Sadfishing: Posting Emotional Problems Online

"My life has no meaning anymore." Many people post these types of messages on their social media. How do you know who's asking for real help and who just wants to draw attention to themselves?
Sadfishing: Posting Emotional Problems Online

Last update: 10 May, 2021

Sadfishing is a complex behavior that you’ve probably witnessed on more than one occasion. It’s when people post phrases, texts, and expressions with worrying and even distressing emotional content on their social media. They say things like, “My life makes no sense anymore” or “Nobody cares about me, I feel so alone”.

Sometimes, when you read these messages, you might think that the person just wants attention. This may be the case. However, experts now pay particular attention to these types of comments on social media.

How do you know if a person really is asking for help? How can you tell the difference between an attention seeker and someone who’s at the end of their tether? This is something that you should perhaps pay more attention to.

A woman framing her smile.

Sadfishing, the saddest online messages

Some of the new terms used to describe behaviors and situations are easier to remember than others. Sadfishing is one of them. It refers to a person who broadcasts their emotions and negative thoughts to an online community.

As we mentioned above, you’ve probably encountered this phenomenon before. If you tend to show an interest in it, it’ll usually be for two reasons:

  • Firstly, to learn how other readers judge and deal with these messages.
  • Secondly, to discover if the person really is asking for help.

I’m here, give me some attention

In some cases, it’s simply a call for attention. It’s like a child shouting at a grown-up. The person just wants to be heard and they achieve it by appealing to the adult’s emotions. They’re not trying to manipulate or deceive. It’s a cathartic exercise to seek validation.

In recent months, due to the pandemic and lockdowns, the phenomenon of sadfishing has increased. As we all know, when people play on their emotions, they’re usually responded to with empathy.

For this reason, messages like, “I’m at the end of my tether” or “I feel very sad” are attempts not only to attract attention but also support. These people want to believe that others feel the same way and that they’re not alone.

Young people between 14 and 22 practice sadfishing the most

If you’re doubtful about whether the person just wants attention or is really asking for help, it’s better to stick with the latter option and respond. Because it costs nothing to ask if someone’s okay. In fact, you can always contact them privately and tell them to contact you if they want to talk.

Studies conducted by the Department of Pediatrics at Providence St. Joseph Health in Washington claim that young people between the ages of 14 and 22 see social media as their only means of contact with others. Therefore, the messages they broadcast tend to be genuine calls for help.

Respond to the posters of the messages

The Internet is our window onto the world. In fact, we’ve reached the point where the best platform of communication is often social media. In fact, many people use social media as a vehicle to vent their thoughts and concerns. For young people, it’s their language, their channel, and their refuge. We can’t overlook this fact.

In the face of practices like sadfishing, it’s extremely difficult to work out what’s real and what isn’t. You should always bear the following in mind:

  • It’s best to communicate privately with the person and offer your support.
  • When responding to the messages, don’t just offer your sympathy. Don’t just click “like” or tell them, “I feel exactly the same way”. Instead, be empathetic. Try phrases like, “I’m really sorry about what you’re going through. How can I help?”

An upset man looking at his phone.

The danger of publishing feelings on social media

It’s never a good idea. When you go through a bad time, it isn’t appropriate to broadcast it on social media. There are many reasons for this. Everything you say becomes public.

Secondly, there are trolls. People who’ll use what you’ve written against you. They’ll ridicule and humiliate you. This increases your suffering. Thirdly, remember that not everyone offers good advice.

Someone may have good intentions. However, they might tell you something that makes you feel even worse. What you need most at this time is understanding. It’s always better for you to get real help from experts.

Finally, we can only reiterate what we’ve already said. Don’t ignore messages from those you think might need help. Sometimes, the one who needs the most help is the one who makes the least noise but silently posts on their Twitter or Facebook.

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