YesCymru is the rapidly growing political campaign for an independent Wales. From January to November 2020, their paid-up membership increased from 2,500 to 15,0000. Additionally, a November 2020 YouGov poll found an 11% increase (22%-33%) in support for Welsh Independence in just eleven months.
As I did, you may assume that this is down to dissatisfaction at Westminster’s handling of the COVID 19 pandemic, but 5% of the increase had already occurred by January 2020. So, why is this? It’s impossible to know for sure as YesCymru do not take demographic data, but social media has clearly played a huge part, and particularly TikTok.
There are Welsh Independence sides to Twitter and Instagram, but location plays no significant part in the algorithms determining the content you are most likely to see. In simple terms, Instagram is most likely to show you content from accounts with which you frequently interact, and suggest posts on topics in which you have already shown interest, hence why users often watch a few videos on the ‘Explore’ page to be met with a million similar the following day. Location seems to play no significant part both according to research and my own Instagram feed; I have always lived in Wales yet receive no Welsh content unless it’s from people I know. If you see Welsh Independence content on this platform, you’ve probably looked it up directly or just happen to follow a lot of YesCymru supporters. Similarly, Twitter shows content from those you follow, as well as content the algorithm deems you will like based on existing interests. Location plays some part, but not significantly.
Although TikTok had been steadily gaining traction since late 2017/early 2018, I downloaded the app out of lockdown boredom, along with many others. In fact, the first lockdown made TikTok’s first 2020 quarter (January 1st -March 31st) the best quarter of any app ever with 315 million downloads compared to 199.4 million the previous quarter. Upon scrolling for the first time, yet to follow any accounts, I was struck by the sheer amount of local content. Clearly, TikTok took my specific location of South Wales into account, and so I was hearing Welsh accents.
This in itself has likely been influential to Welsh identity amongst young people. Some partially attribute the only narrow ‘yes’ result (50.1%) of the 1997 Welsh Devolution referendum to a homogenisation of Welsh culture into a wider Americanized British culture throughout the 20th century, in which popularization of North American entertainment and televisions in the home played a huge part. Similar to many young people, I rarely watch television and get my news and entertainment online, and until TikTok noticed a modern version of this same phenomena on social media. I realised that until TikTok I was consuming almost exclusively English and North American content, which must have been the case for many others. Unless I happened to personally know a supporter of YesCymru, I was never exposed to the movement until very recently as suggested creators were hardly ever Welsh.
With TikTok, a distinct Welsh identity now exists online, with those in favour of Welsh Independence picked up by the algorithm’s location tracking and able to attract new people to the movement. Welsh TikTok creators tend not to post exclusively about Welsh Independence; and are primarily just visibly Welsh, occasionally creating Welsh-specific content. This increases a sense of solidarity and distinct culture independent from that of Britain as a whole, making the idea of an Independent Wales appear somewhat less intimidating. With this groundwork laid, some decide to publicly support YesCymru on the platform, as the algorithm picks this content up for Welsh users.
So, for your very Welsh-specific memes and Welsh Independence needs, try TikTok! Plenty of creators are making funny, bite-sized videos, and some are even educational. Some of the most popular creators to start with include Lloyd Ellis Jones, Abi Haywood, Laura Orgill, Rachel Bennett and Ieuan Cooke. Try typing in YesCymru for plenty of Welsh Independence content.