"Sadfishing": guide for parents, explained by a teenager
"Sadfishing" or "simulated sadness" for us it is certainly not a familiar term, but it is not new in the world of adolescence. This has been a common trend since the inception of social media. "Simulated sadness" is when someone emphasize your emotional state to get the sympathy or attention from their followers. Generally, this appears on social media in different forms, whether it's Twitter, Instagram caption, or Facebook status updates. Sadfishing often exploits sadness, despair and negativity, and can be an extremely "toxic" sounding board in which teens remain imprisoned.
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A teenager tells us about his experience. When I was 14, my Facebook account was littered with posts saying things like "I'm ready to give up" or "The sadness is too much and I can't take it anymore." I was depressed, but I wasn't going to tell anyone in person. Sharing my moods on social media helped me to get close to someone, to ask for help: I sought attention through the Internet. With this post I want to help parents learn to recognize if their teenage son is sad, and understand how to help him.
Why are teenagers sad?
When a teenager posts depressing song lyrics, shares how desperate they are at the time, or makes references to self-harm and even suicidal thoughts, they are seeking your attention, whether it is a conscious deso or not. Sometimes, this is a cry for help. I am sure many of you will refer to the fact that it is often difficult to confront reality, especially when it makes us appear weak, vulnerable or dependent on someone else. If your child is openly posting worrying phrases, it's worth checking out what's going on. Maybe he just hopes someone will notice that he is wrong. There is often an underlying need for recognition from others.
This is what makes "sadfishing" on social media really dangerous; seek recognition on social media.
Sadfishing can also be problematic as not all adolescents who simulate this sadness and are therefore in crisis ask for help. Some do this just to get attention, and this can be deceptive for their friends and family. Just like the horrifying trend of "catfishing", in which a person pretends to be someone else to engage in an online relationship, "sadfishing" can send false signals about what is really going on in real life.
The impacts of "sadfishing"
As many teens share their feelings online which are often magnified, the "simulated sadness" repeated over time it can affect the credibility of their claims. Teenagers who continually post "exaggerated" claims are less likely to be heard. And those who really need help are often overwhelmed by all this hype.
For example, when I was younger, I sometimes published really sad poems that talked about depression and contained self-harming messages. I didn't have many people in my daily life controlling my mental well-being, and my "simulated sadness" it was my way of telling people I wasn't okay. I was honestly in trouble, but I didn't know how to ask for help. Social media was the only outlet I felt I had to connect with others and inform them of my situation.
Mental health is a very real problem that adolescents face, but if a teenager goes too far in how they communicate this discomfort, this experience is less severe in people's eyes. And so, readers begin to roll their eyes when they see messages about depression and anxiety, rather than offering practical help.
Sadifishing turns social media into a dangerous environment where teenagers can be sucked into whirlwinds of thought that tend towards negativity, and this can cause real harm.
How can parents help?
Fortunately, sadfishing is a problem that can be easily alleviated. To begin, parents should monitor their children's social media activity, so that you can notice if they are really afflicted with sad thoughts or not. If you see any posts about you, ask them if they are okay and if they need help. This will help your child know you are always there for them.
Remember that people who do "sadfishing" try to get attention. Be honest with your children about the impact this kind of attitude has on them and their audience and, of course, share how it makes you feel like a parent. Try to understand his point of life without getting angry. If the problem is serious, consider seeing a specialist. This is especially important if a teenager is asking you for help. Do your best to allow them to ask for help.
The bottom line
Your children need to know that they can turn to you when they need help. It is important that they learn to understand the impact their social media has on others, and most importantly, that mental health is not something to joke about or overdo. If your child is truly struggling with mental health problems, offer them support and let them know that you are willing to help them.
Encourage them to share their emotions in a healthy way, such as writing a journal or talking to someone about it. As parents, you have a great opportunity to intervene in a teenager's life to open up his thoughts, understand his emotions, and build a stronger relationship with him. Don't hesitate - your support could save a life.
Source: Parents.comAlso read: 14 phrases we would like to say to our teenage children
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