Picture this: It’s a Tuesday afternoon and work is lagging. It’s 3pm and this point in the day you’re dying for it to be 5pm so you can go home and unwind. You reach for your phone so you can distract yourself from the monotony that is corporate America. You scroll through TikTok for a few minutes and you see a variety of videos – picturesque trips to Italy, homemade French bread, “IT girls” sifting through their closet for an outfit to run errands in, etc. You continue to scroll and then you see a video of a woman crying. She’s talking, in great detail, about the time she was beaten and sexually assaulted. Although it’s disturbing, you can’t scroll past. You check the comments and you see eager listeners begging for a part two. “Omg are you okay?? What happened after that?!” She replies in the comments, promising to continue the story when she has time. Suddenly you are no longer bored. Not at all. In fact, now you feel something else entirely. Anxiety. The feeling is subtle, but it sits with lightly throughout the day. You can’t help but think about that attack and the others just like it that you’ve heard about online.
Now let’s fast forward a couple hours. You’re at home cuddled in bed with a cup of tea and scrolling through Instagram before bed. You know you shouldn’t be using your phone so close to bed time, but you decide to look past it and enjoy the entertainment. Before long you’re bombarded with stories of mothers suffering miscarriages and your favorite celebrity couples filing for divorce. You consume the content for about 20 minutes before falling a sleep feeling slightly heavier than before you picked up your phone. Your mind continues to process the heavy information as you sleep and next thing you know, you wake up feeling kind of blah. In many cases, that blah feeling that has manifested from feelings of sadness and anxiety, is a result of trauma dumping.
What is trauma dumping?
Trauma dumping is defined as “sharing trauma without permission, in an inappropriate place and time, to someone who may not have the capacity to process it.” When someone posts on social media they are making their content accessible to over 4 billion social media users throughout the globe. When someone posts about their trauma and receives countless views, it is safe to say that many of the viewers are not licensed therapists who are trained to receive such heavy information. Most of them are normal people like you and me. Untrained in counseling and simply curious about the harsh truths of others. While many people have received the necessary love and
The Social Media Shift
Social media is a public platform that was created to share the highlights of life, such as family vacations, milestones, and Instagram-worthy meals. At some point the even the highlights started to feel superficial, and the general consensus was that we, as social media users, needed to bring “realness” to the platform. Instead of simply showing off, many users encouraged body positivity and shared the struggles of real life, such as dealing with heartbreak, family issues, and burnout. While it was refreshing to see life behind the highlight reel, somewhere along the line we strayed from sharing everyday issues and verged into trauma dumping territory. Users began posting content worthy of a trigger warning on their own pages while also using the comment sections on other people’s posts to unload their traumas.
The other day I was scrolling through TikTok when I saw a popular mom blogger post a video of her experience introducing her toddler to chicken and pasta. The toddler was completely uninterested in anything that was not bread and ignored her mothers requests to try chicken. Finally she tried it, and of course loved it, leaving her smiling. I smiled laughed while watching the video, enjoying the sweet frustration of life with a toddler. I went to the comment section to check out which part of the video other viewers liked the most, when I noticed a pinned note at the top of the comment section. It was from the creator and it said “Please do not use this video as a place to trauma dump. If you do, your comment will be deleted and you will be blocked.” At first I was extremely confused. Why would someone trauma dump on a video of a toddler trying chicken for the first time? I thought to myself. Then I realized. In today’s climate, it is all too common for someone to see a video like this and comment on their own experiences with trying new foods, seemingly the more traumatizing, the more they are eager to share. Maybe their own mother force fed them to the point that they can’t even try certain foods anymore, or maybe their childhood traumas caused them to develop an eating disorder. No matter what the story is, the point is that even a video as lighthearted as a toddler discovering chicken, can develop a comment section flooded with negative energy.
Striking A Balance
While it’s great that in today’s society we are creating a space where we can feel comfortable to share our experiences and ask for help, at one point does this discourse become toxic? At one point must we shield ourselves from an overwhelming amount of negative news? Striking a balance can difficult, but your mental health will thank you. Instead of doom scrolling, set social media limits.
- Set limits Try and keep your social media use to 30 minutes per day, per platform.
- Curate a positive feed The social media algorithm responds to your interests and provides you with a feed that will keep you on the site longer. If you are looking at depressing posts, you will continue to be shown those types of posts, because the algorithm has decided that is what you like. Make note of what posts make you happy, and engage with those instead.
- Resist drama While drama and pain can be enticing, and dare I say entertaining, it is not something you want to concentrate on for extended periods of time. Make an effort to not dwell on the chaotic and juicy stories of others.
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