How a viral bean soup recipe prompted the internet to break down ‘what about me’ effect

People are using a bean soup recipe on TikTok to explain a social media phenomenon called the “what about me” effect.

Back in August, a creator named Kara, who goes by the username @vibinggranolamom on the platform, posted a vegan bean soup recipe for “anemic girlies” but she also added that it can be a good rotational meal when a woman is on her period as a way to consume extra iron. This led to many comments asking for substitutions for the soup’s main ingredient.

“Can I substitute beans with something else?” one person asked in the video’s comments section. “Beans? That’s a deal breaker,” said another.

Another TikToker named Sarah, under the username @sarahthebookfairy, used this as an example in her viral video about the “what about me” effect. “The ‘what about me’ effect basically combines individualistic culture with being chronically online, and it is rampant on TikTok,” she explained.

She explained the effect would refer to when a video or topic “doesn’t really pertain” to someone’s lifestyle or interests, but they somehow “find a way to make it about them”.

For example, users may post a comment or “seek out certain accommodations” to make the topic about them, “instead of recognising that maybe, they’re just not the target audience for that thing,” Sarah continued.

The bean soup video is used as an example of this, with Sarah pointing to the comments of people asking for a bean replacement in a bean soup recipe “instead of just saying: ‘Hey, if I don’t like beans, maybe I shouldn’t watch this bean soup video’”.

She then said she doesn’t believe these comments are because users lack common sense. Instead, she thinks the comments are because of the United States’ “rampant individualistic culture,” and claimed the phenomenon bears resemblance to “main character syndrome”.

“We make everything about ourselves and seek out accommodations and validation for everything,” Sarah continued.

Sarah also used the example of being gluten intolerant and then commenting on every bread-making TikTok: “Well I can’t have gluten.”

“That would be ridiculous,” she said. “I can just go watch videos of people making gluten-free bread.”

“Things are nuanced,” she continued. “Not everything can apply to every single person and there doesn’t always need to be a specific accommodation for you.”

Many of Sarah’s viewers proceeded to make sarcastic jokes about the concept. “I’ve never seen the bean soup video, so idk if this applies to me. Can you provide an example using a video I’ve seen?” one viewer joked.

Other content creators also shared their own experiences with the phenomenon. “I made a video in Spanish and someone commented ‘do you expect me to just know Spanish’ like??” one person wrote.

Since being posted on 14 September, Sarah’s video has received over two million views with Kara’s receiving over seven million views.

Due to the success of Sarah’s video, many people have taken to the comments under Kara’s bean soup recipe to leave parody-style comments based on the “what about me” effect. “What if I substituted the beans with little rocks because they looked similar and now all my teeth are broken? What can I use to substitute my teeth?” one commenter joked.