Posted by sean on February 17, 2020 at 10:24 pm in Have I Got News For You with No Comments

I don’t think that it would be an exaggeration to say that millions of people across the country have been left shocked and saddened by the news of Caroline Flack’s suicide.

Of course, the fact that someone so young, felt it necessary to take their own life, is one of the most upsetting parts of the tragedy.

However, I would challenge anyone with a heart, not to be moved by the realisation that the media – both social and tabloids – may have played a part in the poor woman’s decision to take her own life.

While the entire situation has been awful, if one good thing can come from the tragedy, it is that we can all be a bit kinder to each other.

Social media can be a horrible place for bullying. I’m not just on about the obvious trolls, who subject their victims to abhorrent cruelty. I am referring to what is posted by the general day-to-day tweeter, like you or I.

Is it ok to criticise an actor, football player, musician or anyone else online? Is there a line of acceptance, on what can and cannot be said?

If a footballer has a poor game and his team lose, or a singer appears on television and performs a poor rendition of their latest chart hit, is it justified to tweet them direct to tell them so? What if a soap character returns after a lengthy absence, during which time the actress portraying them has gained some weight. Is it OK to let her know over social media? What if you don’t directly tweet the person in question, but simply mention them by name?

In all of those examples, do you know for sure if the individual will read your message? If you have tweeted or messaged them directly, it is likely that they will. Even if you don’t, and just name them in your tweet, can you be sure that they won’t read it? Is some level of criticism – e.g. in sport – acceptable?

Do you know the mental state of the individual you are targeting – celebrity or otherwise? What will they think of your critical words? How will they react? Chances are, you don’t know.

I am certainly not taking the moral high ground. You will shortly read how I am far from perfect. I am also not blogging to dictate what is right and wrong – hence the above questions, as opposed to statements.

While I can say with confidence, that I have never trolled an individual, or sent anyone what would traditionally be called abuse, I know that I have posted some things in the past which haven’t been very nice.

Over the years, I have tweeted and blogged some critical, even unpleasant, things about footballers, celebrities and politicians – probably even your typical non-famous ‘Joe Public’. Many of the remarks I made, I now find regrettable.

I don’t believe that it is just tabloid newspapers, social media and blogs which are capable of having a preventable negative effect on mental health. Emails, text messages and general chit-chat amongst friends, family and colleagues can be potentially damaging, if discussing someone in a negative light – regardless of whether or not they are aware of the conversation.

If being totally honest with themselves, I am sure that many of those reading this blog post, like me, have also been guilty of writing or saying things which could be considered nasty, regardless of the context in which they were used.

I am not naive enough to dream of a perfect world, with an end to war, famine and poverty. However, if we could all be just a little bit nicer to each other, I believe that we would find ourselves living in a happier place. You never know, we may even save a few lives.

Next time you are about to tweet, post a Facebook status, send that email or join in the latest piece of office kitchen gossip, stop and think of the potential consequences – especially for the individual bearing the brunt of the comments.

Be kind.

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