When celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber share their problems on social media, they get sympathy from their millions of followers.
However, when regular teenagers share their struggles online, they sometimes do not get the same positive response from their peers.
What Is Sadfishing?
"Sadfishing" is a term used to describe when people post about their issues to attract attention or hook an audience. It was coined after some famous personalities open up about the difficulties they encounter in their private lives to drum up publicity.
In the case of Jenner, the supermodel was accused of sadfishing when she opened up about her struggles with acne growing up in a world that expects perfection. The post on Instagram was, of course, an advertisement for Proactiv, a skincare brand that promises to treat and prevent acne.
Bieber, who has 119 million followes on Instagram, was accused of "playing the sympathy card" when he wrote about finding it "hard to get out of bed in the morning" on social media.
How Sadfishing Can Negatively Affect Young People
Naturally, both Jenner and Bieber received thousands of likes and messages of support from their fans. Inspired by their favorite celebrities, many young people have started sharing their struggles on social media and this can harm their mental health.
According to a study conducted by Digital Awareness UK, students who open up about their emotional or mental health struggles on social media were left feeling disappointed for the lack of support they get. Some even get bullied for their posts.
In both instances, the negative response they get from their peers can damage their already fragile self-esteem.
"DAUK is concerned about the number of students who are bullied for sadfishing through comments on social media, on messaging apps or face-to-face, thus exacerbating what could be a serious mental health problem," the study said as reported by Telegraph UK.
Moreover, the trend could leave young people vulnerable to grooming. The study warned that people who have ill intent can use comments, express emotional support to gain the trust of teenagers who seek solace on the internet and then later exploit them.
The study shared the case of one unnamed teenage girl who met a man on social media after she had opened up about her experience with depression. The man commented on her post and told her about his history of mental health issues.
She ended the relationship when she found out that the man was much older than he claimed and pressured her into sending him explicit photos.
Despite the negative findings, the study also said that young people are becoming more likely to use technology responsibly.
The study was commissioned by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The findings were a result of face-to-face interviews with over 50,000 children ages 11 to 16 years living in the United Kingdom.