TikTok as a Means to Cope With Mental Illness and Connect With Other Latinos

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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An increasingly bleak period of isolation and confusion has left many people scouring social media channels for moments of brightness. That’s meant enjoying everything from small acts of kindness in Latin America to going down TikTok rabbit holes for a few laughs. The short-form video platform is an especially popular reservoir for positivity lately. Vicente Avila, who People’s Tomás Mier recently highlighted, is one of the video platform’s most cheerful stars.

Avila has about 818,000 followers and 15.8 million likes on TikTok, even though he doesn’t exactly represent the app’s target demographic. The 45-year-old Mexican father of three, who posts under the name Vinny the Twister, has won his audience over with delightfully ebullient video posts from his home in San Diego, California.

Most of his content is geared toward giving people a quick dopamine boost—a typical post might show him excitedly making scrambled eggs for his kids before encouraging his followers to have a great day. His delivery is as upbeat as a motivational speaker’s and he’s recently channeled that energy into passing along best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although Avila has been designated an essential employee as a fiberglass technician, he urges his followers to stay home as much as they can.

Avila is known for his enthusiasm, but he recently shared that he first turned to social media as an outlet to deal with depression after the loss of his father. What started as balloon animal tutorials on YouTube eventually turned into quick clips on TikTok.

“It’s time to share a secret. I suffer [from] depression and anxiety since I lost my father. But I’m winning the battle for the family,” he wrote in the caption of one of his videos.

He’s drawn strength from his experiences with mental health and living as an immigrant living in the U.S., he tells People. Now, he tries to connect with other Latinos and takes pride in the fact that he can offer them some light.

“It touches my heart when people comment that I remind them of their parents,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be an immigrant and to suffer. I know what it’s like to sacrifice everything for my family. Reading those comments motivates me to keep making videos for the youth.”