With the new age of digital media, social media websites have allowed us to communicate our thoughts and actions more publicly than ever. Teenagers are known to be heavy users of social media, leading them to post personal messages on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. An example of this can be, “I’ve had the worst day ever,” or “How could this happen to me?” These posts typically have no context, may be overly-emotional, and are meant to call attention.
These types of social media users are called vaguebookers, which are users who share vague and ambiguous messages with public audiences. Individuals who engage in this behavior are typically teens and sometimes those with histrionic personality disorder (characterized by a need to be the center of attention and seek approval).
Young people who regularly vaguebook are not looking to continue their posts, but rather are looking for sympathy. If you’re posting in this manner, or continuing to post without adding context or asking for what you need you may be alienating friends which can also lead to social anxiety.
Research suggests vaguebooking behaviors are motivated by anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and the need to belong, which leads certain social media users to cope using vaguebooking, when they are unable to use other healthier means..
Reality of Vaguebooking
Vaguebooking is an understudied topic, but highly prevalent among young people. Research suggests that it is their way of seeking emotional support from other online users. Due to the nature of their posts, it can put a strain on their friendships and relationships. This further contributes to their own loneliness, because those who continue to post these cryptic messages no longer have anyone who believes in or responds to them.
Apart from affecting peer relationships, vaguebooking also negatively affects self-esteem. Because vaguebookers are not properly seeking the help they need, this may lead to increased suicidal thoughts, feeling unloved, and feeling unaccepted.
If you believe your teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center provides psychological assessments and parent support and education in order to assist them. They strive to provide parents and caretakers with appropriate diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and resources.
How to Help if You Notice Vaguebooking Among Your Teens
We shouldn’t just disregard these posts if we see our teens doing it, rather, connect privately and ask more questions. Being more informed means we can help them. We should talk to our teens about mental health, ask clarifying questions, and bring awareness to real issues.
Social media is not bad in general, but it’s best to guide your teen in finding a better way of receiving support, such as calling or messaging someone directly, or joining a support group.
If you suspect your teen may be at immediate risk for attempting suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are worried about safety, please call 911.