Telling a teen about vaping, birth control, what happens when a condom breaks, and even vaccines is sure to get you an OK, Boomer look.
Unless you’re a doctor on TikTok. In which case teens are looking, listening, making memes, and sharing. To the tune of hundreds of thousands of eyeballs a day.
These TikDocs are finding a way to get past eye-rolling, flat-footed, ignorable public health messages (“Just Say No”) and engage teens with super accessible videos about vaping, sex health, birth control, vaccines, sharing lollipops and many other relevant topics.
And they’re making the TikTok audience look. And share. And look again and again. For instance, Rose Marie Leslie (@DrLeslie), M.D., a resident at the University of Minnesota Family Medicine has more than 400,000 followers for her posts on topics like vaping and how to talk to doctors about birth control.
Dr. Jess Andrade (@Doctor.Jesss) has nearly 123,000 followers, with posts about nicotine addiction, recognizing depression (a video with more than 987,000 views), the Texas gynecologist who goes by Mama Doctor Jones (@mamadoctorjones) weighs in with 157,000 followers who view her videos on topics like “what happens when your condom breaks.”
Even the brainy interventional GI doctor Austin Chiang, M.D. (@austinchiangmd) has amassed 63,000 followers with funny posts about what it takes to be a doctor and even a video about pancreatitis that racked up 1,264 likes (not a lot, but hey, it’s pancreatitis).
These forward-thinking docs are finding a way to disseminate key health information—especially to an audience who will text out a naked photo of themselves but be too scared to ask anyone about oral sex and cold sores.
What these TikDocs produce is whimsical, fun, and meme-able.
And of course, it’s getting pushback. Many of the docs do a ridiculous little dance to deliver the content or they overdramatize their message to get it across. Christian Assad, M.D. (@ChristianAssad), tweeted that he has “more serious videos, but as I test the waters realize less people pay attention.”
That’s one of the reasons medical TikToks posted on Twitter routinely get dragged and dismissed. But the doctors who produce them are convinced that disseminating important information is worth the pushback. “We know that the majority of young people are consuming their news online,” Dr. Leslie told Mashable.com. “Because of this, it is absolutely critical for physicians and public health experts to be reaching out to this population in online spaces.”
Of course, “top” doctor on TikTok or any platform doesn’t mean “reliable,” and it’s pretty unlikely that a teen will bother to check the creds of the person it’s coming from. So it’s only a matter of time until bad information gets out there, too and TikTok becomes the same confusing mess for science that other social media platforms have. But for now, these TikDocs are keeping on, believing they’re doing good.