How one campaigner is fighting to end the harmful TikTok trend of using pictures of disabled people to scare children

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Monday 10 August 2020 15:15
news
(Twitter)

Social media can bring people together.

But it’s also responsible for some pretty cruel trends.

Like the latest craze to hit TikTok, called the ‘FaceTime Prank’.

Participants use a Snapchat FaceTime filter to pretend they are talking to someone with an “odd or funny” photo.

Then they surreptitiously film the shocked reaction of someone they’re with or make the unsuspecting person ‘talk’ to the frozen photo before they realise that they’re not responding.

However, there’s a darker side to the prank as some TikTok users have been choosing photos of disabled people.

In those scenarios, it’s pretty clear the punchline is that the person has a disability.

It goes without saying, this is ableist and upsetting.

And now disability campaigner Lizzie Velásquez has broken down exactly why it needs to end, in a TikTok of her own.

“TikTok I need your help,” Velásquez began.

“This trend where you are pretending to FaceTime someone who is disabled or is a baby or there’s some crazy mugshot and you’re showing it to someone to get their reaction and say ‘Oh hey, talk to this person’, just to get a quick laugh – this is not a joke”.

Velásquez then overlaid her video with a clip of someone performing the FaceTime prank – using her photo.

“A mom was showing her son a picture of me and saying that ‘This is your teacher for the new school year’ and he had a scared reaction on his face,” she explained.

“If you are an adult who has a young human in his life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn’t look like them is ok.

“Everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home. This is not ok.

“This is a trend that needs to stop. We are human and we have feelings. Please keep that in mind”.

Velásquez lives with Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, a rare congenital condition that stops her gaining body fat, among other symptoms.

Her plea has now racked up over 150,000 shares and comments.

People were horrified she’d had to make it in the first place.

Others said that “pranking culture” was getting out of hand.

There was also praise for Velásquez herself, who is a renowed motivational speaker and disability campaigner.

People said she'd really made an impact on them and called the trend "shameful".

Perhaps it is time to take a step back and assess just who these pranks are really making fun of.

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