We spent the first few years of their lives willing them to sleep. We hunted down the perfect pacifier and spent a fortune for curtains with block-out, all in the hope that they would sleep. And now, we can’t get them out of bed.
Of course, I am talking about “the teenager”.
One big, jumbled confusion of raging hormones, mood swings and attitude.
The teenage years are when children start to discover who they are and how they fit into the world. This is a stressful time marked by mental, physical, social, behavioural and emotional changes. Add being Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) to the mix and you can imagine the stress that communication difficulties due to hearing loss at this time can cause.
Sign language is an effective tool for communicating within the DHH community with one drawback. Because sign language is only known by a small percentage of the population, it can limit interaction within the immediate community and could lead to feelings of isolation.
This is especially true in smaller communities where the DHH community may consist of just one person.
Here is where social media is turning things around.
Social Media Levels The Playing Field
Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook all share a common feature.
They offer the ability to share, plan, connect and communicate visually.
This shift from verbal to visual and written communication means that the DHH community have access to platforms for social connection where hearing ability is not a factor.
These platforms are always-on, almost instantaneous and have an almost conversational feel. Obviously, these features are attractive to the global population and not just teens with hearing loss. This means that there is an unending range of communities, social groups, topics and interests at their fingertips.
Some have taken to creating their own online communities on social networks including video sharing platforms like YouTube, which allow them to connect and interact with others on a one-to-one basis through live chat or through conversations in the form of comments.
Due to the nature of social media and virality of content, the content they create and share also provide valuable information to fellow DHH teens across the world that they don't even know.
Some channels are more personal and document daily life while others range from fashion and sport to advice on sign language-friendly venues.
Many provide valuable support to their community which includes young people and contributes to increasing deaf awareness and giving insight into the DHH community.
Many channels are also created by those who might not be teenagers themselves but their content is available to teens. These are often accessed through hashtags.
Hashtags are a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), these are used on social media and various other applications to denote messages on a specific topic.
While historically relevant mainly to Twitter, most platforms employ hashtags for context.
Here are a few of the popular hashtags:
#deaf #deafculture #deafworld #deafcommunity #signlanguage #deafawareness #asl #deaftalent #deaflove #deafness #deafpride #geh #deafnation #deaffriendly #deafeducation #deaflife #sordo #americansignlanguage #hardofhearing #deaftravel #deafpeople #deafgirl #deafphotographer #deafgain #deafpower #mentalhealthawareness #sordos #deafbusiness #bhfyp
Here is a collection of just some of the popular channels:
Rikki Poynter is a 27-year-old deaf vlogger on YouTube. She makes content about deaf awareness, accessibility/closed captioning awareness, mental health, feminism, and more.
Through her YouTube channel and written works, she talks about her life as a mainstreamed deaf person who is finding her way through Deaf culture and a new identity, learning ASL, as well as mental health, growing up with child abuse, social issues and more.
Nyle is an actor, model and activist and is the first Deaf person to win America's Next Top Model and the first Deaf person to win Dancing With The Stars.
A native New Yorker, Nyle was born into a large multigenerational Deaf family. He is an alumni of Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for the Deaf, with a B.A. in mathematics.
As a founder of Nyle DiMarco Foundation and an honorary spokesman for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids, Nyle is passionate about language and literacy and advocacy within the Deaf Community.
A 19- year-old deaf Swede that enjoys making fun of herself on camera. Her main priority is to spread knowledge about the deaf community in an easy and fun (also: quiet) way! She prefers to mute her videos because when you're entering her channel, you're entering a Deaf world too.
We are deaf/hard of hearing women involved in film (DWIF's). We exist, and there are plenty of us. And we're professionals. #DWIFTalent #DeafTalent
battling information overload to be informed. Social Work. Crossfit. Deaf. GBPack. Potterhead. ✌️
Daniel is passionate about acting and supporting the Deaf community and spends his free time connecting with and meeting new friends all over the world through his ASL videos on YouTube, Deaf Gamers Network and his Facebook & Twitter accounts.
The world's most popular deaf blog, over 350 deaf writers published and 6 million views since 2012! Tweets by Editor @Charlie_Swin
Deaf born professional baseball player . Team Canada Gold Medalist .. Rock band aficionado..hockey dabbler.
Professional Rugby Player also Deaf, hoping to inspire deaf children to enjoy the game,
Deaf actress, figure skater, advocate, caffeine fiend. Avenger-in-training. // Agent: KMR LA 𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦: @𝐢𝐭𝐬𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐦𝐞𝐲𝐞𝐫
24, Severe-Profound, Hearing Aid Dependent, Tinnitus Sufferer, Award Winning Deaf Awareness Blogger/Advocate 2015, Currently Learning BSL Level 2!
These accounts and social media as a whole play a role in not only connecting people but also in breaking down the social stigma surrounding hearing loss, sign language and hearing aids.
They help to show the world the full story and illustrate just how small the gap between the hearing and the DHH is.
Some have raised concern that social media might lead to isolation, due to the lack of face-to-face interaction.
The fact is that, in many ways, social media has opened more opportunities for the DHH to communicate and interact with more people than they would otherwise have had access to, all the while advocating for the Deaf and removing associated stigmas which make it easier for them to integrate into the real world.
Effectively, social media has levelled the playing field for everyone to communicate on an equal footing.