Trigger warning. This post talks about the recent suicide of Caroline Flack, online trolling and bullying. Please do not read this if you are triggered by these subjects.
It’s another post I didn’t want to write, similar to the open letter I wrote to Greg James a few weeks ago after seeing some nastiness online. This one, however, won’t be read by one of the people mentioned – too little, too late.
We all know the terribly tragic news that Caroline Flack took her own life last week. However, this post isn’t about her. Enough has been said, I can only echo the shock and condolences.
The news sent a shockwave out across social media networks, another wake up call to the trolling and bullying from both the public, and the press. We’ll never know the true reasons for Carolines death – and it’s not for us to speculate, but what I have noticed since her passing is the persistence of the mainstream media to keep hounding celebrities. And it’s not just the media, it’s the public too.
This post focuses more so on Laura Whitmore, and her partner Iain Stirling. Clearly, they both knew Caroline closely. Laura made a statement on her Radio 5 show shortly after Carolines death – and it’s something that I wish I hadn’t have listened to.
That sounds selfish of me, right? Well, it’s not. I wish I hadn’t have listened to it because it just emphasised more than ever that Laura, along with ALL of us, is just human. The raw emotion in her words, the pauses to try and maintain composure. Anyone who listened to it would struggle to hold back their own emotions in simply hearing her tone. Likewise, Iain gave a similar statement at the start of the following episode of Love Island.
These. People. Are. Human.
I’m fortunate that I’ve not had to deal with many family deaths, certainly none from suicide. Ashleigh lost her Uncle a few years ago to suicide and I can confirm, from speaking to her, the pain never leaves, no matter how old you were when it happened. For close friends and family, the endless questioning of yourself. What could I have done? Why didn’t I know about it? Why didn’t they talk to me?
Laura Whitmore posted a video on Twitter today. She was with her partner, Iain Stirling – the first time they’d seen each other since learning of their friends death. A time when they probably wanted to just be with each other, and try and come to terms with what had happened. And yet, a photographer had the audacity to follow them around the airport to get *that* picture. Laura clearly says that they want to be left alone to grieve for their friend, to which the photographer replies “it’s only Caroline”.
You see, this is the problem we have now – when a human becomes a celebrity, we (I use the term we very loosely) forget they are still only human. Nothing changes. Their emotions stay the same, their right to privacy, stays the same. Yes, they are now what we like to call “public figures” – and when they’re working, that’s exactly what they are. But they deserve to be left alone at other times. They certainly deserve the right to grieve without being hassled by the press to get that front page picture.
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole when Laura tweeted the video of this photographer, and I stumbled across some pretty vile comments. But one stood out more than others. I won’t share who it was, they probably want the attention, but I will share what they said:
“Weren’t you partying and posing on the red carpet at the BRITS on Tuesday? Can you just pick and choose?”
The simple answer here, to the person who wrote it, is YES.
Laura is human. She can pick and choose to do as she wishes. There’s a huge difference between wanting your privacy to share sad news with a loved one, and doing what you are paid to do, eg, attend events and be a public figure.
I’ll be totally honest, if my friend had recently passed away, I would also attend an event soon after (that they would have been at), to raise a glass to them.
I delved in to this lady a bit more. She goes on to refer to a Love Island contestant as looking like “an Isis terrorist”, and again to comment on Laura Whitmore being “very Diana like” because she wanted some privacy at the airport yet she is a “public figure”.
Can these people not understand that they are, amongst others, a real cause for this feeling of hatred that is banded around social media? Do they not step back and think “wow, what a nasty thing for me to say, maybe I shouldn’t?”
I’ve put together my 5 tips for people who are about to be idiots online….
1: Remember this person is human. This shouldn’t be something I even have to say, but I’m saying it anyway. Humans are all the same, really. OK? Good
2: Would you say it to their face? Imagine the person you’re about to insult / offend / call names is standing in front of you. Say what you’re about to type out loud. How does it sound? Probably nasty, and horrible. Don’t hit send, ok?
3: Does it *need* to be said? Sometimes, some things need to be said. Like “Well done” or “That was very courageous of you”. These things need to be said, and should be. “SUCK IT UP LOVE” or “YOU ASKED FOR THIS WHEN YOU BECAME FAMOUS” – not so much
4: The internet never, ever forgets. The moment you hit send, it’s out there forever. Even if you delete it, it’s probably been cached or scraped or screenshots taken. Waybackmachine has probably grabbed it, storing it for years to come. It simply never forgets
5: Just don’t be a dick? Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine its your friend who’s passed away, and you want to process it all. Imagine if someone said what you’re about to say, to you. How would you feel?
Of course, some people thrive off being trolls. There’s not much we can do to stop these people – other than the obvious:
1: Report their content. Twitter / Instagram / Facebook all have report features. Take your time to report it correctly. Some sites will auto remove content if its reported in volume, so make sure you do it right
2: Don’t retweet it. Even if it’s to retweet with a comment about how awful it is. These people probably want the numbers. Don’t fuel them
3: Don’t interact with it. Don’t reply – don’t start an argument. Don’t name them, don’t mention them. Just let it pass. Block them, mute them, do what you need to do to ensure you don’t see it, and try to forget about it. If we don’t interact, they’ll get bored. No one likes talking to a brick wall all day.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Caroline will be the last celebrity to think that the only way out is to take their own life – for whatever the reason. But what I do think, is that we, as humans, have a moral obligation to just try and be a little bit better, right?
The featured image on this post is one of mine from my Flickr Photostream. It’s taken in Liverpool (Crosby), and is one of the statues from the installation “Another Place” by Antony Gormley. Sometimes posts don’t have appropriate images, but this one seemed quite fitting – it really can be a lonely world out there sometimes.