In a video that's been viewed over 20 million times on TikTok, Alexandre Evidente (@trekfit) seems like he's fed up with his boss after being asked to forgo his morning gym routine to come in for an early meeting. The video has over 32,000 comments, many of them supporting Alexandre for asserting his boundaries at work.
The video was created as a "stitch" in response to a now-deleted video posted by the Demoted podcast. Demoted is hosted by the popular TikTokers Natalie Marie (@CorporateNatalie) and Ross Pomerantz (@Corporate.Bro).
On the podcast, Natalie and Ross read and respond to listener messages.
In the now-deleted video, Natalie can be seen reading a message, saying: "When asked to come in for an 8 am meeting, my Gen Z new hire said, 'Ugh, sorry I can't make it. I have a workout class.' Should this be allowed?"
Then, the clip cuts to Alexandre, who says: "Yeah, Natalie, so we can talk about this more later. But I'm gonna address this now. It was made very clear during the interview process that the working hours for this position is between 9 to 5 pm Eastern Time and I am on Eastern time. I made that very clear with HR because I have commitments outside of work."
Commenters were quick to chime in, mainly in support of Alexandre, though a few said that they agree with Natalie in this situation:
A few hours after Alexandre's video was posted, Natalie shared a video in response, writing in the caption, "Want to clarify that Alexandre is in no way affiliated with us, but completely agree with the points he's bringing up. You should absolutely NOT be going into work when you aren't being compensated for it."
She starts her response by explaining why the original was taken down, saying, "First things first, we made the decision to take down the video so it's no longer there. We got a lot of heat, and rightfully so. It was getting vicious in the comments, so we decided to take it down. To be clear, we fully deserved this heat."
On a call with BuzzFeed, she clarified that when she made her response video, she had believed that viewers were more upset with her initial reaction to the reader's message. Only later did she realize how many people were taking Alexandre's video at face value.
She also goes on to give more context around what exactly was going on in that original podcast clip: "This is a listener-submitted story from someone who works in consulting. This is the email with the additional context we were given."
Then Natalie explains why she responded to this listener's question the way that she did, saying: "This is for a salaried employee once a quarter. I do not know what their salary is, but I looked up consulting salaries, and it's somewhere within the range of $100k to $120k base, so it's not an hourly employee."
She continues, saying: "If you are hourly or you work a job that the hours are strictly nine to five please do not work outside those hours. You're not getting compensated for it and that's not worth it. Again, the way the social clip was cut and just the things we were saying and how we're reacting and getting so fired up about it, totally take ownership for that."
Her response has been viewed a mere 2 million times so far, compared to the combined ~27 million views that Alexandre's has accrued. In the comments, many still don't believe Natalie's story and are treating her as the villain of the day. Even TikTok's favorite 93-year-old Grandma Droniak (@grandma_droniak) weighed in:
Some commenters are even demanding that she post another screenshot of the listener submission to prove that it's genuine:
On a call with BuzzFeed, Natalie confirmed that she is not affiliated with and had never had any contact with Alexandre before he stitched his response to Demoted. She said that his video came out of nowhere for her and she never would have imagined something like this happening.
Natalie herself is a member of Gen Z and has built her platform on talking about Gen Z at work and advocating for better work/life balance. She regrets how her comments from the podcast were presented out of context and says that this whole situation has taught her a lot already.
On Friday afternoon, about a day after he stitched his initial response to the Demoted podcast's video, Alexandre shared a follow-up video clarifying that his runaway viral response video was actually, in fact, a skit. Alexandre says, "That video that I made was my genuine reaction to the situation in the form of a skit. I should have made that clear. And I'm sorry."
Many commenters seemed surprised to learn his viral video was just a skit, while others seem surprised that anyone believed it was real.
So far, Alexandre's clarification hasn't even reached 100,000 views, and the original video continues to drive engagement, leading viewers on TikTok to believe that he's speaking directly to his actual boss, not responding in the form of a skit.
It reminds me of that old saying: Misinformation gets halfway around the world by the time the truth posts a reply video.
On a call with BuzzFeed, Alexandre said that he could have taken steps to make it more clear that his video was a skit by saying so in the caption and using certain hashtags. "I think that would help out in the future, and that's one of the things that I will be incorporating in my content moving forward."
He said that he was surprised to learn that people were taking his video so seriously, and he hopes that it won't harm Natalie in her career: "The intent of the video that I put out there was not to hurt or harm anyone or put them in a position where their livelihood is being taken away from them." He also apologized for addressing his skit so directly at Natalie, which he says is causing her to "take the heat" over viewers' misunderstandings of the situation.
While this might seem like nothing more than niche TikTok drama, it's also an example of the dangerous power inherent in virality itself. And with local news publications being gutted amid round after round of national media layoffs, we should all be worried.
Layoffs in 2023 and 2024 have affected myriad publications including: CNN, the Washington Post, NPR, Vice Media, Sports Illustrated, Vox Media, NBC News, and CNBC, not to mention my very-missed former colleagues at BuzzFeed News.
With journalism falling into peril, people will look more and more to social media for information and conversations about the news of the day. But short video clips and text posts are often missing crucial context, and, as in this story, sometimes the truth doesn't have the virality it takes to grab enough eyeballs to counteract false narratives.