In the digital age, social media has become a space where people share their brightest moments including their darkest struggles. Among the myriad trends that have emerged, “sadfishing” stands out.

This term describes the act of exaggerating or even fabricating emotional distress to garner attention and sympathy online. Picture a post saying, “I can’t believe how much I’m struggling right now. Nothing ever seems to go right for me,” paired with a sad selfie and a crying emoji. The ambiguity of such posts often prompts a wave of sympathetic responses from well-meaning followers, even if the intent behind the post is more about seeking attention than seeking help.

 The “whys” of sadfishing

A 2023 study published in BMC Psychology revealed that adolescents grappling with anxiety and depression, who also feel a lack of social support, are particularly prone to sadfishing. The study found gender differences in sadfishing behaviors: boys tend to sadfish more during adolescence, but this behavior decreases as they grow older, while girls’ inclination to sadfish increases with age.

Denial serves as a coping mechanism that allows individuals to avoid confronting painful emotions or events. Instead of addressing their real issues, they seek validation and sympathy on social media by displaying exaggerated emotions. However, this temporary escape does not effectively help manage emotions or address underlying problems.

Intoxication can lead to impulsive, emotionally charged posts on social media as alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment.

Those with traits of histrionic personality disorder are more likely to engage in attention-seeking behavior, constantly seeking excessive attention and validation on social media.

Individuals with an anxious attachment style, characterized by a high need for approval and fear of rejection, may also engage in sadfishing.

While seeking attention in times of distress is normal, sadfishing crosses a line by manipulating others’ emotions for personal gain.

In a social media landscape where reality and performance often intertwine, it is important to address sadfishing with compassion to maintain the integrity of online communities and foster genuine support.

Cover Photo: Depositphotos

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