Robert McCoy, otherwise known as “couch guy”, has opened up about being shoved into the public eye and being accused of cheating, after a TikTik video of his girlfriend surprising him at university went viral.
The reaction to the TikTok clip was “menacing”, and an invasion of privacy, Mr McCoy said in an op-ed for Slate.com. He also blamed social media algorithms for thrusting regular people into the limelight “against their wishes”.
Close friends were initially positive about the video, then strangers piled on the 19-second clip and accused him of cheating.
In the simple video, posted in September and viewed more than 60m times, Mr McCoy’s girlfriend Lauren Zarras comes into the room to find him sitting on a couch with four women. It takes a moment for him to react to his girlfriend being there as an Ellie Goulding song plays out in the background.
“Bro if my man was on a couch full of girls IM WALKING BACK OUT THE DOOR,” wrote one user as streams of memes and parodies flooded the internet. Even Rolling Stone, with the help of a body language expert, analysed the scene.
“Not everything is true crime. Don’t be a parasocial creep,” said Mr McCoy in a comment on TikTok as people analysed the footage, but users responded with comments like: “You can gaslight your girlfriend, you can’t gaslight all of TikTok.”
In his editorial piece, Mr McCoy explained how he felt an “unwilling recipient of the celebrity treatment” and said that the “tabloid-style media coverage” around the video exacerbated “invasions of my privacy”.
He blamed an online “large-scale sleuthing culture” and implored people to consider the person being depicted before piling on to the subjects of online content.
“They are people, not mysteries for you to solve,” he concludes.
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