The TikTok algorithm is terrifying. Following my last breakup, my “For You” page became an endless feed of sad-girl content. From unhinged Jimmy Neutron memes to women singing beautiful, heart-wrenching ballads about their heartbreaks, everything was sad and depressing and about breakups. Somewhere along the way, the TikTok psychics started to pop up. At first, it was innocuous: just a tarot reading very vaguely describing some former romantic partner and then telling me everything would work out. My recent breakup devastated me, so I clung on to denial, on to the hope that he would one day come back. I decided to interact with the clip, thinking that maybe this random tarot reading was just what I needed. Maybe everything would work out. What’s the worst that could come from one tap of a button?

I did not realize what a huge mistake I had just made. Because of that singular like, my “For You” page was suddenly flooded with self-proclaimed psychics. What started with harmless tarot readings became a constant stream of “like, follow, and share” to claim whatever deep-seated desire of mine the psychic would vaguely allude to. On my “For You” page, women would list seven of the 12 zodiac signs and list half of the alphabet as initials. The most specific I ever saw them get was when they described the person as dark-haired and light-eyed — as if that isn’t half the population. Then, they would claim that this person is thinking of me and if I interact with the video, they would reach out to me within a few days.

To any rational person, this clearly seems fake. Unfortunately, I was not very rational after my breakup. I was overtaken by grief. I could not eat or sleep. I would spend hours crying every day, thinking that I was nothing without my ex, that I would never feel joy again. In hindsight, it sounds melodramatic and overemotional, but at the time, my pain was all-consuming and real. The only thing that alleviated my hurt was the hope that one day he would come back to me. I had become so desperate to make everything stop hurting that I clung on to denial with a white-knuckled grip.

Denial had become my home and these TikTok psychics knew how to commodify that for clout. They knew exactly how to exploit people’s pain to take advantage of the creator fund. A stupid little part of me truly did believe that if I interacted enough times my ex would call me telling me how much he missed me, that we could be together again. Realistically, I knew there was absolutely no chance of that. The circumstances of our breakup were messy and toxic. Neither of us would ever reach out to the other. But denial was comfortable. So I kept on liking, sharing, and following. The number of people I followed went up from 98 to 152. 

And I was not the only one fueling my denial through TikTok psychics. Their comment sections were full of desperate, hurt people. People grieving lost loves and missed connections. In the same way the psychics deluded me, so many others were promised false hope that things would be okay again. I think it was these comments that made me snap out of my period of denial. These people were in so much pain and these creators were profiting off of it. They were truly hurt and they really believed that these videos could fix their lives. They believed that if they liked, followed, and shared enough, things would be okay again. It made me feel sick and disgusted to witness these psychics feed so much pain into a perpetual cycle of deception. There is something so vehemently wrong and gross about deluding people for clout.

My breakup was painful, and denial during a breakup is wholly natural. But I truly believe that my denial and subsequent grieving period were exacerbated by these TikTok psychics. They validated my delusions and they continue to validate the delusions of all people who are heartbroken. They keep us from healing.

Six months after my breakup, these videos still pop up on my “For You” page, but now I know to tap “not interested” instead of interacting. I am not entirely healed, but I know better now. TikTok psychics will not make my life okay again — only I am capable of doing that. Each day, I choose to ignore the seduction of denial and choose to heal, even if it is painful.

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