Social Media and SadFishing


The increase in the use of social media has also seen an increase in the amount of information we share through it. Self-disclosure and reciprocity are very important for building a deeper relationship this is true for virtual relationships as well. When you express yourself on social media it has access to a wider audience, and this may even find its way to unknown people who might not know you personally. Sad-fishing is the behavioural tendency to publish exaggerated claims about their emotional state to generate sympathy from their viewers on social media. Sharing those negative life events or emotional breakdowns is not wrong but the problem is when you magnify the concern and share it a little too much virtually. 

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If a person shares a sad quote or an image, initially people will respond to it with sympathy and concern. However, when this turns into a regular act without genuine cause people might develop apathy towards such content and will express disregard towards the person and his or her feelings. Sadfishing is a way of manipulating people for personal gain.

Reasons Behind Sadfishing

1. Need for Social Support

The Social compensation hypothesis postulates that people who have less direct or face-to-face interaction can make the most out of virtual interaction. Social media is a platform that has the power to connect and disconnect you from reality and people, It depends on the kind of content that you are exposed to and the type of interaction that takes place. The connection between social media and well-being has long been a topic of intense debate among scholars. People can share both negative and positive emotions through social media but we can see positivity bias in this expression.

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Consumers usually accept positive emotions more easily than negative emotions. Social media can make you feel heard and safe it can make you think that somebody is out there to help you. People expect four types of support from social media; emotional support, social companionship, informational support, and instrumental support. Social media can also be a source of negativity for people who face cyberbullying, cyberstalking, identity theft, stigmatization, and victim-blaming. It is said that people tend to share the positive side of their lives very often keeping away the negative events that take place in and around them. 

2. Loneliness

Loneliness can profoundly impact mental well-being, pushing individuals to seek validation through exaggerated emotional displays on social media—a phenomenon known as sadfishing. This behaviour stems from a deep-seated need for connection and empathy, often exacerbated by the isolating effects of digital interactions. It underscores the importance of fostering genuine, offline relationships to combat feelings of loneliness and promote healthier avenues for emotional support.

3. Need for Attention

Attention seekers are those individuals who behave inappropriately or dramatically to get attention from people around them. Emotional content can have more eyeballs and ears than any other content. It is said that people may share their emotional and negative life events with the pure intention of going viral. This is one of the strategies used by people to achieve fame.

Read More: Attention-Seeking Behaviour in Adults

4. Anxious Attachment Style

People with anxious attachment styles find it very difficult to control their emotions. They have a high fear of rejection and abandonment. Studies have shown that people with an anxious attachment style are more likely to commit sad fishing. These people are often insecure in their relationships and seek external validation to gain confidence and self-esteem

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6. Poor Mental Health 

People suffering from depression, anxiety, and personality disorders such as histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder may exhibit sad-fishing due to their tendency to exaggerate their emotions and the lack of ability to regulate emotions. Studies show that high social media usage is directly linked to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. 

5. Extensive Social Media Usage

People who use social media extensively might overshare their life among people. They lose their mind and will be unable to differentiate between what to share and what not to share. When a person gets emotionally dependent on social media the amount of self-disclosure will also elevate. 

Adolescence and Sadfishing

Social media usage has become an integral part of the Adolescent culture. They are more prone to social media addiction as their brains tend to get addicted to anything exciting easily.

They know the world around them and the ways of living and find it difficult to differentiate between real and reel life. Studies show that sad fishing tendency decreases with age among boys while it increases with age among girls. Intoxication, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and depression are some of the prime reasons why adolescents exhibit sad fishing. Relying on social media to seek social connections can make you more disconnected and may build a dangerous sense of isolation. 

How to Address Sadfishing 

It is difficult to differentiate between sad-fishers and people who are in real need of help. When you find someone sharing their emotional distress over social media please lend your ears to find out whether there is any genuine reason behind the act. Support people who need help and suggest going for a professional if needed. Don’t forget to maintain boundaries when addressing such people as they can be a threat to your mental health. Some people just suck your energy through these posts and conversations. Avoid such people and interactions if this is not working for you.

Sadfishing is not the right way to express your negative emotions. This can affect you mentally by making you the prey of negative attention and stigmatization. Sadfishing might help you initially to gather social support however, this will decrease the chances of receiving help when you are in genuine need of help.

References +
  • Shabahang, R., Shim, H., Aruguete, M. S., & Zsila, Á. (2023). Adolescent sadfishing on social media: anxiety, depression, attention seeking, and lack of perceived social support as potential contributors. BMC Psychology, 11(1).
  • Behr, K. (2024, June 13). What is ‘Sadfishing’ and why are teens doing it? Parents.
  • Jazib, M. (2024, June 10). Sadfishing: What is The Complex Dynamics of Seeking Sympathy on Social Media.
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