Defend Truth


You’ve been warned: Don’t be tempted to take TikTok’s mental health tests


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

TikTok seems to have become the new WebMD, the new Google doctor, if you will, for self-diagnosis, especially when it comes to mental illness.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t procrastinate. Or take a nap when they’re not supposed to but then find themselves unable to sleep because maybe they’re feeling guilty about their inappropriate naptime or perhaps after laying their head on their pillow they’ve looked around their room and decided to tidy up instead.

I have yet to come across a single person who is able to maintain their focus on just one thing 24 hours a day or consistently for however long they need to. The mind wanders. It’s supposed to. Sometimes you zone out. Sometimes you think about how hungry you are or what you’re going to cook for dinner. Sometimes while you’re in a brainstorming meeting, for example, perhaps your neurons are firing a bit faster because you’re feeling inspired the more you hear people talk.

In the past, scientists have said that the average human has 60,000 thoughts a day. This has since been disproven and regarded as a myth, and apparently new studies find that on average we have about 20,000 thoughts per day. That’s a massive discrepancy from the first number but it is still plenty, my friend. And there’s no way to stop them. Minute by minute your mind, whether you realise it or not, is being distracted, even when you’re sleeping.

But, according to TikTok, this is in fact not normal. No. Years and years of studying the human mind, running tests, measuring thought processes and, well, just trying to do one’s best and live one’s life is called ADHD. And we all have it.

Every single human who procrastinates for just 10 seconds, according to TikTok, has ADHD.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not discrediting the fact that ADHD is an actual diagnosis. I used to be a schoolteacher. I know what it looks like and I know how it plays out. But I also know that it is completely normal for some kids to focus better than others and for others to become bored with a task and want to do something else. Who doesn’t, right? In fact, in my experience I would argue that these kids are often smarter. They’re not happy being little androids and find the need to self-express and be independent. There is nothing wrong with this. This is not Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is being a unique human being – like we all are in our own ways.

TikTok seems to have become the new WebMD, the new Google doctor, if you will, for self-diagnosis, especially when it comes to mental illness. Only, in my opinion, it’s more dangerous. Back in the good old days when people were obsessed with a rash they developed or a three-day migraine and they were the types who leaned towards hypochondria or paranoia, all they could rely on was an admittedly obsessive search on the internet to turn into medical professionals and “decide” they had some sort of cancer or something. This is also called ridiculous paranoia and even the most rational of the human race have succumbed to what the Mayo Clinic says about a tummy ache now and then.

But on TikTok, you don’t have to search for a problem. You don’t have to think about yourself too much and the possible shortcomings you have as a regular off-the-rack human, because the social media platform will tell you.

There you sit, having an ordinary day, and after one or two cat videos or dance challenges, all of a sudden you will be bombarded by post after post of average Joes with really bad bedroom décor telling you to take their ADHD test. Or showing you what life is like when you have to live with it. This is not ADHD. This is called acting and the flood of posts is not because your behaviour has been medically monitored. If you suspect you do have a problem, you certainly know you don’t need help from a TikTokker who was guilty of procrastination and called it a mental illness.

You do not have ADHD. What you have is an inability to understand what clout chasing is.

Put a finger down if you don’t know how algorithms work. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


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