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TikTok is giving birth to India’s new influencers — young men who cry, violently

The men in these TikTok videos are clearly playing the role of hurt, revenge-seeking ‘aashiq’ from Bollywood films. And that’s dangerous.

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Not fashionistas, lifestyle gurus or comedians, the new — and bizarre — influencers in India are men who cry on TikTok. In the 15-second videos, these men do everything between weeping and wailing.

The garden-variety Indian man prides himself on his masculinity and his impenetrable ego. ‘Mard ko dard nahi hota (men don’t feel pain)’ is what they tell themselves. In fact, Indian society frowns upon a man who can cry or display his emotions in public. But video app TikTok is now turning these notions on their heads. Or, is it?

A quick look at TikTok easily reveals quite a few videos of men beating their chests and crying to songs about lost love. One would imagine that these videos would signal relief in a culture where alpha-male films like Kabir Singh make a fortune at the box office.

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Contrary to patriarchal norms, these men appear to be openly crying, but here’s the disturbing angle. They do so not just fiercely, but also while staying within normative gender boundaries. The role that they are playing out in these TikTok videos is clearly that of the ‘aashiq (lover)’ from a Bollywood film. For those who regularly watch films in India, this is not an uncommon trope. The ‘aashiq’ is the figure of the hero (often portrayed as sensitive, yet masculine) who is entranced by his love. Think Salman Khan from Tere Naam or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or even Dev from Poran Jai Jolia Re (if you’re into Bengali movies).

The young men who cry on TikTok have successfully mimicked this figure — the wronged lover, hurt and driven to madness. Yet, what is common to many of these videos, apart from the portrayal of this character, is the ferocity with which these ‘aashiqs’ express their love (or the loss of it).

For the uninitiated, the Instagram account @crying_tiktok_users has curated a large number of videos of men crying violently into the camera, mouthing dialogues from Bollywood about women who played with their heart.


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Meth #tiktokmemes #tiktok #tiktokcringe #crying

A post shared by boys who cry on tik tok 😥 (@crying_tiktok_users) on Apr 7, 2019 at 8:58pm PDT

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Take this video for example. Taken from the Instagram page of the same account, it is a TikTok video of a man who is lip-syncing to a line from a Hindi film. With puffy red eyes, he violently shakes his limbs to talk about a woman who has betrayed him in love.


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A post shared by boys who cry on tik tok 😥 (@crying_tiktok_users) on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:51pm PDT

And it gets curiouser and curiouser. This next TikTok clip has a split-screen. On one end of it there is a man crying about his broken heart, as blood (or ketchup) drips down his face. The woman in the split-screen has her hands folded and appears to be begging for forgiveness.

A broken heart is not the only reason why men are taking to TikTok. Patriotism is another top reason. However, the level of aggression here is often doubled. Topping the list for such videos has to be men lip-syncing to lines from films like Border and Uri, where they promise to destroy the ‘enemy’ once and for all. The app saw a surge in such videos at the time of Balakot airstrikes earlier this year, when many such videos carried the hashtag #BadlaLoIndia.

On the surface, they appear to be innocent videos about national pride, but the caption and the dialogues uttered make their inherent violence apparent. “Now Hindustan will not stay quiet. This is new Hindustan. This Hindustan will get angry and will attack too,” they say. If anything was left unsaid, hashtags like #badla #indianarmy and #uri leave no scope for confusion.

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Young men express their hate by openly shedding tears. “You celebrated Valentine’s Day with the blood of our soldiers. Now we will celebrate Maha Shivratri with the ashes of terrorists. Now, there will be tandav (cosmic dance)”.

In a culture where the Dabangg man is celebrated, men crying openly and seemingly passionately on social media may on one level seem to be a welcome change. Yet, in a world where nearly all women face gendered abuse on a daily basis, I don’t find these videos amusing. This kind of toxic refusal to accept a no is one step away from the acid-throwing culture of south Asia, not to mention the bigoted tropes that often accompany nationalism.

These videos only serve to reinforce this culture of machismo. In most of these videos, the men cry while establishing the fact that they have been wronged, and as they bawl their eyeballs out, they generally talk about revenge, or seem to be hurting others or themselves. In the videos where they cry for patriotic reasons, it is the ‘enemy’ who has wronged the motherland, and therefore must be avenged.

The crying men of TikTok use their tears to largely validate their experience of being wronged, especially when women have turned them down. Apparently, women having agency is just unthinkable. Here, a young man bangs his head against a bulb, and he rubs his chest in pain.


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A post shared by boys who cry on tik tok 😥 (@crying_tiktok_users) on May 14, 2019 at 11:11pm PDT

When a woman is assaulted or cat-called in the streets, she is often asked why she didn’t say ‘no’, but in a culture where even in a make-believe scenario, a man will hit his head against a bulb to express his romantic rejection, it is no wonder that as a young woman I feared (and still do) the men who make unwanted passes at me, worrying that saying ‘no’ can lead to legitimate violence. And I am not alone in this experience. Men crying doesn’t equal to men respecting women, it’s just age-old patriarchy in a new bottle. They cry because they have been supposedly wronged — they sprinkle violence with tears.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite videos from this genre. Do note the very confused look of the woman in the background as the teenager cries his heart out. As a millennial, all I can say is ‘It me’.


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A post shared by boys who cry on tik tok 😥 (@crying_tiktok_users) on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:38pm PDT

The author is an editor and audiobooks producer based in Delhi NCR.

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  1. Tiktok is nothing but a plague which will going to back bite in a very unique way……
    Loved your view coz I think the same about it

  2. Well there’s nothing wrong in retaliating against Pakistan for supporting cross border terrorism. So who ever is posting violent videos on tik tok and desire to avenge their brothers killed in pulwama terror are doing nothing wrong. If you criticize them or portray them in wrong light by calling them hate monger then I think you are a big fan of Hafiz Saeed and thus you are an anti national traitor who just want peace(which is found in grave yard) at the cost of our soldiers.

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