Normally the preserve of glossy or playful content, TikTok and Instagram are transforming into places for young people with chronic illnesses to connect, support each other and create solutions outside of traditional healthcare.
Making waves on Instagram under the name The Chronic Iconic is Jessica Cummin, who has created and sold a t-shirt bearing the statement 'not getting well soon’ to steer the wellness conversation towards physical health. YouTuber Hannah Witton is taking aim at the stigmatisation of sexuality and disability. She speaks candidly about the experiences of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and her stoma bag, debunking myths that sex and masturbation are taboo topics for those with disabilities.
On TikTok, Generation Z are using humour to educate viewers on how chronic illnesses affect women – especially where male medical professionals are perceiving them as 'emotional and worriers'. In the Make it Stop challenge TikTokers recall their long diagnosis journeys while lip-synching to Disney songs.
Elsewhere, TikTok communities are banding together to create solutions. In January 2021, strangers co-created a pill bottle for a person with Parkinson’s disease who posted on TikTok about the difficulties in picking up small pills with shaky hands. Within a week, a prototype had been 3D-printed and its design made open-source.
As this conversation becomes more deeply entwined with youth culture, dedicated membership clubs are radically rethinking the concept of the support system.
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