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  • Writer's pictureStacey Ulry

Sadfishing: Attention Seeking on Social Media

The other day I stumbled upon a somber social media post from a “friend” of mine.

After reading it, I sat back and contemplated the intent behind the post. Was something seriously wrong? Were they looking for help? Or were they searching for sympathy?

Maybe there was no deeper meaning, and they were simply letting the world in on their own thoughts.

Two days later I found myself talking with a family member about a friend of theirs.

Their friend often posts demeaning comments about himself and complains no one understands his struggles.

As a therapist now recognizing a pattern in human behavior, I was obviously curious and sought out the name of this phenomenon: “sadfishing.”

When individuals post emotional or dramatic personal information and thoughts- content on their social media to gain sympathy or attention- it is called sadfishing.

We’ve all heard the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and probably have someone in our lives who does this very thing… frequently.

The big question I have is this: How are we supposed to know when someone is sadfishing or genuinely crying out for help?

I don’t think there’s a clear answer. It’s down to the individual person and situation- where no one explanation can suffice.

My inclination is to err on the side of caution, making sure to validate the poster’s feelings- or at least not to invalidate them.

If it is a family member or a close friend, having a private conversation to potentially provide support or snuff out attention-seeking behavior could be very valuable.

We all go through hard times. For some, sharing emotions with others is cathartic, and sometimes we just need to let it all out.

With that being said, respecting others' emotions when replying on social media, and even in real life, is important.

You can’t always know what others are truly experiencing, so use your words carefully.

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