Under this banner, users have faked everything from attention deficit disorder to anxiety and depression to dissociative identity disorder. This trend isn’t just attention seeking of the worst kind or merely just obnoxious – it’s indicative of an entire set of people who are deluded into thinking that validation on the internet is the highest echelon of achievement.
There’s really only one culprit to blame for this phenomenon, and it’s the quirkification of mental illness. Most rational, healthy, and self-aware people know that their mental illness is anything but quirky. But over time, oversharing on social media, coupled with the concept that the issues which plague our mental health are the most interesting things about us, has resulted in this nauseating grab for attention.
This is what’s largely known as illness appropriation. Not only do the fakers behind them not actually have any of these disorders, but they’re also glamorizing what are sometimes extreme and harmful issues for the purpose of likes and comments. It’s hard to think of anything more worthy of our ridicule or criticism.
The quirkification of mental illness has resulted in this nauseating grab for attention.
One of the most commonly faked illnesses on TikTok is dissociative identity disorder, or DID. In actuality, it’s estimated that only a very, very small percentage of people are affected by DID or have been diagnosed with it. People began to be aware of illness appropriation in the first place when more and more TikTok users started posting content portraying themselves and their “alters.”
Dissociative identity disorder, according to clinical psychology professor Dr. Robert T. Muller, is an extremely rare disorder that usually manifests as a trauma response from an individual’s experiences with repeated, severe, and sustained abuse. As a result, the person develops multiple different personalities as a way to cope with the trauma. TikTok users claiming to have DID, which can be observed on a specialized Reddit page created just for the genre, are usually filmed switching quickly between alters or introducing their different alters to their audience. Many people with real DID and as well as medical professionals argue that the overwhelming majority of videos posted claiming or tagging DID just aren’t actually indicative of a patient with the disorder.
There’s an Epidemic Here, But It’s Not DID
DID seems to be taking over TikTok currently, and tons of compilation videos exposing the fakers can be found on YouTube and Reddit. There is a large illness here though, and it’s not DID, ADHD, Tourette’s, or any of the other manifold issues seemingly plaguing tons of TikTok users.
For Gen Zers and Millennials, social media is an integral part of our everyday lives. This means scrolling, liking, posting, and commenting (and sharing) on multiple platforms, making our lives available and vulnerable to not just our “friends,” but the entire world.
One study found that narcissistic traits increase with repeated and active social media use.
Narcissism feeds on constant validation, and it’s been proven by researchers that individuals with narcissistic traits are very drawn to the appeal of social media and what it can do for their ego. One study found that the link between social media and narcissism is bi-directional, meaning that narcissistic traits increase with repeated and active social media use, and that the biggest users exhibit many qualities relating to narcissism.
In reality, illness appropriation, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t about bringing awareness to disorders or advocating for representation. It isn’t about education or any of the excuses given. It’s about narcissism, and believing that pure deception is the best way to achieve fame, recognition, or attention, instead of being an authentic person. Not only does this trend reveal how thoroughly and detrimentally we’ve connected our perception of self with social media, but it fetishizes mental disorders and real issues that people struggle with.
Social Media Is a Grift
At this point, any sane person would be hard-pressed not to ask themselves the following: Is anything we see online real anymore?
And that’s the thing about social media. We’re taking people’s word at face value, without any idea as to the truth. We’ve watered down and subjected the concept of truth to so many twisted narratives and perversions in the name of progress that none of us know what it is anymore, because the definition is different for every individual.
For a person faking DID on TikTok, their definition of what reality is or what truth is would probably differ from mine. That’s because social media has evolved over time into a grift. This scam in particular is one in which money isn’t the object or end goal, but rather attention, fame, and validation.
Social media is a scam in which money isn’t the end goal, but rather attention, fame, and validation.
It’s also hard not to question whether or not these people don’t actually have some aspect of mental illness – not the one they’re faking, but real delusion. If we as a culture have deluded ourselves so completely into thinking that validation on social media is the best we can get out of life, it isn’t hard to grasp the destruction that the internet and our online personalities have wrought on our culture, or see that we’ve made ourselves sick going after that purpose.
We’ve seen a lot of disgusting things on TikTok, and this one’s being added to an ever-growing list of scams, dishonest ploys, grifts, and cons. There’s no inherent value in pretending to be someone else online, no matter how many likes or supportive comments it gets you.
In fact, when we realize the influence this trend has acquired, it’s inevitable to surmise how much we’ve set ourselves back when it comes to talking about mental illness. There’s now an added stigma that a person could be claiming to be affected and is faking it for attention.
It’s important to call a spade a spade, and to call out BS when we see it, otherwise we allow it to grow and thrive within online communities. Calling out faking mental illness and what’s more, the scumminess of social media, isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s long overdue.
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