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'Sadfishing' Trend on Social Media

'Sadfishing' Trend on Social Media

The latest social media trend, "sadfishing," has sparked widespread discussions as more users engage in what some perceive as attention-seeking behavior. Defined in a 2021 research paper published in the Journal of American College, "sadfishing" is social media users' tendency to exaggerate their struggles to elicit sympathy from others.

Understanding the Phenomenon

The research indicates that many "sadfishers" display anxious attachment, suggesting that their behavior may stem not from an acute lack of social support but from a persistent trait of anxious attachment.

Dr. Don Grant, a media psychologist and national adviser for Healthy Device Management at Newport Healthcare in Los Angeles, explains that "sadfishing" is not new. As an early example, he points to a 2019 campaign featuring Kendall Jenner, where she spoke about her acne struggles as part of her partnership with Proactiv.

Social Media Motivations

Grant proposes important questions regarding social media behavior: "If you are putting anything on social media, what is your motivation for what you need or want people to know who are not in your close circle? What is your reason for posting?" He suggests that for "sadfishers," the motivation can vary widely and sometimes be concerning.

When 'Sadfishing' Becomes Concerning

Grant emphasizes that chronic "sadfishing" can be alarming. "If it's chronic, then absolutely. I couldn't pretend to know or guess what it is for everybody," he said. "But I would say it's definitely a cry for something."

Sometimes, these posts may indicate a serious issue, prompting welfare checks from concerned friends or colleagues. Grant notes that the intensity and impact of "sadfishing" can vary across different social media platforms.

Platform Differences and Generational Usage

Different social media platforms exhibit varying levels of "sadfishing" intensity. For instance, video-based platforms like TikTok can be more dramatic and impactful, as viewers can hear the person's voice and see their expressions. Pew Research Center data shows that 62% of 18- to 29-year-olds use TikTok, compared to only 10% of adults aged 65 and older.

Grant observes that younger generations are more likely to be content creators on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, while older generations are less active on these platforms.

Public Reactions and Advice

Public opinion on "sadfishing" is divided, with some viewing it as attention-seeking behavior stemming from real anxiety or depression. Others see it as typical behavior for teenagers and young adults.

Grant believes that while social media can be a valuable connector, it should not be the primary means of building connections. He advocates for rebuilding social relationships in person and seeking professional mental health support as better alternatives to sharing personal struggles online.

"If you see a post that makes you worried about a loved one, pick up the phone and give the person a call," Grant suggests. "Real-life connection to me is the antidote for just about any problem."

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