The Tabi Swiper vs. TikTok’s Vigilantes

This week, I found myself breathlessly refreshing TikTok and Twitter — still not ready to call it X, sorry — for the latest updates in the saga of the Tabi Swiper.

The story goes like this:

After a second date, a man named Josh went home with a woman named Alexis Dougé for the evening. The following morning, after Josh left, Alexis discovered that her Tabi Mary-Janes — a pricey shoe from the brand Margiela with a polarizing cloven toe — were missing. Alexis posted a TikTok video recapping the situation. It didn’t take the internet hive mind long to identify Josh, who had just given his girlfriend a pair of the same shoes. After a protracted public shaming, Josh came clean and gave Alexis her shoes back. The end!

My colleague Jessica Roy interviewed Alexis about the whole mess. Josh, perhaps unsurprisingly, declined to be interviewed.

I’m glad Alexis got her shoes back. There is nothing worse than that powerless and unsettling feeling you get after realizing something has been stolen from you. (I’m still mourning some prized rain boots that were snatched from my gym locker.) But the whole situation has me thinking about Josh as the latest in a line of bad date villains who have been put on blast for the internet to judge.

I’m thinking here about West Elm Caleb, a man who in 2022 found himself TikTok’s main character after a number of women came forward to accuse him of bad dating behavior. Before Caleb was Couch Guy, whose only offense was not getting off a sofa with sufficient enthusiasm when his long-distance girlfriend surprised him in person.

These stories quickly take on a life of their own. Internet vigilantes began tracking Caleb’s real-time location and calling West Elm to demand that he be fired. And the women who accused him soon began getting death threats.

Josh, by his own admission, stole a pair of shoes. That’s not right, he shouldn’t get away with that. But where’s the line? “He took some shoes — he didn’t commit a murder,” Jessica said.

Dougé told Jessica she was constantly being recognized: “They’ll say, ‘Glad you got your Tabis back!’” She also said she had received a surprising onslaught of online hatred.

There’s no easy solution to this pattern. Social media platforms sometimes have the power to deliver justice, but the dark side of the equation seems to be inescapable: vigilantism and harassment for all involved.

Thanks to TikTok’s algorithm, which favors the wild and crazy, it won’t be long before another main character comes along and gets the Couch Guy/West Elm Caleb/Tabi Swiper treatment. Until then, keep an eye on your boots.

Internet Candy

Here’s what else is happening online this week.

  • Montana’s attorney general wants to ban TikTok. Is the state ready?

  • The glamorous, lonely lives of those private chefs you see online.

  • One way the internet is remembering Jimmy Buffett.

  • The cool thing about mail.

  • What if Nintendo’s Toad sang “Temperature” by Sean Paul? You can stop wondering.

Shattered GlassTok

For months, I’ve been obsessed with a very particular TikTok genre where people roll bottles down stairs to see if they’ll shatter. Soda bottles. Condiment bottles. Wine bottles. Bottles stuffed with hundreds of tiny balls. Any kind of bottle that will ooze or explode everywhere when it inevitably shatters.

There’s an ecosystem surrounding these videos, too. People film themselves reacting to the bottles. They are strangely satisfying to watch: Oh, that one is gonna make it. Nope, that cap is gonna pop off right … about … yup, there it goes!

This isn’t necessarily a new genre, but perhaps it’s new to you. The biggest accounts — I’m a fan of @RachaPotes on TikTok — have racked up millions of views. Let’s be honest, the videos are conceptually very dumb and a little bit bizarre. That’s what I like about them. Don’t overthink it, just let the sound of shattering glass plinking against stone calm your racing mind.

Have feedback? Send me a note at [email protected].

You can also follow me on Twitter (@4evrmalone).

Callie Holtermann contributed reporting to this newsletter.

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