TikTok Comment Sections Are The Best Part Of The App & Must Be Protected At All Costs


There’s an old saying that I think of often: “never read the comments”. This ancient proverb references the fact that on any website, on any social media platform, on any article, there is going to be the most deranged flurry of unprompted opinions and thoughts. This very article that you’re reading now probably has something in its comments calling me a slur. That’s just culture.

The saying is, unfortunately, true. Facebook must be the worst, a swarm of disgruntled boomers furiously asking “who? Who?” on every piece on Taylor Swift. Or perhaps Instagram, where you can post a photo of your recently deceased dog, only to have some bot account comment “SeNd PiC!”.

Which is why I love the TikTok comments sections so much.

The TikTok comment sections are a whole different level of shady. While there are plenty of just outright insulting trolls, the kind you’ll find in comment sections everywhere, there is also a widespread trend of people being incredibly funny and incredibly mean. You can’t just be brutal, you can’t just be insulting — you have to be clever about it. Or at least weird. And I think it makes them a really important part of the platform.

I’m only a casual TikTok user, but I’ve had a couple of videos get big numbers, and experienced the thrill and horror of suddenly having a swarm of youth flood the comments section.

Criticism is to be expected — often it seems like a competition about who can be the wokest, who can find problematic behaviour the quickest. I’ve deleted more videos than I can count because I was so scared of being called out, raked over the coals of TikTok judgement for my terrifying thoughts on TV shows.

But also sometimes they’re just mean.

Damn. Just. Damn. Image: TikTok/Supplied

In one of my first videos, someone just replied “hairline????”. What does that mean? My hairline is fine, I thought. But then I found myself thinking of my hairline every morning when I looked in the mirror for at least a year. That’s how powerful they are.

The best comments are the ones that mimic the kind of hyper-positive, quasi-therapy speak, social justice language that you find all over TikTok. They replicate the tone, but use it for pure evil.

One of the best examples of this is a user who put up a video of them singing, which got responses like “Singing is a gift. U didn’t receive it”, and “I’m glad you’re coming out of your comfort zone — but it’s time to go back”. Perhaps the most brutal was “Ong you go girl. Don’t come back”.

Are these tears from laughter or pain...? Image: TikTok/Supplied

Copying the saccharine sweet tone of early TikTok is both satisfying and very funny, and it’s what elevates these jokes above a standard insult. I’m not saying it’s good, or that I ethically support it, but I am saying that in a completely amoral fashion, I find it really funny.

It can be so random, like lightning in a clear blue sky. In one of my TikToks, where for some reason I was talking about the history of subsidised higher education in Australia (no idea why I felt like doing that), someone casually commented “Bros eyes are the least dry eyes I’ve seen in my life. I know bros vision is fucking pristine”.

Uhhhh. Image: TikTok/Supplied

Thank you? Fuck you? I honestly don’t know. Looking back at the video, my eyes are looking pleasantly moist, but who notices that? Am I genuinely being complimented, or am I being roasted? It actually doesn’t matter — that’s what makes it funny. On the same video, multiple people also pointed out that the bookshelf behind me needed more books on it. Let me live!

Let me live!!! Image: TikTok/Supplied

It seems like once a joke is started, TikTok commenters love to commit to the bit, which is part of the joy. The bookshelf commentary turned into a repeated joke on that video.

I remember once a commenter thought a video criticising MLMs (multi level marketing schemes) was actually criticising MLMs (men loving men, a term used predominantly in romance books), and accused the creator of homophobia. Everyone joined in, pretending they also thought she was being homophobic. She was just talking about pyramid schemes!

Or the innocuous video that was simply titled “Gary Lee please DM me, I found your phone”, where the entire comment section pretended to be Gary Lee. Gorgeous, harmless stuff.

TikTok knows how to commit to a bit. Image: TikTok/Supplied

One of TikTok’s best attributes is its scope — sure you can have a historian expertly explaining the history of the Roman Empire in under a minute, or people dissecting new law reforms, but you can also have a woman digging a giant tunnel underneath her house. You have beautiful commitments to weirdness like the guy breeding an army of frogs or the nine-month TikTok cruise sailing around the world like a plague ship of influencers. I think that this ability to find truly odd stuff is the best thing about TikTok.

As a consequence, I genuinely believe that TikTok’s deranged comment sections are one of the best ways the app stays enjoyable, and fights back against the inevitable flattening of the app into a way for people to promote their work or get clout.

Are super mean comments a nice or even admirable thing? No. But god they are funny, they make my eyes full of laughter water (tears) and help me forget my cursed hairline.

Patrick Lenton is a freelance journalist and author living in Melbourne. He writes the Substack newsletter ‘All The Het Nonsense‘.