When people think of autism, ‘funny’ is usually not the first word that comes to mind. But junior Evelyn Elston has developed a highly popular TikTok account aimed at bringing humor to what is widely known as a purely serious subject.
Elston began using their account @evelynjeans in April 2020 as an outlet to vent frustrations about being an essential worker during a pandemic. The account has now accumulated 144,700 followers and shows aspects of autism that most people, especially neurotypicals, do not normally consider.
“I have this issue, where I feel like the narrative around autism is very serious,” Elston said. “Everybody talks about it like it’s this serious, terminal thing, that it’s a difficulty, it’s a barrier, it’s a challenge. When really, in my opinion, it’s just a different way of thinking.”
Elston is a member of the autism community and their TikTok account is a way for them to educate others and take part in developing the autism narrative.
“[It’s] visibility for ‘not about us without us.’ So, really making sure that autism spectrum issues are grounded in the experiences of people within the autism spectrum community,” said Matthew Barcus, Elston’s supervisor at Gonzaga’s Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center. “Oftentimes, we get things watered down from experts or researchers who may or may not be part of the communities they’re researching and writing about. But it’s not their lived experiences. It’s that detached, academic approach.”
Elston has always been open about the fact that they are on the autism spectrum, but they first got the idea for creating and sharing humorous autism-related content while sitting in the airport heading home after GU closed for all in-person learning and living.
“I was scrolling through Facebook I think, and I saw this other autistic person had done an interview with Buzzfeed,” Elston said. “It was the first time I had ever seen a young girl, a girl that was my age, a young adult female, talking about their experience with being on the autism spectrum. And I was like ‘Well gee, if they can do it, and there’s clearly an audience for it, why can’t I do it?’”
TikTok can be a particularly powerful platform for education because of its more casual and conversational feel.
“The ways people interact, it’s much more akin to a TikTok,” Barcus said. “You don’t have long salon-level conversations. But you do kind of talk about these little things that come up throughout your day or your experiences.”
Elston believes that representation is hugely important for people on the autism spectrum and they are simply filling a niche that needs to be filled.
“I think there’s a huge need out there because there’s a lot of autistic people who kind of have this stigma and shame around it or have been taught by society that it’s not something to be proud of or to be accepted,” Elston said.
Elston’s content has evolved since they began creating in 2020. They have begun to develop some miniseries, one of which is called ‘Your Fave is Autistic.’ In the videos, Elston describes representation of autistic traits in mainstream television characters, which are still relatively very uncommon to see.
Some of these television characters include Tina Belcher from “Bob’s Burgers,” Flint Lockwood from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and Ferb from “Phineas and Ferb.”
Elston has seen both positive and negative responses to these types of videos.
“Those videos can be difficult sometimes because those videos get the most hate because people really feel sentimental attachment to those characters and sometimes when you present them with a different idea about it, especially because there is still stigma around autism, they get very defensive and sometimes very rude,” Elston said. “But I’ve gotten so many comments from people that say things like ‘I really love this. This makes me feel better.’”
Elston has gotten to the point where their account has regular viewers and commenters who provide ideas for content, particularly recurring videos like “Your Fave is Autistic.” They also generate ideas by collaborating with other TikTok creators.
“I’m part of a wonderful creator group chat with a bunch of other autistic women and nonbinary creators from TikTok,” Elston said. “We’ll talk about things and I’ll get ideas for videos just from talking to them and hearing about their experience.”
In terms of hobbies, Elston is an avid board game player. They are also on the GU Ultimate Frisbee team and will be involved in the GU theater production of “Wolves” in May. Elston works at the Lincoln Center, and the team there has a TikTok account of its own.
Elston is an accounting major and a creative writing minor who enjoys writing poetry. They can envision a career in accounting but also are hoping to continue to learn and grow as a content creator.
“[TikTok] is like Vine. It’s not gonna be around forever. It’s fun,” Elston said. “But when I think about the long term, I think about it morphing into something else rather than me doing TikTok for the next 10 years.”
Elston is looking forward to the opportunity to continue providing humor and support for people with autism, particularly adults. They recognize that most autism resources are directed at children and families and outreach to adults is much needed.
“I just want people to laugh, and not take it so seriously, and kind of normalize different neurotypes,” Elston said. “And that’s kind of what I’m hoping to get out of it.”
Follow Evelyn Elston on TikTok: @evelynjeans
Follow the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center on TikTok: @gulbgtq.