What is trauma dumping—and why has it become so common on social media?

Sharing our thoughts and worries on social media can be a cathartic experience. But there’s a line between venting and toxic oversharing, and it’s important to keep in mind the effect that our words might have on others.

There are a lot of positives that come from the increase in conversations around mental health on social media, including more awareness of mental health conditions and a reduced stigma around diagnoses and getting help. However, there has also been an increase in trauma dumping and the use of social platforms for toxic venting. So, when does sharing or venting turn into trauma dumping? Here’s what to know, including better alternatives.

The Rise of Emotional Dumping on Social Media

Social media has become a breeding ground for trauma dumping and all of the negative side effects that come with it.

What is trauma dumping? It’s the sharing of trauma without consent and without respect for the boundaries and emotions of others. Unlike when we vent or seek advice, trauma dumping is a one-sided conversation wherein we offload a traumatic experience onto someone else. And it’s easy to see how social media facilitates this, since it’s made it easier than ever to share our personal thoughts and feelings with anyone who wants to listen—or anyone who just happens to come across our posts.

Social media isn’t the only place that people go to trauma dump, but it has provided a layer of disconnect that tends to make us feel more comfortable opening up and oversharing. Even when done without ill intent, trauma dumping can put your mutuals in an uncomfortable situation and leave them feeling obligated to respond without really knowing what to say. Over time, this can weaken your relationships and push people away, all without giving you any sort of genuine support for the trauma you’re trying to process.

Venting vs. Emotional Dumping: What’s the Difference?

There are a few notable differences between regular venting and trauma dumping:

  • Venting is done with healthy intentions; trauma dumping is done as a way to shock or overwhelm others
  • Venting is done with consent; trauma dumping is not
  • When you’re venting you’re open to advice; when you’re trauma dumping you’re simply relaying an experience
  • Venting is self-reflective; trauma dumping is looking to place blame

Ultimately, venting is a healthy way to communicate any issues we might be having, and is done with consent and at an appropriate time. Trauma dumping, on the other hand, is done without awareness of how the other person will process the information or concern for whether it’s something they want to process in the first place. Both may feel good in the moment, but venting will hopefully provide some answers and support, whereas trauma dumping will leave you feeling more alone.

Understanding Oversharing and Boundaries on Social Media

Trauma dumping can take a toll on your relationships. Now that you know what it is though, you can set boundaries on social media and find better ways to get support—and to give it, too.

If you’re the one trauma dumping… Acknowledge your need to address your trauma in a more productive way and find an alternate coping method and/or seek out professional care so you can start the process.

If you’re the one witnessing a trauma dump… Protect your emotional well-being by letting the person know that you hear them but are not the one to help. And if it’s someone you don’t know, just keep scrolling.

Get help coping with trauma. Learn about Retreat Family services, including individual and group therapy, and receive mental health support in a compassionate and professional setting.