13 Feb 2019

Happy Online, Sad Offline (The HOSO Syndrome) PART 1 – Depression in Cameroon unraveled.

We always hear stories of people who have literally gone insane due to depression. We see people who are gradually losing it, due to depression.

However, if one goes through some social media platforms, one will have the impression that NO ONE suffers from depression. I mean NO ONE!

Instead, you will find posts that suggest they are in an apparently constant state of joy and accomplishment: Photos of parties, new clothes, cars, vacations, etc. Much of this happiness is real. And much of it is totally manufactured. The truth is that what people post on social media often has very little to do with their inner state of mind.

This article will highlight on the Happy Online, Sad Offline Syndrome (HOSO Syndrome), and will seek to answer the following questions in order to help the reader better understand this phenomenon.

  • Why do people (particularly Cameroonians) pretend to be happy online?
  • How do they go about tricking others into believing in lies?
  • What are the effects of such a practice?
  • How can you overcome such an unhealthy phenomenon?



Being happy is a great state of mind. Nothing beats the feeling of being happy. In Cameroon, there are people who are genuinely happy, though a vast majority remain unhappy due to certain socio-economic conditions.  If we agree that these conditions render most Cameroonians depressed, why then do they portray an image of being happy on social media?

The first reason is due to social insecurity. We all desire to be successful, powerful and influential. We all crave fame and fortune. What happens when we are not yet there? We fake it until we make it. Apparently. People will go at great lengths to show their friends and families that they have “arrived” in order to feel good.

According to Susan Krauss (2017), people make themselves feel important by associating themselves with celebrities and other material wealth. However, when they turn off their mobile data, their world becomes very silent. Then they become consumed by their own thoughts, fear and anxiety. This transcends into depression, which can only be “cured” if they go back online and continue the lies telling (or in this case, lies showing).

People also pretend to be happy on social media because they have the fear of missing out (FOMO). The fear of missing out drives them to constantly seek new ways to belong to groups where they would be held in high esteem. Nobody wants to be left out, but people only move along with others of the same “class”. In order to belong to that top class, one has to fake an online lifestyle to get access into the inner cycle.

Unfortunately, they are nowhere close to what they project on social media. The most dangerous issue is, once they are “fished out” and uncovered, the resulting “buzz” will only drag them deeper into the realm of depression. This is especially common with social media influencers and entertainers.

Another reason why people engage in this phenomenon is because they fear being vulnerable. Vulnerability is the situation whereby an individual is exposed to external threats. It is an uncomfortable situation, so people chose to pretend online to avoid being in a tight corner.

According to Chen J-S, et al. (2009), this action results to a phenomenon called “Smiling Depression”.   She further describes Smiling Depression as:

“Smiling depression is a term for someone living with depression on the inside while appearing perfectly happy or content on the outside. Their public life is usually one that’s
“put together,” maybe even what some would call normal or perfect.”


Someone with smiling depression will experience all the symptoms of depression, but in the case of the HOSO Syndrome, they would put up a façade to avoid being vulnerable to attacks and bullying. We need to understand that not everyone handles teasing in the same manner, so in order to completely avoid the situation, they pretend.

Furthermore, people pretend on social media just for the attention. Don’t be fooled into thinking only women crave attention. If you go through your timeline, you will find out that the ladies post more portrait pictures, while the men post “attached pictures”.

Attached pictures are photos that contain other material elements aimed at giving the subject more importance. Take those “attachments” away, and you’ll have a very normal picture on your timeline. The pursuit of attention in Cameroon has paved the way to moral decadence especially in the entertainment sector.

Nude modelling, explicit imagery and lyrics, and hate gossip have been on the rise because most of the perpetrators have a penchant for attention. A seemingly vulgar artist will portray the image of being a hard nut, but is actually an introvert in real life. A blogger who uses negativity to propel his/her blog, actually has more skeletons in their closet.

Now that we have examined some reasons why most Cameroonians will prefer to falsify their happiness on social media, the next part of this article will deal with how they go about it, the effects and how they can overcome such a destructive behaviour.

Stay tuned.


Works cited:

Chen J-S, et al. (2009). Investigation and analysis on smiling depression of college students in Guangzhou City.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., (2017) The Search for Fulfillment. University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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