Today, social media is an ever-present part of our everyday lives. Over the years, the use of social media has evolved from simply keeping in touch with distant relatives and friends to being a way of engaging with pop culture, news, and the everyday happenings of our lives.
Tiktok has had a meteoric rise in popularity within the realm of social media platforms available and is now one of the most used platforms, particularly amongst Gen Z. This popularity extends to d/Deaf people globally as being a short-form, video-based platform where videos featuring humour and relatable situations in life resonate strongly amongst users, which has allowed a rise of many d/Deaf people to be exposed to many viewers on the app. As well as being hugely popular on the platform, many d/Deaf people have also utilised the increased exposure to viewers on the app to raise awareness of sign languages and Deaf culture.
In this article, learn about 5 Deaf Tiktokers who you should be following and why!
Jon Tai-Rakena (@learnnzslwithjon)
Jon is a Māori Deaf TikTok creator based right here in Aotearoa. With a warm, gentle presence, Jon focuses on raising awareness of both Māori and Deaf culture through New Zealand Sign Language to audiences on TikTok. However, his content isn’t completely devoid of humour and fun, as he posts some very funny duets with other users on the platform and even his own videos playing out skits, some based on situations from his childhood, all in NZSL.
This year as part of NZSL Week 2023 in May (8 – 14th), Jon has been selected to be Deaf Aotearoa’s NZSL Week Hero. Ka rawe, Jon – we look forward to seeing more of your work for NZSL week this year!
Justin Loncar (@somedeafguy)
If you want something comedic to watch and learn about sign language and Deaf culture at the same time, Justin is the person for you. He is an American Deaf comedian from Ohio whose videos showcase the humorous side of being Deaf and using a cochlear implant. His videos range from skits loosely based on his childhood with a hearing mother and Deaf father to the funny side of lipreading gone badly wrong.
Cheyenna Clearbrook (@cheyennaclearbrookxo)
“The greatest irony” – Baby signs were invented by hearing people and often thrown away once a hearing baby learns how to speak. Ok so.. On the other side, what about deaf babies? Are they getting the same attention and accessibility to their own language? Maybe not. Baby signs isn’t a language. They were invented by hearing people. *There will be a video explaining about this. #deafmom #asl #momsoftiktok #firstimemom #signlanguage #deaf #baby
Cheyenna got her start over on YouTube posting videos about being a typical teenager and young adult who happens to be Deaf. In 2020, Cheyenna was part of DeafU, a Netflix reality show following the lives of Deaf students at the only university for deaf in the world – Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., USA.
Having come from a Deaf family herself, Cheyenna has recently had her first child with her partner who is also Deaf.
Today, her Tiktok videos focus on her journey as a mother who is also Deaf, showcasing things like how technology is used to alert or wake her and her partner up if their baby is upset, and discussing the issue of hearing people teaching sign language.
Scarlet Watters (@scarlet_may.1)
Scarlet, a Deaf American Tiktoker who also uses a cochlear implant, initially began posting to TikTok during the COVID 19 pandemic and became hugely successful on the platform. Her videos are often of highly engaging retelling of stories from her life as a Deaf person to times where she is recognized for her presence on TikTok, which often strike a chord with many people as many of her stories are highly relatable to all, not just those who are Deaf.
Phelan Conheady (@signinngwolf)
Phelan’s videos range from the humorous side of being deaf such as the concept of “Deaf Standard Time”, to discussing issues and topics relevant to Deaf people and communities such as the issue of hearing people teaching sign language. LGBT+ issues are often brought up and explained in a way that both d/Deaf and hearing people are able to understand. This is hugely important as thanks to creators like Phelan, d/Deaf people who identify as LGBT+ are able to access content and information that in previous decades would have been difficult to find due to the suppression of sign language and limited resources or platforms that were able to feature videos.
If you’re not following these 5 Deaf Tiktok creators already, you should be! And they’re not the only Deaf creators on Tiktok as there are a plethora of fantastic Deaf creators out there covering a range of different topics and aspects related to Deafness and sign language. This article would be too long if I included all the Deaf Tiktok creators I think people should be following, but the creators listed above are a great place to start discovering Deaf creators on the platform.