- All over social media, people are “traumatized” in DMs, comment sections and videos.
- Tags related to “trauma dump” and “trauma dumping” on TikTok have over 20 million views.
- But experts warn that this trend carries risks, both for “dumpers” and “dumpees”.
TikToker Ashley Kimchi frequently posts about her father, whom she describes as her “best friend”. In June, a TIC Tac about their relationship went viral. In it, she joked that the two had “separation anxiety” when they weren’t together. In the comments section, hundreds of users shared details about their own relationship with their father, some of which were hard to read. âOoh, that’s cute,â one comment read. “Sad that my father is dead.”
“I wish I had a father,” commented another user. “Is your father talking to you?” a third commenter asked, while a fourth complained about how they managed to end up on a “healthy relationship with a TikTok dad”.
Other commentators have told stories of abuse, abandonment and grief.
While such emotional responses may seem out of place in other places, on TikTok they are a normal part of the ecosystem, so much so that the practice has a name – “trauma dumping”.
While trauma dumping is not a psychological term, it has become an established phrase online in recent years, referring to sharing a traumatic experience “without asking permission” from the “receiver’s ability to hear. or interact with this type of information, according to the adolescent psychotherapist and YouTuber Mallory Grimste.
On Twitter, one of the earliest recorded uses of the term “trauma dumping” dates back to January 2018 by YouTuber and podcaster Ruben Angel. They did not explicitly say what their experience had been, but tweeted“Just because I am an advocate for survivors and write regularly about rape culture does not mean that I allow you to unburden myself from trauma. “
Recently, the dialogue about trauma dumping has reignited around TikTok, where users freely talk about their traumatic experiences on video and in the comments. While trauma dumping can act as a cathartic release for some users, and online spaces may seem like a safe place to do so, experts warn that it can also have adverse effects on both the dumper. “and the” dumpee “.
Being the victim of trauma dumping can worsen people’s existing trauma
Disability rights activist and journalist Rachel Charlton-Daily, who works to raise awareness about domestic violence by speaking and writing about her own experiences, told Insider she frequently receives “shocking” MDs from people sharing “truly graphic” traumatic events without warning.
âIt can be a real trigger for me because trauma is obviously something that I have been through and have worked hard to live with,â she said.
According to the trauma therapist, the spill of unsolicited trauma can lead the recipient to experience “secondary trauma,” leaving them even more traumatized by the details of what has been shared. Shannon thomas.
Dr Charles Figley, professor of psychology specializing in trauma research, said in his book “Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in Those Treating the Traumatized” that secondary trauma can lead to “a syndrome of symptoms almost identical to PTSD” including flashbacks, sleep disturbances, withdrawal from daily activities, sudden outbursts of anger and memory suppression.
Yasmine Summan, a music journalist and social media consultant with over 100,000 subscribers on TikTok, typically posts content about his South Asian heritage, non-binary identity, and struggling with depression. But Summan told Insider that due to the trauma dumping on the app, they felt the need to cut back on certain types of content like fashion videos and makeup tutorials.
Indeed, according to Summan, things got “really unhealthy” with commentators comparing themselves to Summan, insulting their own appearance and saying they felt suicidal because of their appearance.
âI just never knew how to respond to that,â Summan added. âI’ve been there and I absolutely feel for them, I know this pain. Usually I can handle it, but when people start saying they want to kill themselves and they’re depressed because they don’t don’t look likeâ¦ it’s overkill. “
Some TikTokers are re-appropriating the term to share their experiences
Some TikTokers use the term “trauma dumping” to refer to using their own platform to share their personal experiences.
Trauma dumping in this sense has become extremely popular on TikTok – cumulatively, the #traumadump and #traumadumping tags have over 20 million views.
Videos under these tags typically involve TikTokers sharing deeply personal stories about their life, including descriptions of abuse, assault, or mental health crises. He even spawned his own tendencies, like people applaud and applaud in response to a traumatic experience, using the “put a finger down“to share experiences that apply to them, and lip-sync to viral songs for recount traumatic childhood experiences.
This type of breakdown can be very helpful for young people who have grown up on social media, Summan told Insider. “These are the few ways they know how to express their emotions, through apps where their parents or school students can’t see and judge them.”
But Summan thinks there are potential pitfalls. They told Insider that the lack of content warnings on user trauma dump videos means some viewers are caught off guard. âWhat I think is failing right now is that people are not warning their audience of what they are getting into,â they said.
A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) survey of TikTok’s viewing algorithm found that over time, content on a user’s For You page becomes “less common, less moderator-controlled, and sometimes more disturbing â.
The bot accounts that the WSJ set up as part of their investigation quickly fell into a “rabbit hole” of trauma-related content with themes such as depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders. .
Traumatized dumping can also have negative consequences for the people who do so
According to Thomas, trauma dumping is the result of social media’s misconceptions about personal boundaries. âThe distance of digital life creates a false sense of security and leads to a lack of healthy boundaries,â she told Insider.
âWhen a generation is raised with access to digital content, the lines between online identity and real identity are blurred. There is no longer an internal warning system that the person is sharing too much. “
While some people find trauma dumping to be beneficial, for Thomas the disadvantages far outweigh the potential advantages.
âThe trauma spill creates an open door for a survivor to be further hurt if their experience meets with a harsh or critical response from other people online,â she said.
It is also possible that the dumping of trauma becomes “addictive” for the creator, Maia petrucha, a mental health activist with more than 100,000 TikTok followers, told Insider.
“I understand why some people use TikTok as a diary,” Petrucha, who posts comedic stories about her life with
, said in a statement.
âYou don’t see the people receiving your story so it’s like talking to yourself until you see the comments that say ‘I’m so sorry you have to go through this or’ OMG I’m the same! ‘and it can get addicting. People can end up treating it like therapy. “
There is also a risk that creators end up defining themselves by their trauma alone.
Petrucha said, âOn the one hand, you want people to know your real you. It is irresistible. On the other hand, if all they see is your trauma, are they seeing the real you?
For more stories like this, check out the coverage of Insider’s digital culture team here.