Increasingly, I see people on my timeline complaining about various TikTok videos in which young people identify as having autism or ADHD. The fact that a teen writes under a video about “autistic characteristics” that she recognizes all on her own — she even hates wearing socks — is problematic.
Anger typically focuses on how these individuals misuse concepts from psychology and thus attribute abusive behavior to the disorder. The word “pseudoscience” is often thrown around quickly.
Professional media are also writing with concern about how young people are eagerly throwing around DSM-5 concepts on social media and whether or not they are engaging in self-diagnosis. RTL News May themed with Young people make their own diagnoses via TikTok: ‘If you realize this, you have ADHD’. in Norwegian Refugee Council Last week, an article was published explaining the incorrect use of concepts from psychology (the language of therapy) on social media based on reading: “Over the past five years, teens have read 40 percent less. They now spend this time more often on social media.” Social communication, where the language of therapy is the dominant language for forming self-understanding. A rather remarkable conclusion, given that online communities for neurodivergent people often have heated discussions about new autistic characters. This is how things heat up on Reddit when campers claim “A” that Hermione is out Harry PotterBooks are autistic – and Camp B denies it.
By others Neurological variants Who I follow on Twitter and Instagram, I found my self-worth
Neurodivergent is the term the makers of these videos often use for themselves. Scientists mean: someone who has a mind that works differently from the average. Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, giftedness and high sensitivity all fall under this umbrella term.
What is striking about the anxious reactions to young people who loosely adopt terms from psychology is that these same young people are never asked anything. They are always written from the perspective of health care providers, who see young people slipping away.
Self-knowledge, acceptance, and self-esteem
What’s it like for neurodivergent people on social media? I spoke to five people with mental health diagnoses about this topic. From this I learned that although articles often point out nonsensical and trivial TikTok videos about mental health, neurodivergent people looking for like-minded people can easily look past them. Kind of like how you automatically pass an annoying influencer off your feed.
Some neurodiverse individuals seek recognition within a niche community on social media, while others have no interest in this at all. There are also heated debates, for example about whether or not it is wise to share intense experiences without warning.
If you ask them what they get from social media, the words are: self-knowledge, acceptance, self-esteem, appreciation, and support.
The videos also help develop the way I can handle myself and the tools I can use for this
26-year-old Kim Blaisir from Rotterdam spontaneously comes across videos about mental health in her timeline. She has been diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “Movies about my diagnosis help me feel less alone,” she wrote in a private message. “It also helps develop the way I can handle myself and the tools I can use to achieve this. I don’t really feel like I’m part of an online community, but by watching and commenting on videos, we help each other feel less alone and gain more knowledge.” Subjectivity and acceptance.
Lisa van de Ven (30) from Nuenen has also been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “Mental healthcare is still very negative. From an early age I learned what I couldn’t do as an autistic person instead of what I could do. The Internet has given me a lot of information. By others Neurological variants “Those I follow on Twitter and Instagram, I found my self-worth.”
The positive experiences of these people are sometimes forgotten in the discussion about mental health on social media. This doesn’t take away from the fact that there is a lot of misinformation and hurtful comments circulating in this community, Kim Blaisir says. “Sometimes it is very difficult to see people who are still at the beginning of the acceptance stage talking about their negative experiences and hard feelings.”
At the same time, accessible platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram give people a way to make their voices heard. In this sense, the Internet has a liberating effect.
Thanks to the World Wide Web, people have been able to communicate using written text from the 1990s onwards – an accessible and productive way for like-minded people to find each other and exchange ideas. “From those early autistic social groups in the 1990s emerged autistic culture, movement, self-advocacy, and the claim that autism is a valid form of being (A valid way of being() According to a scientific article in the journal Psychology Frontiers in psychology Which draws on a wide range of research from this field.
Compared to early online social life, today’s TikTok is an upgraded version of steroids, where users are bombarded with viral videos. Critics rightly point out the addictive effect that likes and comments can have on social media. In search of their next dopamine hit, video makers are sharing more videos that have a high chance of going viral. For example, algorithms can encourage people to self-identify as having a mental illness, whether they actually have it or not.
But in the general discussion on this topic, it’s good to remember this: Self-diagnoses on TikTok were preceded by an online liberation movement for neurodivergent people, made possible in part by now-fragmented social media.
A version of this article also appeared in the October 13, 2023 newspaper.