Internet

West Elm Caleb: The internet commotion around him is out of control

If you’ve spent even five minutes on TikTok this week, you may have seen at least one video referencing a new For Your Page villain: West Elm Caleb.

According to Trending Clips, Caleb is a 25-year-old furniture designer for West Elm. The conventionally attractive, 6ft 4in white designer seemed pretty successful on dating apps, where he met women. In these TikTok videos, the women who say they’ve dated Caleb described how those relationships typically included dating, active texting and Spotify playlists. Many creators have used the phrase “love bombing” in their description of Caleb’s dating style, or the use of excessive flattery and romance at the start of a relationship that is often a red flag. These stories also end the same way: Caleb grows distant and eventually becomes a ghost, like a mirage in the desert of New York dating.

Funny enough, a video about a different The New York ghost named Caleb is what started the West Elm Caleb viral phenomenon. Creator Mimi Shou (@meemshou on TikTok) shared a funny video about dating in New York, specifically dating and then being ghosted by a tall man named Caleb. The comments were quickly filled with other girls asking if this guy worked at West Elm.

@meemshou

Reply to @hannahklub tiktok algorithm do yo thang #Warning #westelmcaleb #nyc

♬ original sound – MEEMS

Shou hadn’t dated West Elm Caleb (although she said she was in a relationship with him), but she do post a TikTok follow detailing the specific chain of events that one of West Elm Caleb’s exes described to him: tender moments that culminate in Caleb’s ultimate demise.

After Shou’s TikTok, creators @kateglavan and @kellsbellsbaby shared their own stories of fleeting relationships with Caleb. In addition to good dates and cheesy playlists, they say he told them both he was no longer on the apps where they had met. But in these videos, the women concocted a messy timeline that accuses him of dating all of them at the same time.

Unfortunately, West Elm Caleb’s bad dating etiquette isn’t exactly unique. If you dated in your twenties in any city, especially in the age of apps, you’ve probably been played by some version of him at some point in your life. You can be ghosted by your personal West Elm Caleb right now.

These shitty exes, however, don’t always get a catchy nickname and become infamous overnight on social media. The reach of this particular story is quite extraordinary, given that dating horror stories are often the backbone of viral posts almost daily. The TikTok algorithm is a smart but slippery thing that amplifies stories in mysterious and often problematic ways. Shou, the first person to go viral in this saga, is a popular creator who had already went viral with his Other Caleb joke video. But once he hit the messier side of TikTok, all hell broke loose.

Dating horror stories are viral catnip on Twitter and TikTok. One of the big trends of the latter over the past month has been the screen recording of people’s cringe-worthy audio messages on Hinge, often taken directly from their profiles and usually posted without covering up their name or face.

Most people use dating apps knowing that a message will be private. Yet, by nature, dating profiles are at least semi-public. Unless you’re using an app that has explicitly banned profile screenshots, like celebrity-favorite app Raya, you’re not necessarily protected from having your profile shown in group chats or even Tik Tok. In the case of West Elm Caleb, his doxxing was quick. Creators who hadn’t even dated him were quick to share screenshots of his profile and even his last name.

Of course, since his workplace is part of his popular nickname, he became the target of an online harassment campaign. Now, with his own social pages hidden or removed, West Elm’s comments on social media have instead been filled with anti-Caleb sentiment. The comments are full of jokes as well as shouting for the designer to be removed from his position. Many of these informal doxx petitions stem from the story of a creator who got two unsolicited dick pics from West Elm Caleb, without ever meeting him in person. He supposedly ghosted her too.

As he did in these women’s stories, Caleb became an online ghost — if he even had a significant presence to begin with. In less than a week, a person who appears to be a single 20-something has become a symbol of something bigger, a punching bag meant to represent the millions of brief but bad exes that perpetuate an online harassment campaign against him have probably experienced themselves.

As much as West Elm Caleb’s alleged actions are a prime example of how to not date around, the reaction is an ever greater stumble. If this is supposed to be justice, who exactly does it serve? Caleb himself was MIA (He didn’t come back rolling stonethe request for comment; West Elm either). Instead, the details of his love life were pieced together through brief videos, turning into a cycle of outrage, falling somewhere on the messy amateur TikTok investigative spectrum between couch guy and Sabrina Prater.

While the many young women who shared their experiences had every right to express their pain and anger, the hordes of trigger-happy commentators who constantly blur the line between actual abuse and shitty behavior have lost track. The result has been a massive campaign of online harassment against a pretty average 25-year-old whose biggest crime so far is being a poor communicator..

That shouldn’t stop other people from wanting to connect online with strangers who have had similar experiences. The West Elm Caleb fiasco led to other users sharing their own versions of serial ghosts, with each situation having varying levels of intensity. If it makes them feel less alone in their experience or warns someone else who is about to be hurt, that’s more justice than any uninvolved commenter flooding the accounts social work of Some Random Guy, can provide.

As for Caleb, he seems to be on an apology tour. A designer who said she matched with it but eventually ghosted it herself has posted a funny video of her reaction after she allegedly received a apologies from West Elm Caleb, who had just assumed he had ghost her. Glavan’s viral story about meeting Caleb ended with him confiding in her about the sudden viral fame and how upset he was about it.

Hopefully, like any serial ghost should, West Elm Caleb learns from his experience and grows. But based on the feeble apology a friend of mine received from a 40-year-old man who just ghosted him in the middle of this unfolding story, that’s not always guaranteed.