Living in such a fast-paced, diverse region – not to mention the disruption caused by Covid-19 –has left many young people feeling exhausted and uncertain.
Whether they are just graduating from high school or at university or trying to launch a career, or just in need of some sage advice from someone in their own age group, Dubai-based life coach Mohammed Sweidan offers support and wisdom via TikTok. His short videos have proved such a hit that he now has 1.1 million followers.
A Palestinian-Jordanian computer engineering graduate of Purdue University, Sweidan says he is as surprised as anyone.
“As a new platform I did not expect it to change my life to this degree,” he tells the Arabic Livehealthy Podcast. “TikTok gave me the ability to reach a large number of people through the click of a button from my own room, and I felt that was a gift.”
Consisting of short videos of between a couple of seconds to a minute long, TikTok started out as a platform for sharing mainly songs or dances but people soon began to use it to share medical and sports advice, hobbies and cooking recipes.
How do you go from engineer to life coach?
I graduated from Purdue University as a computer engineer in December 2019, and with the Covid-19 lockdowns and the closure of airports, it was a difficult time. I was looking for a job in the US and I received a job offer in April 2020. The obstacle was getting there but the circumstances meant we couldn’t make it work.
During this time, I started uploading some videos on TikTok, but I wasn’t working on it all the time. I started with uploading advice about studying at university and I was receiving questions about students with depression. I was able to give my personal advice, but it wasn’t supported by science, so I decided to earn a life coach certificate and delve into this field, so I could share legitimate advice based on research.
What is your advice for university students?
You may be going through difficulties, whether it’s at school, university or because of finances, but every person has some skills and abilities that they may not have had the chance to discover. With will and confidence in yourself, you can develop a plan based on the circumstances you’re in. Willpower and perseverance are the basis to achieving your goals.
The first step in supporting these young people is to understand what they are going through and to allow them to express their feelings. Solutions vary from person to person. We have to know what exactly is bothering them: is it because they’re far from friends and colleagues? Is it the difficulty of online learning? Is it the lack of direct assistance when it’s needed? If we know their difficulty then we may be able to help them.
What drew you to TikTok?
I joined TikTok in January 2020, but I only became a certified life coach in August 2020. My presence on TikTok, or the growth in my followers, was not planned. I started an account on TikTok and other social networking sites – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etcetera – and worked very hard to create videos with helpful content and uploaded them to these sites, but TikTok is the one platform that I felt generated the most interaction and interest. People were interested in me as a young life coach and I felt they were thirsty for more. The more established my presence became, the more interaction I got.
What has it been like ?
I’ve gained a lot from TikTok in terms of personal growth and making sure that life coaching is something that’s right for me to pursue. I spend a lot of effort and time creating as many videos and as much specialized content as I can and I felt that the right platform for content sharing was TikTok.
What’s your best TikTok advice?
Strategies differ from one content producer to the next. Some depend on high-quality content and might spend a lot of time producing one video a month. Others go for quantity. I rely on quantity and post daily videos to ensure a message is getting across. The message of that day may reach a certain person and the next day’s message will reach another person.
Between the beginning of January and the end of December 2020, I uploaded about 700 videos on TikTok, which meant posting around two to three videos per day.
Consistency is important. At first, I tried to follow and watch lots of videos with different types of content and then I started uploading my own videos. The most important point is to keep uploading videos with useful content. Some videos may get a lot of attention from the audience and others less, but it is important to continue and learn from mistakes.
Coming up with ideas, filming them, editing the video, or adding a script – it all takes a lot of effort and time and you have to pay attention to minute details. Continuous content creation with audience engagement, whether through messages, likes or comments may need a full day; it’s a full-time job.
How do you decide what to share?
I try to provide varied content. Some of my videos are related to exams, some to life circumstances or public holidays and others are a summary of my own experiences or the experiences of some people I helped, although without mentioning names.
For example, a person told me that he was helping those around him, but he could not find anyone to listen to him or provide him with help. After that conversation, I uploaded a video talking about how we should listen to those around us, and another video telling my followers that I would like to listen to them and I gave them the space to speak up, and I had a lot of interaction from the audience.
What are some of the challenges?
Some people turn to me for help, but they don’t complete the life coaching sessions. Others want to fast-track reaching their goals without relying on help. They’re wasting their time away yet they still want a plan that will make them achieve their goals without any effort.
Sometimes I share some simple tips for self-development, and I get positive responses and interactions, but sometimes they tell me everyone knows that already. Not all self-improvement advice is new but in my personal opinion, the essence of self-development depends on willpower.
Translated from the Livehealthy Arabic podcast by Reeneh Yousef.
Lina Elmusa is a literature and coffee lover. She tries to understand the world through language. She's currently exploring the world of media at livehealthy.ae.