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'Laugh through the pain': Calgary woman using TikTok to target UCP

Emma Deady, a 29-year-old woman from Calgary, is using TikTok to highlight criticisms of Alberta's provincial government. (TikTok: @emmadeady)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As we were stuck inside during the early days of the pandemic, and many are still following public health guidelines by limiting their time outside the home, social media has emerged as a crucial resource to keep people connected.

While it can fill us with a sense of dread as we hear more about rising infections and deaths and other problems within our own borders or around the world, it can also provide a sense of respite.

It has been handy for younger people, and it is now helping them branch off into another territory: political activism.

One Calgary woman is hoping to harness that and is already having some notable success through TikTok and Twitter.

Emma Deady has amassed thousands of followers between the two platforms and said it all started with frustration about how the United Conservative Party government in Alberta was handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Jason Kenney irked me particularly one day, and I made a Jason Kenney TikTok, and it was the first TikTok that ever really even got more than one like. So it was like, what’s this about,” she told 660 NEWS.

The 29-year-old said it snowballed from there, and she has become progressively more well known, focusing on a broad range of issues relating to the provincial government.

This has included the carbon tax, environmental issues, and the ongoing disputes between the provincial and federal governments. The travel scandal that dogged the province in the first days of the new year also presented an opportunity for Deady.

She said TikTok has helped as a coping mechanism during the pandemic’s tough days when many people feel isolated, and she realized that it is a perfect medium to engage with young people who will be voting in the next provincial election in 2023.

“I mean, that’s how change happens. So many people are like, oh, it’s just TikTok. So how do you propose change then, are there accepted mediums?

“We are all stuck in our homes unfortunately now, and this, I think, is what change looks like for a lot of movements.”

Deady said social media has been crucial in growing activist action across the globe, including the massive Black Lives Matter protests that took hold last year and the ongoing movement to bring attention to the crisis of climate change.

Confronting these issues on social media, and presenting them in a quick and dirty format that only allows for less than a minute of content per post, has also allowed Deady to hopefully reduce apathetic feelings that continually plague younger people when they think about politics.

“I think there is a sense of insecurity among young progressive people in Alberta,” she said. “This government is so regressive, and we see all these amazing, exciting changes going on in other countries, other provinces, and I just feel like a lot of us feel like we’re being left behind.”

Deady added that connecting with people through these platforms has been a saviour in some respects, as it is a relief from the everyday grind and pressures that have risen through the course of the pandemic.

“It’s just a bizarre place to be in 2021,” she said. “Laugh through the pain, as dark as it is, is the only thing that I think that has helped a lot of us out that are feeling frustrated as progressive Albertans.”

Another unfortunate consequence of the pandemic keeping most people at home is it can be hard to organize political action that may spur more change down the road. Deady said it will be extra essential to bring people together once the pandemic is over, and she hopes to be among the leaders sparking a concerted effort against the UCP.

“I’ll do anything. I’m not in it for the clout, I will help out in any way I can, get involved in any organization,” she said. “It’s keeping the morale up right now is the tricky part. We’ll all have a weight lifted off our shoulders once the pandemic is over.”

While most of the response to her videos has been positive, there are also the requisite online trolls that target her. Ironically, though, Deady said this can actually help her cause.

“It can be anything from physical appearance to blatant sexism to insulting your intelligence,” Deady said. “(But) they might not just get exposed to it otherwise, so that’s a large part of what drives me to keep going. Okay, so you’re not going to tune in to ‘Communist CBC,’ but you might scroll across my TikTok, so I gotcha!

“The funny part, and to me the entertaining part, is the more they hate my content and the more they go after it, the more views, the more followers, the more everything that the progressive TikTok community gets. So in a way, they’ve kind of carried a lot of the TikToks that might have flopped.”

Moving forward, Deady said it is daunting to think that another election is not for more than two years and in her words, one year with Kenney as premier feels like “300 years,” but there might be some light at the end of the tunnel and venting about it on social media has been helpful.

Looking further ahead in the future, she is hopeful Alberta can change its image, and the recent actions from country music stars Corb Lund and Paul Brandt speaking out about coal mining in the province have provided a glimpse of how the province can maintain elements of its traditional image but in a more diversified economy.

“My hope and dream for Alberta is that it becomes a world leader in green and renewable energy and that we can all just be friends. At the end of the day, that would solve such a rift in our society pitting one against the other,” Deady said. “I just think the vibe that would create in Alberta would be so freaking immaculate.”