TikTok has become the new platform, gaining traction during the pandemic, for users to curate and tailor their For You Page depending on their preferences. The algorithm is designed to present users with new content on a continuous loop, meaning that people never know what videos they will be faced with. This spontaneous content is one of the thrills and joys of TikTok entertainment, however, the recent TraumaTok trend exposes some of the flaws of TikTok when new videos flash up onto the screen without warning.
Enter the newest trend – TraumaTok – a phenomenon where users share their emotionally traumatic experiences. The #traumatok has acquired 1B views on the app where the sharing of people’s traumas are morphing into a fad, and whilst this encourages people to be brave and speak out about their trauma, engaging in discussions and conversations about their experiences, the content is incredibly weighted and heavy for user-consumption; especially when we consider that their might be a relatively young teenager on the other end of the screen, digesting that information before bed, completely inept to process this type of content. What are the consequences of digesting this information before bed?
The comments on this particular video are incredibly supportive and encouraging of the girl’s decision to share her experience confronting her husband’s abuse: ‘I just spent hours literal hours watching every single video. I’m so proud of you. Go lil rockstar’, ‘as a child of a woman who just got out of a 20 year long abusive relationship, its not your fault’, ‘I love how you showed his face. I’m gonna be this brave…soon!’.
Whilst raising awareness of these issues is incredible by creating a comment section that supports domestic abuse victims, it is also concerning when considering the context that TikToks are digested. With the app at your fingertips, parents are unable to control what their children are consuming on TikTok, thus, when they engage with videos, especially late at night, they are placed in situations that they are not adequately prepped to handle. Whilst sharing your trauma is a source of activism, it also has wide-reaching consequences when there is not a professional to facilitate the conversation. It is easy to get trapped down the rabbit hole that is the TikTok comment section, where inevitably you will end up digesting other people’s traumas, without knowing what type of consequence this will have for you.
An extension of TraumaTok is also the use of dark humour, in combination with sensitive topics, that are often negatively received by users consuming the content. The video above showcases a girl discussing the impact of the death of her boyfriend on her mental health, using dark humour in the video.
The comments were divided in opinion, whilst some criticised the video, claiming that the video was trivialising the death of the boy: ‘ok. not a good topic. insulting yo dead boyfriend’, some of the comments built upon the trauma. Some users began to share their own experiences: ‘my dad died two weeks after I finally convinced him to try therapy with me to mend our relationship. Man would rather die than do therapy smh’. The surprising aspect is the lack of comments that are calling out the trauma dumping, the sharing of traumatic experiences is gradually becoming normalised, and whilst this is important to build a community that speaks out about difficult siutations, it is also emotionally damaging for users who aren’t prepared, nor emotionally equipped, to handle these situations. Without a professional to help, these conversations can become dangerous.
The lack of conversation surrounding TraumaTok means this particular trend is becoming insidious and people are failing to recognize the impact of this trend on the impressionable minds of users. With an app as dense as TikTok, it is hard to control these popular movements and fads, however, TraumaTok is something that must be discussed to ensure that trauma dumping isn’t transferred to the users who are unprepared to handle negative situations.