‘Trauma dumping’ is the act of oversharing your problems on social media. On radio this week, Alexandra Tselios explains why it is on the rise.
Seen in psychological circles as being manipulative and abusive, the habit of unsolicited, toxic oversharing through various social media platforms has received its own categorisation: ‘trauma dumping’.
Thought of as being hazardous to your mental health and friendships, the process of unmercifully unloading all your emotional crap onto one or more of your friends via social media has, according to findings published in Psychology Today, been found to be abusive and manipulative, and branded as a kind of toxic oversharing.
In the article, author Pamela B. Rutledge PhD, M.B.A. says, “Trauma dumping is alive and well on social media. One post can trigger a downward spiral of one-upmanship. Nobody likes to hang around and listen to a trauma dumper—in person or online. It isn’t funny. It’s not cathartic. And it doesn’t make you feel better. Fishing for sympathy or competing for who has it worst will not give you personal insight.”
She highlights that the process is far more pervasive than standard venting, which she says is a healthy form of expressing negative emotion, such as anger and frustration, in order to move past it and find solutions.
“Venting is done with the permission of the listener and is a one-shot deal, not a recurring retelling or rumination of negativity. A good vent allows the venter to get a new perspective and relieve pent-up stress and emotion.”
This would be in the ‘phone company is keeping me on hold for three hours’ or ‘my Uber Eats delivery didn’t have the fourth serve of fries I asked and paid for’ category of venting one’s grievances and spleen online. Take that, train service that was unexpectedly delayed by 20 minutes. I feel better now.
Dr Rutledge states that there are subsequently no benefits to trauma dumping. The trauma dumper doesn’t take any responsibility or show self-reflection, delivering the vitriol and volumes of negativity on an unsuspecting audience.
There are no benefits to trauma dumping. The trauma dumper doesn’t take any responsibility or show self-reflection, delivering the vitriol and volumes of negativity on an unsuspecting audience.
“The purpose is to generate sympathy and attention not to process negative emotion,” she writes.
“The dumper doesn’t want to overcome their trauma; if they did, they would be deprived of the ability to trauma dump.”
Citing research that shows that the trauma dumping process can actually make the trauma even worse, Rutledge suggests that those prone to make such statements online and on social media – a phenomenon that has exponentially increased during the pandemic – people should instead find alternative coping methods, which will protect your friendships, and potentially lead to greater self-awareness and resilience, meaning similar ‘triggering’ occurrences don’t seem so overwhelming in the future.
“Take a moment to breathe and think,” she suggests, wisely.