"West Elm Caleb" proves TikTok will prosecute fuckboys

Justice will be served.

meemshou / TikTok

The 2010s was officially the decade of the fuckboi. Personally, I don’t know a single girl or gay who escaped this era unscathed by some ghosting, two-timing, or delusionally egotistical Jason or Chad. But thanks to TikTok, it appears that justice will be served.

This past week, a TikTok creator went viral after she described a “super tall guy” named Caleb who she went on a date with in New York City. Soon after, she got an avalanche of messages from other women who swore they had gone on dates, were love bombed and subsequently ghosted by the exact same man. Now, this man named Caleb — who everyone in New York City has gone out with except me, apparently — became notoriously known as “West Elm Caleb,” after the furniture store he allegedly works for.

The hashtag #westelmcaleb now has more than 14.3 million views on TikTok and other women have since posted videos talking about their experiences dating him, from getting unsolicited nudes to discovering that he was seeing multiple women at once. He’s quickly becoming the city’s favorite villain, on par with omicron and seasonal depression.

But whether or not West Elm Caleb is the guy everyone thinks he is, it’s fascinating to witness how quickly social media, especially TikTok, allows us to find far-fetched mutual connections and hold people accountable. Without the one TikTok that opened the floodgates, West Elm Caleb would have probably roamed the streets of the tri-state area for years to come, leaving a trail of heartbreak and disappointment behind.

Albeit entirely cheekier, the saga of West Elm Caleb is, in my opinion, part of the continuing legacy of the #MeToo movement that began on MySpace. A ghoster, by no means, is the same thing as an abuser — I’d like to first make that clear. But it is an important reminder that the power of social media really lies in its ability to connect people who have mutual interests and who would otherwise never know of each other’s existence. Those connections allow us to see how structures of oppression or people with power are equally damaging to all of us, which is the first step to banding together and collectively changing what we are willing to tolerate. In other words, every fuckboi’s worst nightmare.

For the record, all we know from TikTok so far is that West Elm Caleb is a dick, but not necessarily a demon. Misunderstandings and miscommunication are inevitable when dating around, but it’s the deliberate gaslighting and disregard for others’ feelings that makes a fuckboi a fuckboi. West Elm Caleb is really just a metaphor for how serial harmers are less safe now than they ever have been: We will find them and, by the grace of the TikTok algorithm, they will experience our wrath.