TravelGuides – ‘I found my identity’: how TikTok is changing the lives of its popular Indigenous creators | Indigenous Australians

JourneyGuides – ‘I found my identity’: how TikTook is changing the lives of its popular Indigenous creators | Indigenous Australians

Growing up in the foster care system, Nich Richie by no means actually felt related to Indigenous tradition.

“I didn’t have ready access to information growing up … I didn’t know anything about Indigenous people’s culture. I didn’t know about activism. I didn’t get to see myself on any platform,” says Richie, who is non-binary and makes use of they/them pronouns.

Although Richie is a proud Erub particular person from the Torres Strait Islands, they grew up in a non-Indigenous family, disconnected from land and folks. Strangely, it was downloading the video-sharing app TikTook that kickstarted their cultural journey, once they found the neighborhood of extraordinarily popular First Nations creators on the app.

“It helped me in my process of reconnection to culture, because beforehand I was very much struggling,” they are saying.

“That has been one of the most rewarding things. I’ve developed a community of other Indigenous people on social media, who just love each other, who just want to keep each other accountable but also keep each other strong.”

But Richie isn’t simply an observer on the app, they’re now a distinguished creator, boasting greater than 60,000 followers and practically 4m likes. Now, they are saying they’ve the probability to succeed in different queer Indigenous youngsters scuffling with identification.

“The thing that motivates me most on my platform is that I know that I am being that person for someone else that I wish I had,” Richie says.

Another member of that TikTook neighborhood is Sari-Ella Thaiday, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creator belonging to the Darnley, Saibai and Yidinji folks, who has turn out to be recognized on the platform for her activism and expertise for make-up.

Thaiday says the motive TikTook has fostered such a powerful Indigenous creator neighborhood, the place different social media platforms haven’t, is all to do with the algorithms the app’s central “for you page” makes use of.

“On TikTok, it’s so easy to be exposed to a whole lot of people without having a following. You have those chances to grow your following. Just put out a good video and a lot of people are going to see it,” she says.

“It seems as though a lot of my most popular content surrounds my culture … I did a makeup look inspired by my culture. I made a really nice headpiece where every piece was symbolic of something from the Torres Strait and I spoke about it.”

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“Another one of my most popular was a video of my grandma making a traditional island dish.”

However, whereas the algorithm provides creators unprecedented publicity, it will probably additionally expose them.

“The downside is your videos are not only being seen by people who would support you. You’re also exposing yourself to internet trolls,” Thaiday says.

“You just exist and someone will leave a racial slur on a video … If they just see you’re Indigenous they go ‘oh, let me say something bad’.”

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Richie agrees the bullying may be relentless.

“I think I was traumatised from my own Black Lives Matter post … I got thousands of comments of people saying that they would run me over with a car if they ever saw me. People saying that they would take me out back with a gun.”

At one level they had been compelled to briefly shut down their TikTook and Instagram accounts after making a video drawing consideration to feedback made by controversial Australian political commentator Jordan Shanks – recognized on-line as Friendlyjordies – about the felling of sacred Djab Wurrung timber in western Victoria.

“It was Naidoc Week last year, actually. In my original video, I didn’t even say anything. I just put it there for everyone to see, and once again, with the virality of the platform, it didn’t take long for that to spread everywhere,” they are saying.

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Richie went on to make a number of TikToks about the scenario, together with calling for Shanks’ Patreon supporters to cease financially backing him.

“I had to lock my accounts down because I started getting death threats [from fans of Shanks on TikTok] … Up to a month later, I was just getting horrible, horrible comments, all saying horrific things no matter what I would post.”

However, there was additionally a groundswell of help round Richie, led by different distinguished Indigenous creators on the app.

“When we see something going wrong, we all come together. We all support each other,” they are saying.

“If that was an attempt to, like, ‘cancel me’, that whole thing actually made me significantly more popular,” they chortle.

Both Richie and Thaiday agree that the platform has been attentive to the suggestions from the neighborhood, with widespread Indigenous slurs added to lists of phrases that breach neighborhood pointers and feedback now auto-filtered for abuse.

“Indigenous Australians are a critical and vibrant part of this and we care deeply about the experience of First Nations people on our platform,” the firm says in an announcement.

“In Australia, we continue to engage directly with Indigenous creators through a range of programs, to elevate First Nations voices, understand their experience on TikTok and refine our local policies to ensure TikTok is a safe and welcoming place for the community.”

The app has additionally been highlighting First Nations video creators throughout their Naidoc Week program, which has included selling the accounts of Blak-run companies.

One of Richie’s shut mates on the app is the Wiradjuri lady and astrophysicist Kirsten Banks, a popular science communicator who has been educating her 140,000 followers about Indigenous astronomy.

“It’s had a really good response,” Banks says. “I posted this [week] about how the Yolngu people up in the Northern Territory knew about the synoptic period of Venus … how they knew this intimate knowledge of the night sky … One person left a comment saying that they love learning all this new stuff and unlearning the very white-centric version of history they learned in school.”

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“It’s fantastic just how many of us are active and vocal on the platform, and we’ve got our different niches as well.”

Banks says when she is making content material about First Nations astronomy she’s aiming to succeed in and educate non-Indigenous audiences.

But others on the platform, like Joseph Althouse, say they’re primarily attempting to attach with their mob again dwelling.

“I do a lot of theatre here in Sydney … but when I look out into the audience it’s predominantly upper-middle-class white faces looking back at me, so that’s quite isolating as an Aboriginal performer,” Althouse says.

“I found TikTok was a platform that I could get a direct line of connection to my community up in Darwin, because a lot of the kids out there really love TikTok and they’re on it all day, every day.”

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For Althouse, who belongs to the Arrernte and Tiwi tribes, making content material on the app is all about “blak pride”, “blak power” and illustration.

“My great-grandmother was part of the stolen generations. She was taken when she was five years old and put on a mission where she stayed until she was 18. In that time she internalised a lot of hatred towards herself and her Aboriginality … of course that gets passed down to my grandmother, and then my grandmother teaches that to my mother and then my mother teaches it to me. You lose a bit along the way, but it’s still there inside,” he says.

“Growing up we get told to contort ourselves in society and fit the mould of a ‘good, decent blakfella’ … I just want to show other blak queer kids that they don’t have to be ashamed of their identity.”

Althouse, Banks, Thaiday and Richie all say that they’ve confronted ignorance and racism on the app, however universally they agree that it’s value it to have the ability to create the illustration and neighborhood for the subsequent technology of Indigenous Australians.

“TikTok can be an absolutely horrendous platform, with comments and all that,” Richie says.

“But there’s also the positive side. I found my identity. I found my community, and I’ve found friends and family through all of this. It’s changed my life.”

JourneyGuides – ‘I found my identity’: how TikTook is changing the lives of its popular Indigenous creators | Indigenous Australians