The Meaning Behind TikTok’s Orange Peel Theory

4 minute read

Can peeling an orange indicate true love? TikTok seems to think so. A trend dubbed the “Orange Peel Theory” has been going viral on the social media platform, asking people to consider the ways small acts of service, such as peeling an orange for a partner or making coffee in the morning, can show an individual’s commitment to their relationship. At the time of going to press, videos tagged with the #orangepeeltheory have been viewed over 27 million times.

What is the orange peel theory?

The orange peel theory suggests that the small acts of service, and a partner’s willingness to perform them, indicate a healthy relationship. 

“If someone asks you to peel their orange you might think, ‘They’re perfectly capable of doing that themselves, that's not a big deal,’” said TikToker @neanotmia in a breakdown of the trend. “It might not literally be about peeling the orange. They’re asking you for a small favor to see your reaction, to see if later they can ask you for bigger favors. How are you going to make them feel when they ask you for that help?”

“Their response is indicative of much bigger things than just merely peeling an orange,” said TikTok user Anna Birmingham in a post about the trend. “Even a super tiny thing like that reveals so much about their attitude towards you and your relationship.”

Birmingham notes that acts of service, regardless of how small they might be, are simply about expressing kindness without any conditions or expectations. “[It’s about] wanting to do things for someone to see them happy even if it inconveniences you, or even if there’s nothing in it for you,” she said in her video. “That, at the end of the day, is true, raw, unconditional love.”

When did it become a TikTok trend?

The trend is believed to have begun with a TikTok slideshow featuring a text exchange from a former couple reminiscing about their relationship. "I miss when you would peel my oranges for me in the morning," one text read, as the person explained that, when they try to do it themselves, they "still get juice all over and stab my nails too deep."

The text exchange ends with the message, "I peeled my orange today," delivered in green after a stream of blue messages, indicating that the sender had been blocked. The video has been viewed over 2.5 million times since it was first posted at the beginning of November.

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Since then, many users have jumped on the trend to share the kind ways their partners have brightened their days. In one, a baker showed a video of her boyfriend surprising her with pre-separated egg whites, after she had complained to him that she had been struggling with the task due to her long nails.

“It was honestly just a little rant that I didn’t think he paid much attention to,” she wrote in a caption over a video of the surprise, “But he saw me! Never thought egg whites would make me cry.”

Others note that the theory is applicable to any relationship—not just romantic ones. “Everyday after school my six-year-old asks me to carry his backpack in the house for him and I always enthusiastically will after learning about the orange peel theory,” one parent shared.

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