The Brief: On TikTok, videos providing tips about how to successfully shoplift often refer to stealing as "borrowing."
Communities of young, rebellious shoplifters have long thrived online so it’s no surprise that TikTok hosts thousands of videos about lifting, many of which use the euphemism “borrowing” to refer to stealing. While more obvious hashtags like #Stealing and #Shoplifting are more regulated and censored on the app, and the #Lifting hashtag is dominated by weight lifters, hashtags related to “borrowing” are commonly used to share content about shoplifting. At the time of writing, videos associated with the hashtag #Borrowing have been viewed over 86 million times.
Borrowing accounts on TikTok are usually anonymous and are often created by small groups of shoplifting enthusiasts. These accounts share tips about the logistics of stealing from stores without getting caught, show off borrowing hauls, and discuss the reasons people choose to shoplift. They often respond to comments, interacting with viewers to give them advice.
Although there’s no unified consensus on the ethics of shoplifting, even among online lifting communities, many shoplifters agree that people shouldn’t steal from mom and pop stores. Instead, they target large corporations, especially those that mistreat their workers or that have records of being racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. The phrase “if it’s a chain, it’s free reign” reinforces this idea. Some lifters claim that their actions are a form of Robinhood-esque resistance to capitalism while others don’t share their exact reasons for “borrowing.”