TikTok has an obsession with testing friends and partners — it needs to stop

TikTok has an obsession with testing friends and partners — it needs to stop

There’s this hardened journalistic truism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” In other words: Don’t believe what people say until you verify it.

Lately, it seems like TikTok has taken this ethos to heart — and it really needs to stop. All kinds of “test” trends for partners, friends, and loved ones have taken off. It feels at best icky and at worst unfair and mean to people you’re supposed to care for. In short: Don’t use closeness for clout.

The latest trend is the so-called “Bird Test.” Basically, the idea is to point out something innocuous — “Hey, look at that bird out there” — and see if the person joins in on your interest. Here’s a TikTok from @alyssacardib explaining it in detail.

I can see how there’s some merit to this idea. It’s nice to have a romantic partner, friend, or loved one get involved in your curiosity. It’s great to share interests, and some of life’s finest moments involve outsized enthusiasm over small things. But what leaves me cold is the idea that you do this to test someone. Even the relatively benign explainer from @alyssacardib positions the Bird Test as a significant “sign” of whether the relationship will work. Imagine: The love of your life is really engrossed in an email and, for a moment, isn’t interested in a woodpecker. Well, guess that’s it.

Listen, though, I get it. We all want “signs” for who should be in our lives. That would be convenient. To wit: Here’s a cute video of a guy “passing” the Bird Test.

But do you know what’s a better indicator if someone in a relationship shows the proper interest in your life? If that person, over time and with intention, shows goddamn interest in your issues, thoughts, problems, and curiosities. A partnership or friendship cannot and should not be broken down to a finite moment in order to siphon views on TikTok. Testing your partner over a blue jay — for TikTok, no less — is gross. I would encourage breaking up with someone because they regularly write off your simple moments of joy — e.g. seeing a cool bird — but it leans toward unfair and manipulative the second you start filming a single instance for strangers on TikTok.


TikTokkers put their partners to ‘The Beckham Test’

And the Bird Test is far from the only viral “test” on TikTok. It has become an entire genre on the platform. There’s the “Water” dance test where (typically) women test their (typically) male partners to see if their head turns to a TikTok sound typically accompanied by a sexual dance. There’s the Beckham Test, where you play “Islands in the Stream” in your kitchen and see if your partner dances with you, à la Victoria and David Beckham in a recent Netflix documentary. There was asking your male partner how much they thought about the Roman Empire.

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This obsession with testing our partners gets at our most basic human instincts. We’re pattern-seeking animals, and the idea that one decision can extrapolate out to an entire relationship is attractive. It’s like a get-rich-quick scheme but for love — You Won’t Believe This One Trick That’ll Show Whether Your Partner Will Love You Forever. That’s a generous reading of these “test” trends, though. A less generous POV is that folks are setting up loved ones to potential public ridicule for a few views on TikTok.


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Either way, these test trends should stop. A trusting relationship — be it romantic or otherwise — deserves more respect than a minute-long TikTok clip testing its strength. So what’s worse than not passing the Bird Test on TikTok? Doing it to your partner at all.


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