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Sadfishing Meaning: Why This Social Media Trend Could Create ‘Sense Of Apathy’


image ofSad girl

‘Sadfishing’ is a term used to describe the act of posting exaggerated emotional struggles on social media to garner sympathy and attention. Coined in 2019 by journalist Rebecca Reid, it initially targeted celebrities who manipulate their audience for personal gain. Reid got the idea after Kendall Jenner posted about her acne struggles, which turned out to be a marketing campaign.

The trend is not limited to celebrities; it has spread widely, affecting genuine expressions of vulnerability. Sadfishing involves using social media to seek attention through emotional posts. While this behavior is criticized, Reid noted that seeking attention is a natural human trait and not inherently wrong.

However, sadfishing can damage trust and create apathy towards future pleas for help. Indian model and celebrity Poonam Pandey faced backlash after falsely claiming her death to raise awareness about cervical cancer, which was seen as a publicity stunt.

A study by Digital Awareness UK (DAUK) involving 50,000 children aged 11 to 16 found that kids are often accused of sadfishing when seeking genuine support online. One student shared his home problems on Instagram but was labeled as seeking attention, which worsened his situation. Researchers noted that students often feel disappointed by the lack of genuine support they receive online.

The study revealed that adolescents who were anxious, depressed, and felt a lack of social support were more likely to engage in sadfishing. Boys are more prone to sadfishing during adolescence, but this tendency decreases with age, while for girls, it increases.

The distinction between sadfishing and genuine vulnerability is crucial. Sadfishing involves posting emotionally manipulative content, while genuinely expressing vulnerability might include sharing personal struggles to seek support or connect with others experiencing similar feelings. Sadfishing examples include instances where people exaggerate their struggles for attention, such as falsely claiming severe health issues or emotional crises.

A 2021 study found that individuals with an anxious attachment style are more likely to engage in sadfishing, seeking validation through others. Behavioral specialist Cara Petrofes explained that those anxiously attached need consistent friend activity and numerous friendships, both online and in-person.

Psychotherapist Tess Brigham emphasized that seeking validation from peers is a natural part of being human and doesn’t necessarily indicate an anxious attachment style. It reflects how we share our feelings in modern times.

As we look at social media trends in 2024, it is important to consider the social media effects on mental health. Sadfishing is just one aspect of how social media can influence our mental well-being. When encountering such posts online, it’s best to respond with kindness and empathy rather than speculating or leaving superficial comments. Understanding the fine line between seeking attention and genuine cries for help can foster a more supportive online community.

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