I had written a light hearted post providing money saving tips for the blog this week, but after Saturday, this just didn’t feel right. I didn’t know Caroline Flack personally, but her death has really affected me. Aside from the fact that I really liked her, I just feel genuinely sad at such a premature loss of life. I am disappointed that all the efforts to normalise mental health problems appear to have been in vain because the impressive vulnerability shown by public figures, to help those in need not feel alone, seems to have been disregarded the second Caroline was arrested.
Jesy Nelson made a heart-breaking documentary back in October, emphasising the harsh reality of trolling on social media. Devastatingly, silly ‘jokes’ about her appearance had made her contemplate suicide. We praised her bravery to speak out, tweeted our support and expressed our sadness at the fact she was ever pushed to feel so low. We all discussed change and insisted we needed to be kinder.
And then, we all completely forgot.
Fast forward a few months and Caroline is arrested, then subsequently vilified on social media and in the press. She had not been prosecuted yet, and her partner had come out to insist her innocence, yet everyone wanted to believe she was guilty. And I want to focus on why.
We live in a time where our success in life is measured by pitting ourselves against others.
‘I’m not as rich as her but at least I’m not as poor as him.’
‘I may not be married but at least I’m not in recovery.’
‘Did you see that person who posted that odd status about their ex? Let’s all screenshot it and send it to one another and laugh because even though I have massive issues myself, I can feel better by laughing at theirs.’
Why do we do this? I’ll tell you why, because we believe it will make us feel better. That it will bring a feeling of superiority, along with confirmation that we are doing something right. We are not the bottom of the pile after all; there are others below us. A successful, beautiful and talented woman is shown not to be perfect, so of course, we all revel in it. Without any rhyme or reason, we decide she is guilty to quieten our own insecurities. Gossiping about the fact that Caroline made mistakes made us feel better for a minute or two, because a person like her becomes less of a threat when she is ridiculed, when she is made into public enemy number one.
Caroline Flack had an argument with her boyfriend. That is all I, or anyone else, knows. That’s it. Nobody knew why it started. Nobody knew what was said or what happened. Not one person was there other than herself and her boyfriend. And yet she was branded an abuser, a perpetrator of domestic violence, without any fair trial. We decided a headline was enough to make her guilty.
And look what it did to her.
Now we don’t feel superior. Now we don’t feel smug and self-righteous. Now we just feel sad and horrified at how much her mental health had clearly deteriorated. It took a death by suicide for us to realise that negatively hounding a person can cause harm.
Social media has dehumanized celebrities and public figures. We view them as a higher entity, and assume that because they have fame and money, they are confident, lucky and won’t care about people deriding them daily. When will we realise that they are humans too, with the same insecurities and the same feelings as the rest of us? If anything, we are more privileged as we have access to the luxury of privacy. We can make a mistake and deal with the embarrassment alone. They cannot. I mean, there are times when I’ve gained a bit of weight and feel self-conscious attending a family event for fear of being judged, how must it feel for the entire country to be judging you? What must that do to a person’s mental health?
Think about all the times you have argued with your partner, friends or family. I will hold my hands up and say wine, especially, makes me feisty. I can be a bit mean and jump to conclusions whilst under the influence of alcohol. Conversely, my partner has done the same to me. In the heat of the moment silly things have been said or done from both sides. Imagine then, that you wake up to that awful hungover feeling of dread, knowing you not only have to apologize to your partner, but to the whole country. Imagine not just having to check your phone for messages to your ex, but instead your drunken behaviour (we are ALL guilty of it) being front page news, trending on twitter and worst of all imagine your face now being used as a poster for perpetrators of domestic violence as a consequence. No matter how loud you scream your innocence or how much both you and your partner deny it, everyone continues to brand you as an abuser, as a violent woman, a danger to men. Worst of all, all this is based solely on speculation.
We all gossip, and discuss the latest headlines, and if we wish to continue doing so, it may be an idea for us to now start doing this over coffee with our friends rather than in a public domain. If you feel so strongly about a celebrity gaining weight or cheating on their spouse, that you must review it, then please do so OFFLINE. Don’t post it out to the world as this goes beyond the realms of an innocent chat with mates and starts a hateful conversation which can be seen by anyone.
Better yet, when people spew hate, react with kindness and see what happens, look at how it makes you feel.
The reality is, that no matter what people post, no matter how strange people may seem or whether or not you agree with the way they post or how they go about their business, there is no amount of other people’s failings that will ever make you successful.
You can tweet hate, and laugh at people’s misfortunes, but you will still go to bed each night with your own. We all have them, so maybe it’s time we focused on embracing all our flaws and mistakes, instead of attempting to minimise them by enjoying watching people suffer from theirs.