A REPORT has said that sadfishing on social media is making it harder for vulnerable young people to seek help.
But what is sadfishing? Here’s everything you need to know about the term.
What is sadfishing?
Sadfishing is a term used to describe the behaviour of someone making exaggerated claims about their emotional problems to gain sympathy.
Both have in the past written publicly about the pressures of being under the spotlight at an early age.
The label is now being used more generally to refer to people, particularly young people, who seek support who try to speak about issues like anxiety and depression on social media.
What impact is the term having?
A report by campaign group Digital Awareness UK (DAUK) has said that being accused of sadfishing has made it harder for young people facing genuine mental health difficulties to seek support online.
The group conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 50,000 children aged 11 to 16, among them people who had been left feeling bullied or isolated by the accusation.
The report said: “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.
“We have noticed that students are often left feeling disappointed by not getting the support they need online.”
What did interviewees say?
The report documented a number of cases of young people who were unable to seek support when they needed it.
One schoolboy said he had used Instagram to share his feelings about problems he was experiencing at home.
“I got a lot of people commenting on and ‘liking’ my post but then some people said I was sadfishing the next day at school for attention,” he said.
“Sharing my feelings online has made me feel worse in some ways but supported in others.”
The research also found examples of attempts to exploit the vulnerability of people who had shared their feeling online.
One teenage girl began an online relationship with someone who had been supportive when she was experiencing depression, but later discovered he was much older than he had claimed.
“He responded to her post and built up a connection with her by sharing his similar personal experiences,” the report said.
“They had never met face-to-face but fortunately she ended the relationship when she discovered he was much older than he claimed he was and was pressurising her to send him explicit images of herself.”
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How have schools responded?
The report was commissioned by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), a group that represents 300 of the UK’s leading private schools.
The pupils interviewed came from both the private and state sectors.
Chris Jeffery, the chair of the HMC’s wellbeing working group and headmaster of Bootham School in York, said: “Mobile technology and social media are now an inescapable aspect of the landscape of the lives of the young people that we care for in our schools.
“It is encouraging to read of the growing signs of increased control that many young people are taking over their use of technology, but it is also helpful to know new ways in which it is proving to be a burden for them as well.”