I joined TikTok two years ago to gather information for an interview I was preparing to do. Before that, I only knew of the app through the TikTok videos that would be occasionally shared on my timeline from the app. I have had moments when I was very pumped about joining a new social media app, only to get confused, demotivated and eventually just getting detached from it; first, it happened with Twitter, then Snapchat and I was sure it would be the same case with TikTok.
After a month of getting the app and registering an account, I had started forgetting of its existence until I was stuck at the reception of my doctor’s office for an hour and had to find ways of tricking my brain into believing that the doctor wasn’t intentionally tormenting me. TikTok is interesting because it plays and preys on the millennial’s short attention span. Short videos of 5-6 seconds are just long enough to capture my attention while not requiring me to commit, think or question.
What I found to be intriguing was the sheer amount of content that was available to me organically without having to necessarily go to the trouble of following creators or typing in their usernames. If I was patient enough, I was bound to interact with content of all shapes and sizes, and there is a lot of diversity on that app.
Once I understood how the app worked, I was curious to find out if there were creators who posted videos about disability awareness and education. As a disabled man myself from the countryside of Nakuru, I am always in search of new information about my condition and eager to learn all the tips I can to make my life a little easier. It is also always nice to find out that there are millions of other people around the world who look like you and experience the unique challenges that you do.
It was amazing to see all the disability-related content. I naturally went to the spinal cord Injury page first and went through a good chunk of the videos. I realised that on TikTok, all you have to do is either type in a keyword or a hashtag in the search box and you will unlock the best of the best in your desired category.
It was so affirming and reassuring to see guys talking about issues that I had felt were only specially designed for me. Taboo subjects were demystified and put into proper perspective and in doing that, validated people like me. The overpowering message was that “You are not alone” I wanted to understand all disabilities so I kept searching for keywords related to our community. I encountered such educational content about Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, Down Syndrome and so many others.
That being said, I also noticed that for every disabled person who went out of their way to put themselves out there with the desire to create awareness, a section of the users tend to be highly insensitive, inconsiderate and outright rude. I guess it comes with the territory, once you put your life out there you cease to have any control over how people will react to your content but still, it is unfortunate that brave disabled people end up getting dragged for telling their stories. I think this is something TikTok and all social media platforms should look into because it can discourage persons with disabilities from being on online platforms.
I urge my disabled friends to get into TikTok and share the freedom to interact with the content there. Though there aren’t too many disabled creators from Kenya, there is still a lot that we can learn from our worldwide community. The most important lesson is being confident and truly believe that we are exactly where we ought to be. Maybe it’s time we stopped being too apologetic about who we are and step out into the world.
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