A Cult of Trauma: is ‘trauma’ overused in the age of social media?

Tears. Cry or grief feeling

In the age of social media more and more resources have been made available online surrounding ‘trauma.’ These educational tools can be incredibly enlightening, gen-z seem to have acquired an acute awareness of trauma in terms of what it is and how we respond to it. More than ever we are able to conceptualise that childhood trauma can even stem from events that are deceptively benign. The language our parents or caretakers used in order to communicate with us as children, can literally shape the plasticity in our brains. It is so important that we are growing in awareness of this, however on certain platforms (i.e. TikTok, Instagram) we may begin to question: how healthy is it to pathologise everyday behaviours?

‘Trauma’ in its most basic definition is an extremely distressing or disturbing experience. Obviously trauma can manifest in many different forms: physical, psychological, romantically, sexually. Platforms such as TikTok have video challenges circulating – ‘finger-down’ challenges – of very normal human behaviours which then feature a diagnosis at the end.

For instance, this video which is a ‘finger-down’ challenge which gives a diagnosis of severe PTSD, which can be viewed by clicking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6fUBGC86z

In the video, it describes being an ‘introvert’ or having a ‘messy room’ as symptoms for a serious mental disorder. Although her intent was probably harmless, it is rather the impact of how platforms like TikTok engage with trauma that is unhealthy. Misinformation on trauma is so easily widespread, which leads to other people misdiagnosing themselves. At worst, it’s become normalised to trivialise trauma. Minor mishaps or embarrassing moments get labelled as trauma which can be invalidating for those who actually experience it.

I can appreciate the sentiments of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ Especially when it is regarding certain experiences that not everyone can understand. It is nice to talk to people who have shared the same hardships as yourself, and it must be said there can be an amusing comradery when talking to others about your experiences.

However there is a fine line, and an element of competition begins to creep in, it feels like it can become ‘I’m more traumatised than you and here’s why.’ This is nothing new, anyone else who was present like myself on the dark ages of Tumblr has seen this all before. Moving forward, we need to understand why we have a desire to pathologise.

By Phoebe Bowers

Image from goodtherapy.org

For resources and help on trauma visit: Addressing Trauma and Adversity | Mental Health Resources | YoungMinds