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What the Hell Happened: TikTok’s Devious Lick Trend

Missing soap dispenser at a Texas public school as a result of a "devious lick."
Missing soap dispenser at a Texas public school as a result of a "devious lick." By Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Anya B. Cheng, Contributing Writer

Where, exactly, have all the bathroom soap dispensers gone? And why are they disappearing? As with most things today, the answer to this mystery lies with TikTok. Along with soap dispensers, students across the country have been stealing school property in the name of TikTok’s newest diabolical trend: “Devious Licks.”

As one Twitter user explains, “They did it. They made theft a tiktok trend.” This user is right. Participating in the “Devious Licks'' trend is as easy as that: Steal a random object from school, take it home, and post a dramatic video removing the object from a backpack.

Know Your Meme identifies the start of the trend to be Sept. 6, when a TikTok user posted a video of a hand sanitizer dispenser with the caption, “only a month into school and got this absolute devious lick.” The video — since deleted — gained 2.7 million views in two days, inspiring thousands of users to post their own “devious licks.”

Hand sanitizer is a fairly innocuous and inexpensive thing to steal (although it definitely still constitutes theft — don’t get any ideas). But TikTok trends exist to go viral, and if there’s one truth in this life, it’s that people will do whatever it takes to go viral. The stolen objects, therefore, have only gotten more impressive: exit signs, printers, sinks, and bathroom stall doors. Basically, hand sanitizer is so two weeks ago.

Students in schools across the country are now scrambling to steal the biggest, baddest, most impressive object. These thefts range from minor annoyances — as one Twitter user lamented, “Every soap dispenser at my school has disappeared. I NEED TO WASH MY HANDS, PLEASE FIND THEM,” — to questionable school-wide punishments, such as shutting down bathrooms permanently. So a reminder to any aspiring “Devious Lick-er” — think of your community. Is stealing that bathroom stall door worth ruining everyone else’s day?

Prior to Sept. 6, most people hadn’t used or even seen this phrase. Now, “devious lick” is being used across social media, even outside of the trend. One Twitter user joked, “your honor my client did not commit grand larceny he just got an absolute devious lick.” Another tweet shared an image titled “[your heart]” with the caption, “My most devious lick by far.” Ah, the power of TikTok. Some middle schoolers steal a paper towel dispenser, and now we have a new saying.

Equipped with the virality of social media trends, this generation has, in many ways, a Shakespeare-like ability to come up with new phrases and speak them into reality (see: Bone Apple Tea). Trends go viral, and users use the trend to chase their five minutes of internet fame. Apps are flooded with the same catchy phrase, and in mere days, the trend completely permeates social media.=

So, how much staying power does “devious lick” have? Is it the newest permanent internet phenomenon? Or, like many TikTok trends of the past, will devious licks be forgotten by the end of the month? Due to the ebb and flow of social media nowadays, it’s hard to say for sure. But next month, if the 4th floor bathroom of Canaday A still has a soap dispenser ripped off of the wall, it’ll be certain: Devious licks are here to stay.

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