Pause Before Posting: How Social Media Posts Can Ruin You
I watched last night as a trend started on Twitter of “Trauma Dump“. The Investigative Journalist in me kicked in and I dug.
A mental health counselor posted a TikTok about clients “Trauma Dumping” in the first session with the line “Not happening on my watch ever again.”
The Twitterverse went nuts. Thousand of comments tearing into this woman who is there to provide comfort and help to people seemingly making fun or being annoyed by people who share their trauma.
What is “Trauma Dumping”? Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of “Joy from Fear has this definition she gave to USA Today.
“Unsolicited, unprepared way, where a person dumps traumatic thoughts, feelings, energy onto an unsuspecting person,”Carla Manly, Clinical Psychologist
Quickly, the TikTok came down from the original poster. Her Instagram went private. Her Twitter was deleted.
No matter, it was out there and it was vicious.
The internet sleuths thought they found the person in one state, but from my investigation, this is a person in a coastal state, and I found a LinkedIn, website, professional Instagram (still public), and a couple of other connections.
I am purposely not posting the information or name of the person for her own safety. Also, that’s not what this article is about. It’s just the catalyst.
So many things to unpack here:
- Are you a trauma dumper socially?
- Isn’t a mental health expert’s office the place to unload traumatic thoughts?
- It’s already intimidating enough to seek mental health treatment. Posts like this make people even leerier about doing so.
- Could this ruin this woman’s career? (And could you ruin yours?)
To be fair, this is not the first time someone has gone on social media to complain or react to work-related topics. I’ve seen retail posts making fun of customers. Teachers making jokes about students. Heck, even “Karen” in her efforts to get the service she feels she deserves is vilified.
SARCASM vs. SENSITIVITY
We now live in a world where nothing stays in Vegas, meaning everything we do it up for dissection if we choose to jump into social media circles.
As an Investigative Journalist, I can tell you that your fingerprints on the world wide web go so much deeper than you could ever realize.
For example, you post something and decide to take it down. It’s still cached somewhere. You use a handle, which means you *probably use that handle everywhere else. That handle eventually lists your first name. Then your last name. Then I have your address.
In my search on this story, I found the offending poster’s Amazon account (where she makes money as an “Influencer”), Pinterest, Etsy, connection to the Parkland shooting recovery efforts, and YouTube page. That was just by Page 2 of a simple Google search (when you know what you are looking for!)
It’s all fun and games until the focus comes on you.
I was once busted in a social media blunder. I had posted a photo at an event that was my birthday weekend in 2008. I was dressed up for a Vegas party with my dad and sister in town. I held a cocktail to the camera and smiled. I looked like the typical “party girl”, I suppose.
The REAL story was – it was my first birthday after my mom died. My family was in town so I didn’t drown in depression. Hawaiian Tropic opened on the Strip and we went to the media party. They were literally serving Hawaiian Tropic the G-rated version. No booze. I took a quick snapshot of how funny it was that at a grown-up event in the middle of Sin City I was drinking the same drink I enjoyed when I was 5.
I posted this picture as my Facebook default photo. Given that my “friends” list is pretty tight (I am not social friends with anyone who isn’t a REAL friend and I house clean regularly). I thought nothing of it.
When I got a new job, my dream job, after years of working hard to get to the top spot in a newsroom – I was introduced to the team long before I even got there. One of the employees took this picture and sent it out as “Our fearless leader – she looks like fun, huh?” or something like that.
I got burned. I’ll take responsibility for posting a rather “party girl” picture, but the story and the night behind it got the top spot on my profile. I can’t assume others know that.
We need to take a second to evaluate if our posts are spreading a message that could hurt someone. Ask yourself:
- Who might be offended by this?
- Does this represent who I am as a person and an employee?
- Is this emotionally driven?
- Will I regret this post tomorrow? (Even if you have a millisecond where you wonder if you should post it or not – don’t)
Social Media allows us a little “Emotional Dumping” of our own. We can put out passive-aggressive memes to show how we’re feeling. We can make fun of workplace frustrations. We record ourselves in the heat of the moment and hit send without much sense. But do you ever wonder who might be hurt by your comments or videos?
You might think you are posting stuff that is your “personal” account. However, if you are in a work position that affects change, helps people, deals with customers or clients – you are your entirety of presence online, like it or not (and check employee handbook to see where these lines are for you.)
I am someone who finally gave in to her pride and independence and asked for mental health guidance after the loss of both parents, a sister, a niece, a cousin, all the correlating and mixed emotions those losses caused me and the people I love. Add in high-stress jobs with insane working hours and a pandemic? Yeah, I needed help.
The post that offended so many from the mental health worker didn’t sit well with me either. If it causes ONE person to re-think mental health help, the post did more harm than humor. Luckily, I know my therapist well and we can talk about anything. I routinely ask her “You’ve met people worse off than me, right? Like, I’m not the CRAZIEST person around, right? “ She speaks to me directly and bluntly – so when she communicates the way I communicate it helps. I know some outstanding people with posh positions who also get counseling weekly or monthly. Checking in on your mental health isn’t any different than the yearly checkup, or visit the OBGYN for women.
TRAUMA DUMPING & EMPATHS
Let’s be honest, when we “Trauma Dump” on our friends, we are just letting out steam from a tight vent. We aren’t fixing the source of the steam. I have a great friend who I can always talk to about anything, but we’ve agreed to start with, “Do you have the mental space to help me through something?”. Sometimes we can’t take your trauma on with whatever demon we battle that day, and we just need to communicate.
But the therapist. He or she is PAID to have the mental space. We’ve scheduled a “dump” of emotions.
I recently wrote in an article about how people around you complaining can negatively impact your mental health. I got several private messages agreeing this is a major issue. You might be “Trauma Dumping” on people without even realizing it. You might trigger their own personal issues you don’t know about.
This is especially hard for the Empaths of the world.
What’s the difference between Venting and Dumping? Dr. Judith Ofloff explains it this way:
|Feels Healthy||Feels Toxic|
|Sticks to One Topic||Overwhelms You|
|Limits Time of Venting Session||Keeps Repeating an Issue|
|Doesn’t Repeat Same Topic||Blames Other People|
|Doesn’t Blame||Plays the “Victim”|
|Doesn’t Victimize||Goes On and On|
|Accountability is Taken||No Accountability For Person Dumping|
|Offers Solutions||Not Open To Solutions|
Behind the exterior of my independent, sarcastic, joking nature, I am an Empath. I am an Extroverted Introvert BECAUSE I am an Empath. Any time spent with an Empath requires them time to process and recharge because they’ve taken their own feelings, but also YOURS home with them.
Empaths go beyond “I feel for you and I’m sorry you are going through this.” Here’s a video that best explains, in my opinion, how Empaths function:
Empaths feel all the things that you feel. They actually want to take away your pain and carry it themselves. They are just wired that way. For example, with all the grief I’ve experienced, I have so much pain when someone tells me a loved one died. I’m grieving for them NOW, of course, but I also know the pain that is to come. The sting of a first birthday without the person. Or picking up the phone to call that person with good news only to realize there are no phone lines in heaven. I know what’s to come and I absorb it. It’s not always a GOOD thing. Empaths need serious boundary work (and only a mental health professional can really guide them through that.)
We are the people who will listen to you endlessly. We will bring you soup when you are sick. We will nurture you through the breakup like we ourselves were dumped. We will give up our plans for your plans. We are not “too sensitive” or “thin-skinned”. We just process emotions differently than you do. Walk a day in our shoes and you’ll be emotionally exhausted as well.
Even in this example that sparked this post, wasn’t the woman actually doing a little “emotional dumping” of her own? Maybe she just came out of a session with horrible details and didn’t have coping skills to process it and it came out in a terrible TikTok. (Hey, even shrinks have their own shrinks sometimes. They aren’t perfect.)
I have a friend who is in a relationship with a mental health worker. He told me an anonymous story that haunts me to this day. I can’t see a certain object in life anymore without thinking of that horrible story.
If you take nothing else away from this article, know that your words, online or in-person, can impact people. Social media has a great power to connect us. It also has a great power to destroy us. It’s up to the collective group of people to decide which way it’s going to go for us.
It should also be noted that just about every post is going to be criticized by someone. If people already have a perception of you, they will use that perception to interpret what you posted. Working on local news we couldn’t so much as post a picture of a sunrise without someone complaining about something. “That’s not news” was a common G-rated version of the negativity on a beautiful sunrise. It also could go to the extremes of, “Great another day with this crappy president, and I can’t get a job or afford food for my kids.”
Any and every post or statement can be dissected, manipulated, and regurgitated back against you. Take for example this post on ABC News today. It’s just wishing Snoop Dogg a happy birthday. The comments get nasty.
So think about what you post and how it reflects you and how it might hurt, but understand someone is always going to have an issue with it. Some are more blatant, others hold a secret offense you didn’t see coming.
As much as my heart goes out to this mental health worker today, how terrible she must feel, how she’s wondering if her career is ruined, if she’s getting threats, I also feel for anyone who is now re-considering getting help – and they were *this close to making the call but now backed off. Don’t avoid getting help because of one person and one TikTok that you can’t even see anymore (but yes, it’s cached).
If you are in need of mental health immediately, here are some resources to help you through.
Very interesting and informative post. It has been decades now that what people post on the internet has been getting them into hot water and yet still most of us haven’t learnt a darn thing! I’ll say I vent not trauma dump. I keep my circle very small so it doesn’t get to the point of trauma for me.