Suffering From Trauma Exposure Through Social Media?

We all have that friend that’s constantly posting things we’d rather not see. The graphic photos of animal cruelty. The pleas to sign yet another petition to stop this or that atrocious act. Or the cross-posting of companion animals needing a home. Except they couldn’t just post a cute photo of a sweet dog or cat. Oh no! They have to tell you about the heartless bastard that dumped ’em at the high-kill shelter, or about how the baby was found in a horrific state.

More cute! We need more cute!
More cute! We need more cute!

Maybe once or twice you can take it. But repeated exposure makes you feel physically sick. Or perhaps you find yourself saying, “So what? I can’t do anything about it anyway.”

Well guess what?

Research has shown that what that so-called friend is doing is exposing you to secondary trauma. The regular doses of abuses of others affects us, not because we’re Ice Queens, but because we do care so much.

There’s been a great deal of research in the past 20 years about secondary trauma exposure and its effects. Enough exposure to the traumas of others can lead to a myriad of health problems, including PTSD.

WHAT? You mean I can suffer from trauma exposure through social media?

In a word, yes.

Tell that friend, with love, to shut their trap.

So back to that friend with the never-ending tales of abuse. Remember how, while you felt guilty about doing so, you quietly unfollowed them?

Well, bully for you! Because the best way to recover from exposure to secondary trauma is to lessen your exposure to secondary trauma.

As for that friend, I can say that he or she needs help too. In my case, I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself in constantly exposing myself to animal cruelty after a day at work exposed to human cruelty, and I certainly didn’t realize what I was doing to you.

So tell that friend with love that what they’re doing to themselves and to others isn’t healthy. Then send them on their way with a prayer.

39 thoughts on “Suffering From Trauma Exposure Through Social Media?

  1. Thank you for this!! I feel guilty but I can’t look at these things daily either. It becomes mentality draining we can’t give to every cause can’t help every time. Nice to know we aren’t the only ones who feel this way.

  2. Thank you for saying this. I would try not to look at the photos while I would delete them from my news feed. Worse, I felt so guilty! I love animals. And here’s something else. I’m tired of people complaining about puppy mill dogs. Can they really prove they are from mills? Are we supposed to turn our backs on those dogs? I have owned 5 dogs who MAY have been from mills and they have been my best companions. Guess where the dogs go if no one adopts them? To labs! So I feel I have rescued dogs over the years. Sorry, I get emotional over people telling me how wrong I am and how right they are! Anyway, thanks for your post! 🙂

    1. I agree. I hate the idea of puppy mills, but they deserve rescue the same as the rest. It isn’t their fault they were born of a puppy mill. I know we shouldn’t ‘support’ them by giving our money but those babies deserve a chance too.

    2. I TOTALLY agree with you about the puppies/dogs from puppy mills. Before I became more aware of where most of the “pet store” puppies came from, I got one from one of the highly notorious puppy mill pet stores – my little Angel Oreo was a great little dog with the only major health problem being gum disease which didn’t show up until late in his life. Angel Oreo, a little YorkiPoo mix, lived to be 16 and a half years. And yes, I do consider getting him out of a pet store as a rescue. And I agree, why should we turn our backs on puppies from puppy mills – they didn;t choose that way of life – why should they suffer what humans do?

      1. Some of you who are discussing puppy mills really miss the point. By buying a puppy mill dog, you ARE perpetuating puppy mills whether you want to deny it or not. What do you think is happening to the mother of that puppy you buy? She is being bred over and over again, being kept in a boxcar treated like a commodity and constantly having her puppies taken away from her. You need to cut off the demand for these dogs by stopping buying the puppies or there will be perpetual puppy mills until the end of time.

  3. Interesting reading, and a lot of truth here. I do think there is a balance though. A steady diet of sadness yield sadness. But never looking at the horror and the crimes means that they will continue in perpetuity. I think we have to have both.


    1. That would make sense if there was balance. But we get served up a heaping helping of trauma every day. To think it doesn’t affect us is naive.

  4. You are so right on this from every angle. I have stopped following people because of the constant barge of pictures or sign this or that. I try to only post things that are funny or cute and maybe the odd rant when something has really gotten to me. I am going to try and find positive things to share, but will probably still do an occasional rant when family gets to me. Thanks Rumpy, Jen and family for bringing this out into the open. Love to all Joyce and Isaiah

  5. I always feel so guilty I can’t do anything to help. It just breaks my heart to read those stories of what people are capable of. I have learned to scroll past it if I am not prepared to deal with it. I also learned to not feel guilty because if I had know their story or not I couldn’t rescue them and I think that someone who can, will.

    1. And while that’s good, the reality is we’re not solely responsible for what happens to that animal. If anything, many of us make it possible for those bad folks to keep doing what they’re doing, because we clean up their messes without them ever being held accountable.

      1. That is true and I never bought a puppy mill puppy I just feel horrible that they are denied homes due to circumstance. Law needs to deal more harshly with this and take actions. That is the only way to break the chain. Lets face it while many people rescue animals, we aren’t going to stop everyone from buying pets that were born from puppy mills. It is just a sad part of life. We can’t control where people buy pets from. Just do our very best.

  6. I don’t need the photos, the sign this or sign that stuff thrown in my face or news feed. Lately I have just unfriended those people. I may hide those who every once in a while will throw something out there but for the most part the rest of their stuff is statuses, photos of their own etc. Those who only post abuse or stop this blah blah campaigns have no room in my life.
    I hate the petitions to stop something in another country. Stop the blah blah from happening in Timbucktoo! The things that have been happening forever in that culture. No we may not like it but how would we like another country trying to stop our Thanksgivings because we kill thousands of turkeys and pigs who were raised for that purpose.
    I have enough stress in my life to add anymore from people who want to share the photos of the abused.

  7. Interesting research. I can definitely see it. I do not like looking at graphic animal abuse every single day post after post! I will post a petition that needs signing when I come across one,but if there is a graphic image, I will just post the link….no image. And this is not very often either. I don’t understand the people on fb etc…that post 10 times daily all of these horrid images. I mean, I know they are trying to help. But constantly and every post is just WAY to much!!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  8. Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me started her series “Pet Adoption Ads That Don’t Want Make Me Want to Kill Myself” in response to just this effect.

    Unfortunately, some people are so ignorant of cruelty, they probably do need the graphic reminders. But that doesn’t mean you need to subject yourself to it.

  9. Oh I am so glad you posted this and you have gotten like responses. I get those too – the pictures over and over again of dogs that you don’t know how they can live and the pictures of puppy mills and other abuse. Like many others, after working all week and taking care of my own dogs and other life responsibilities that doesn’t leave much time to help plus my checking account is not bottomless like I wish – I wish I could be out tracking down the abusers, helping to rescue dogs and get puppies out of the mills but I can’t. And I can’t afford to help finance all these great causes. And I feel guilty – I haven’t unfriended or unfollowed anyone because of these pictures – yet – but I just sort of quickly scroll by some of those pictures. And really, those local causes in some far off state that want you to sign a petition – is your signature going to count for that much when you live hundreds of miles away in another state? I feel guilty too for not sharing some of that on my wall – but I know some of my friends and followers not to mention family – they don’t want to see it either nor do I want to subject them to it.

  10. If “we” don’t protect ourselves, no one will. The mind/brain can’t discern now from then and not only does this constant stream of “bad” news stir new images, it triggers old ones. After a certain hour every night, no news, no computer, no talking about bad stuff, or at least we try to adhere to this. Good post, very important. Reducing stress saves lives.

  11. Through social media, I’ve seen many pictures and read articles, some are interesting and the others are just annoying…I try not to see and read those annoying thing purposely…..because I know how they influencet me…

  12. I used to follow a lot of rescues like that and I just realized I couldn’t any more. I ended up prioritizing to my two breed rescues I follow, the humane society I volunteer at, and my county’s animal control. That’s it. I can feel better seeing those stories because I know I can help them. It seems selfish on the surface but I’d rather focus on a few I can help than be overwhelmed by the ones I can’t.

  13. So true Rumpy and Miss Jen! Sometimes I can’t go through my Facebook Reader because so many of my pet friends post way too much negativity! Woo! Ku the puppy mill happy survivor

  14. Great post, Jen and Rumpy. We totally agree. That’s why we try to stay positive on our blog!

  15. I worry that we will become complacent to cruelty and suffering as all these horrible pictures are thrust upon us and that is bad. It will cease to mean anything and that will be awful.. @samsbellabob had a good idea that there could be a special section or # where those who want to see mindless cruelty can do so and those of us who love animals support various charities and genuinely care can turn twitter on without being subject to terrible pictures

  16. I have to set limits to what I view about suffering too. Rather than linger over a horrific image, I choose to use my energy righting what wrongs I can personally have an effect on, focusing on the goodness in human nature. There is hope, we just have to make it ourselves.

  17. My worry too is that we become de-sensatised to it all. It ceertainly is rife on social networking and I stopped opening links to pictures a long time ago. It particularly bothers me when there is no warning. An excellent post.

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