I was willing to take these tips to heart. I have the rewards points from Ulta after buying every viral aphrodisiac perfume to prove it.
For example, #RedNailTheory, which has over 152.8 million views, is typical of the advice that floods the app. According to @girlbosstown, men see red nails as more attractive because the look reminds them of their mom or teachers. The Freudian dating theory made its rounds in 2022. I’ve never liked my nails this way, but without hesitation, I traded in my signature Bubble Bath by OPI for bold, red nails.
On TikTok, dating advice often comes from creators like @maybebothstyles, @kianaleroux, and @nicolefay_ who use their own experiences to help viewers navigate the dating world. Together, they have a combined following of almost 1.8 million, and they only make up a small portion of the relationship advice content I’ve come across on the app. Tips and tricks range from advice detailing places to meet “high-value men,” such as gyms in wealthy areas, golf courses, and five-star hotels, to the “number-one mistake women make when dating,” which is cutting off all potential matches in pursuit of one that you connect with after a first date.
Part of the reason the advice is so compelling is that it’s typically delivered with such confidence. Typical comments include “the last tip is legit” and “I loled through the entire video because it’s so true.” Once your algorithm starts picking up dating content, your FYP will never be the same.
“There’s this novelty of having a stranger listen to you,” Avgitidis tells Bustle. “You might actually take their advice to heart compared to your friends. Sometimes you get the advice that you want to hear too.”
Avgitidis explains that many creators lack the qualifications to speak as legitimate dating experts. She says that there are certifying bodies and professionals, like herself, who have licenses, mentors, employees, and more. Avgitidis, for example, is licensed with a science-based coaching certification by the Global Love Institute (GLI) and is a founding member of the Matchmakers Alliance trade association. Some TikTokers are real, qualified experts, but not everyone who calls themselves one or goes viral with their advice has the certifications to back their claims.
I had never thought to look into the credentials of the people that I was taking advice from. Dating videos were just part of my algorithm, and I tuned in because the titles seemed interesting. Sure, there are legitimate licenses and qualifications out there, but that doesn’t mean that I hadn’t received some good advice from my family, friends, and even a few random TikTok users. Sometimes lived experience is just as important as academic knowledge when it comes to dating.
In turning to TikTok, it was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in wanting a serious relationship. It was helpful to think that these creators (legitimate certifications or not) had been where I was and seemingly knew how to end my single season in a few simple steps — even if that meant reading required TikTok literature like Why Men Marry B*tches. I’m a lover girl at heart, so certain things in the book — like seeming chill and uninterested no matter what — made me feel defeated. Some videos made me feel like I wouldn’t be able to date successfully again unless I changed some of the core parts of me, like being someone who wears my heart on my sleeve. On the other hand, some of the advice was genuinely useful and eye-opening, like learning to prioritize what I truly want from a partner.
One video particularly caught my eye during my two years trying out TikTok’s dating advice: creator @realhannahchan (193,500 followers) explaining how she had manifested her boyfriend. She said that before she implemented a specific manifestation practice into her life, she was attracting “low-effort men, bad dates, and guys who just wanted to hook up.”
The video instructed me, and anyone else watching, to make an extremely specific list of what my dream partner was like. It also said that I needed to outline what type of woman I had to become in order to attract that person and tap into my feminine energy. As someone who was ready to kiss her single season goodbye, something about following a specific set of tips seemed to be a more promising dating approach than sitting around waiting for my meet-cute. With nothing to lose, I grabbed a piece of paper and started outlining the person I wanted. I folded it up, tucked it far away in my drawer, and completely forgot about it. Weeks later, I met the guy who would become my first boyfriend — it seemed like the TikTok manifestation gods had done their work. Then, we broke up two months later. Although initially crushed, I let my heart guide my next steps, and it led me straight back to TikTok. If it worked for me once, who’s to say it couldn’t work again?
Another TikToker, @vibinwithciicii, said in a video that I had been “energetically chasing him,” which pushed him away. The video instructed me to call all the love that I’d given away back to myself. A few positive affirmations later, my ex was asking me to come over to see him again.
Still, weeks went on, conversations became shorter, and we never got back together. As the TikTok dating lore went, “If they wanted to, they would.” For me, these words eliminated the blurry lines and confusion that had been present during our breakup. However, according to Avgitidis, like much of the dating advice on TikTok, this phrase is a blanket statement that cannot be applied to every situation.
“If they’re your f*ck buddy, if they wanted to date you they would be dating you. That is the only time [that advice] works,” Avgitidis explains.
Avgitidis says that these self-proclaimed dating experts have used this viral phrase as a generalized piece of advice. It becomes an umbrella statement to say things like “If they wanted to text you they would,” or “If they wanted to take you out they would.” Advice like “If it’s not a f*ck yes, then it’s a no,” is another popular TikTok phrase that encourages viewers to treat hesitation as disinterest, though Avgitidis says this shouldn’t be one’s approach when beginning to see someone new.
“This [viral saying] removes all of the nuance that’s needed in the first few weeks of dating, which takes a lot of courage, a lot of anxiety, trying to not carry your baggage over to the next relationship,” she says. “It also takes a lot of the fun out of dating. Why does every single first date have to lead to marriage?”
I was guilty of this mindset. I turned down my fair share of “casual dates” because I felt like this meant that the guy wasn’t interested in me. I knew that I had to up my standards from DM f*ck boys, and I felt that the dates I went on needed to reflect that. Another creator, @tealeiamthebest, believes that getting coffee and grabbing drinks are unacceptable as first dates. She says that’s giving the bare minimum and that it does not make her feel special. Creator @fleeksie also said that men who ask women on coffee dates aren’t trying hard enough. “They’re trying to spend the least amount of time and the least amount of effort just so that they can know they’re desirable because their self-worth is on the ground… and so is their budget,” she bluntly states in a video with over 72,000 likes.
A marriage- and commitment-minded approach to dating was appealing to someone like me, and my FYP even reflected that. #Engagementchicken has 4.3 million views on TikTok and refers to a recipe that users — including creator @ashleypett — claim prompted their partner to propose. (Meghan Markle and Emily Blunt also got engaged after making similar roast chicken recipes.) After hearing those stories, I found myself wanting to make it for the super-casual movie night I was having with my ex, despite how extra that would be.
Avgitidis thinks this perspective isn’t healthy when it comes to seeking out new relationships.“Right now the studies show that more and more people want casual first dates,” says Avgitidis. “It’s OK to have these casual first date experiences… that’s actually more reflective of if you met someone out and about.”
By taking TikTok’s advice to heart, I had taken the fun out of dating. After heavily relying on these theories for two years, I’ve learned to not only take the information with a grain of salt but also to make sure that these are practices I truly want to implement. A lot of these dating tips can extend to other areas of my life, without the end goal being a committed relationship. For example, many creators say you should always leave the house as if you're about to meet your dream partner. By reframing my perspective, I’ve learned to always present myself in the best way possible, which has helped me romanticize my own life and restore some of the confidence I lost through my perceived dating “fails.”
It turns out that engagement chicken is something that I can enjoy by myself or with my family. The fragrances that I had purchased to make me smell “irresistible” are actually fragrances that I like and make me feel good. Red nails, though? Those aren’t for me… and that’s more than OK.
Maria Avgitidis, CEO of Agape Match