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Sadfishing – My concerns

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What is ‘sadfishing’?

Sadfishing – A phrase apparently coined by journalist Rebecca Reid in January 2019. This is the act of deliberately withholding information, over exaggerating about situations or feelings while posting online to gain attention or likes.

Personally, I don’t agree that this is a ‘new’ trend like many are suggesting. There have always been people who attention seek. There have always been those who vaguely mention an issue and then let their friends draw the rest of the information out of them. Like getting blood from a stone. Perhaps this is an issue in itself though, if somebody feels they need attention so badly. Maybe that’s a little careless of me but bear with me, the concerns and reach extends much further I think.

What impact could this have?

My worry in all of the publicity around ‘sadfishing’ is that this becomes a common phrase. One which people feel they understand. The issue with this is that we can create an unkind environment for those who are genuinely reaching. They may experience verbal abuse, bullying and accusations of faking an illness.

We are just getting better at understanding mental health conditions. Becoming more empathetic. Understanding that people need to reach out. To talk. With campaigns like ‘Grow a pair’ from CALM or #HereForYou on Instagram. People assuming that every person reaching out is attention seeking is the last thing we need.

What does the report say?

Digital awareness UK – an online well-being agency, released a report based on interviews with 50,000 11-16 year old schoolchildren. The report suggests that young people are becoming more clued up on tech, using it responsibly and with common sense. However, the ‘sadfishing’ phenomenon and the accusations that come with it could be detrimental to young people’s mental well being.

One year 7 student told researchers “I got a lot of people commenting on and liking [a post on Instagram about problems at home] but then some people said I was sadfishing the next day at school for attention. Sharing my feelings online has made me feel worse in some ways but supported in others.”

This research from DAUK also highlighted that sharing these feelings online may leave vulnerable people open to being targeted by groomers. One case study included is that of a teenage girl sharing about her depression online. She was approached by a friend of a friend after posting about her experience with depression online. This man contacted her under the guise of also sharing his experience only to pressure her for explicit photos down the line.

Over 25% of headteachers in England have had to deal with issues of online bullying every week. This is higher than every other country that was studied, 48 of them. This study was conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operative Development (OECD) in early 2019.

Final thoughts

It’s clear that there is a problem which needs to be solved here. It is sensible to look out for your own mental health and practice caution if you’re seeing a lot of ‘drama’ online. However, we need to be careful not to alienate those who most need our help. We’re just getting better, don’t let that be ruined by a few people looking to get a rise. Our children deserve more than that.

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