Why is everyone saying ‘crop’ and ‘story time’ on TikTok?

Comment sections aren’t often the most pleasant of places, but TikTok’s has been particularly insufferable these days.

If you’ve scrolled your For You Page at all in the past week, you may have noticed a couple of key phrases pop up over and over… and over again. Open the comments of a TikTok video from a fairly big creator or any video that has remotely viral potential, and you’ll likely see “crop,” “story time,” and “you don’t have this emoji” repeatedly, drowning out any actual, fruitful comments.

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

TikTok comment section with a red box outlining two specific comments, which read

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

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The phrases seem nonsensical, and personally make me want to rip my hair out. I come to TikTok for dumb videos and jaunty ear worms, or maybe pop culture discourse and a nice little recipe suggestion. When I open the comments, I expect either fun banter or genuine questions and answers. How I yearn for the days when I could find these.

Why must we suffer like this?

The comments are deeply annoying, and that’s exactly what they’re meant to be. It’s all a big inside joke made to spam videos across the platform, creating an echo chamber of people who keep the spam comments coming and a subsequent chain of irked users commenting to complain about the spam comments. That is, until all of our brains are so broken we just close the app and log off. Huh. Maybe these spam comments are good for us after all.

But why were these words chosen for TikTok’s latest comment overload trend? (And yes, it’s just the latest in a habit that TikTok commenters can’t seem to kick.)

TikTok video showing a Marvel heroes collage.

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

TikTok comment section with a red box outlining two specific comments, which reads

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

For “crop” and “story time,” the trend is a not-so-subtle dig towards a piece of actual TikTok comment culture. Before the spam meme took off, these two phrases were genuinely posted often. “Crop” was usually commented under a video like this, where the original creator is using the Shapeshifting filter over an image in the background. Other users would ask for a crop of the specific image used in the video, so they, too, could participate in the trend. There have been so many filter-based trends that this comment had been appearing all over TikTok, enough for a subsect of users to memeify it.

“Story time” followed a similar path. A large number of viral videos on TikTok feature someone using an audio trend or just talking to the camera about a crazy situation they may have gone through. But to pique the viewer’s interest, they usually leave out a few key details, or hint at the larger context without revealing it all. Because we all love to take the bait, other users would then comment “story time?” asking for a longer video to explain the full tale. It’s a genius ploy by creators to drive up engagement in the comments and game the algorithm, and the phrase itself became easily understood and, again, peppered all over the platform until the meme lords came for it.

The “you don’t have this emoji” gag is a little harder to trace. It doesn’t have obvious roots in TikTok-specific culture, but we here at Mashable have a theory of our own: It probably comes from the semi-recent new Apple emoji drop.

iPhone users were treated to a collection of new emoji on March 15, which featured the likes of a sparkly disco ball, a Lin Manuel Miranda-esque lip bite, and a cup pouring what may or may not be blood. Since you could only see the emoji if you had updated to iOS 15.4, plenty of TikTok users were probably running into the � or box with a question mark in it, indicating that they didn’t have that emoji yet.

Once again, some memer out there likely saw this and created their own version to plague TikTok’s comment sections. If you really want to get your hands on the elusive emoji, just copy and paste it at this point. Here, we’ll even put it right here in this article for you: 😅⃤

How to prevent the dumb spam comments on your own videos

Unfortunately, TikTok doesn’t seem to have a filter function that lets you block all of these words from your comment viewing experience. But if you don’t want to see the spam on any videos you post to TikTok, there are some steps you can take to clean up your comment sections.

TikTok profile with red arrows pointing to the three bars in upper left corner and button with


Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

To start filtering your own comment sections, first click on the three bars in the upper right corner of your profilethen tap “Settings and privacy.”

TikTok settings, with red arrow pointing to

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

TikTok settings, with red arrow pointing to

Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

Then, tap on the button that says “Privacy,” and on the next screen, tap where it says “Comments.”

TikTok settings, with red arrows pointing to a toggle button next to


Credit: Screenshot: TikTok

Finally, toggle on the button next to “Filter keywords,” and an area to type in any undesired words should pop up. Input the words you’d like to blacklist, and hit enter after each one.

TikTok seems to limit users to only blocking 50 words, so if you have any other words you’d like to oust, choose wisely.

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