The deeper meaning behind TikTok’s ‘I had pasta tonight’ caption

At its foundation, TikTok is supposed to be a fun and silly app with lip syncs, challenges, dances and funny videos. But, as with most social media, there is an underlying dark side to the platform that parents and fans of the app should be aware of.

The line “I had pasta tonight” is not a new viral craze, but rather a call for help.

What the statement often means is that the person in the video is feeling depressed, anxious or experiencing suicidal thoughts.

According to data from the CDC, Gen Z is the most at-risk generation for mental illness. Business Insider reports that the suicide rate for people aged 10 to 24 has increased by 56 percent between 2007 and 2017.

Social media also can contribute to depression. Statistically, Gen Z is more likely to be on social media than not, and a study by Guildford Press concluded that there is a link between social media and poor mental and emotional health.

Other captions like “I finished my shampoo and conditioner at the same time” serve as codes for help. Mental health is still a stigmatized issue that many find very hard to openly admit or talk about, so these phrases act as a way to raise a red flag without feeling too vulnerable online.

A Reddit user believes that the phrases come from a Wattpad post titled, “Don’t kill yourself today.” One point says to “finish your shampoo and conditioner at the same time” and another says to “tell someone your best pasta recipe.”

What’s powerful about “I had pasta tonight” is the comments. Those who are aware of the meaning behind the phrase know to reach out to the person or reply with kind words.

One TikTok captioned “Told my mom about my favorite pasta recipe and she made it for dinner tonight” received over 3 million views and 60,000 comments — all of which can be summed up by one user’s comment: “This comment section is my new therapy. Thank you.”

“You’re so loved,” one person replied.

“You haven’t come this far to only come this far,” another posted.

“I love you all so much it’s beyond words,” the poster commented. “Thank you so much.”

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Click here to learn about the warning signs of suicide.

To read more about mental health, read this profile on Dimple Patel, who’s on a mission to raise awareness within the South Asian community.

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