I think it is fair to say that we live in a world of keyboard warriors. People are happy to sit behind a computer and hurl abuse and not think about the consequences. February saw a campaign started to Be Kind, after the death of Caroline Flack but has anyone took any notice?
Social media, while it has its benefits, is also a major platform for cyberbullying, and everyone and anyone can be a target! People think they can be anonymous, and say whatever they want without the repercussions. And there are very little resources/experience to tackle this vastly increasing crime.
The younger generation is the ones most at risk, with over 50% reporting some sort of online bullying. This makes me glad, that when I was younger, social media didn’t exist. I struggled with bullying I experienced in person, but add not having the ability to escape from it in the safety of your home!
Cyberbullying makes young people twice as likely to self-harm or attempt suicide. Something has to be done to curb this, and this has to be tackled in numerous directions.
We as mere mortals may experience some sort of bullying; however, if you add fame into the equation then it’s on a totally different scale.
I think we would agree that being in the eyes opens you up to abuse. And many of those people expect to be criticised if they disagree with something they said or done.
Back in the day (yes, I said that!) if someone had a grudge about a celebrity personally, e.g. weight, their hair or the way they dressed, then the majority of the time, to let them know they’d write a disgruntled letter. And believe it or not, this still happens…probably by those that don’t know how to use a computer!
However, there is something more sinister about sending/attacking people at a low part of their life, especially if it is in relation to that. For example, Rev Richard Coles received a letter after his partner died, saying that he is now in hell!
With people living their life online, everyone has an opinion that they want to share, and there is nothing wrong with that if done the correct way. However, people feel like they can say whatever they want, regardless of the consequences! Hands up, I’ve probably said stuff online which I wouldn’t say anymore.
After the suicide of Caroline Flack, there was a huge campaign to be kind, but why should we have to wait until someone kills themself before people stand up and want to take action?
This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, where we have seen celebrities the victim of online bullying.
Jesy Nelson, from Little Mix, did a documentary in relation to her experience of bullying, and the effect it had on health, including that she wanted to die. This is someone who was just starting out on a reality TV competition, and from the outset was being body shamed…even by known people!
Holly Hagan, from Geordie Shore, is also a victim of online trolling because of the way that she looks. As well as affecting them mentally, we can see them doing drastic surgical procedures to try and resolve this. Holly is now an ambassador for Ditch The Label to try and tackle this.
Love Island has previously seen two contestants commit suicide after appearing on the show, which raised a number of concerns especially in relation to aftercare.
As I’ve said before, if you’re in the media and you do/say something, then people are going to criticise you. The fact is when you use social media yourself, then you should expect this to.
Constructive Criticism Is Okay
Caroline Flack’s attack on her partner deserved to be criticised. She admitted that it was an accident, which was confirmed by her partner (remember he didn’t want to proceed with the charge, the CPS forced it). Unfortunately with the help of misinformation by the media, and the handling of it by the police, the public had already made an opinion that wasn’t based on facts and Caroline’s future was already sealed.
There is a difference in holding someone accountable for their actions, and sending personal abuse (threats to kills), the labelling as a domestic abuser, created an already unstable individual even more volatile, that she couldn’t live anymore.
Lauren Fox is the latest celebrity who is reporting that he’s feeling depressed, after the abuse he’s received after his racist rant on Question Time.
I’m not a fan of the guy, and people have a right to pull him up for his backward opinions. However, personal threats and abuse is a step too far. It just makes you as bad as them!
But as the weeks have passed, have we learnt to Be Kind? Of course not! Within days people were back to their normal self on social media. Whether that be body shaming, threatening to rape them or hoping they were dead!
What Can Be Done to implement Be Kind?
So what can be done to rectify this? Is it actually possible? As I said earlier, this has to be tackled in numerous angles, and while I am not saying that these are perfect..it’s a start!
1. Reality Show Guidelines Improvement
I think it is fair to say that there isn’t enough going into place to make sure that people who appear on reality shows, such as Love Island and even shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show, are fit and stable to deal with the aftermath of the show.
Yes, these shows need to be entertaining, but it’s becoming more apparent that producers for these shows are creating characters, and playing with peoples lives in the process.
2. Television Aftercare
I am not saying that this doesn’t exist, but it needs to be improved. There has been a call for this to happen for a long time.
Shows shouldn’t just wash their hands of people when they leave the show. While on the show they have an understanding of the audience’s perceptions and have an idea of after support that is needed.
Once the show has ended, they should still be tracking this, and providing support when required. This should also be done by their management team too.
3. Media Responsibility
We live in a world where sensationalism sells. The Scum and Daily Fail have made billions from it, yet we lap it up…and believe what they write to be gospel.
They can get away with whatever they write, because the majority of the time, their apology is a small paragraph at the bottom page lost in between the ads.
Reporters, such as Dan Wootton, need to re-evaluate their lives and how they report things. I’m using Dan as an example because this ‘reporter’ is currently the name that always pops up when you hear how celebrities’ were going to be outed if they didn’t provide him with an ‘exclusive’ interview. Then there is Gareth Thomas heavily implying that his parents were told of his HIV status by a Sun reporter. Things like this should not be happening. The press should also Be Kind when reporting on sensitive topics.
Additionally, the Levison Inquiry, which happened after the News of The World debacle, should have something far more controlled. Self-regulation doesn’t and has never worked for the press. This isn’t about removing free press, but holding them accountable for the misinformation and lies that they have and always will publish.
4. Social Media Companies
Social media is a massive part of people’s lives now, and social media companies need to take some responsibility in protecting their users.
There should better reporting facilities when it comes to bullying and trolling. And any serious threats should have their details, including account information and IP data to the relevant police departments.
5. We Need To Change
It’s all fine and well asking for all these changes, but we need to change too.
Yes, we can have an opinion. We can be angry and disagree with things. But we can be wiser with what say. Abusing or threatening people you don’t agree with isn’t the right way.
I’ve always been told, if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say it. Okay, I don’t live by that fully, but I am wary of what I say. Sometimes, I won’t talk about a situation because I don’t know the full story. But that’s me.
As I said, I’m not perfect, we make mistakes (I know I have) and I have wrote things that I probably wouldn’t now. There are many times that I just write something…and then delete because I got it off my chest.
This is probably why I am interested in doing these ‘Thoughts of the month’ blogs. I can spend time thinking and researching what I say. I can get an overall perception and write my thoughts on a subject. Plus, if anyone wants to discuss, then the comment section is always open.
6. The Government Need to Act
The governments (and police) need to start taking online issues more seriously. And do something to try and deter this kind of behaviour. And put some control into effect. Instant fines. Repeat or more serious issues should be social media bans or custodial sentences.
All schools, including private (at the moment they don’t have to), need to prevent bullying. An educational programme should be available, not only about bullying within the school but online too. And this shouldn’t be something that is done once a year but continuously done and dealt with accordingly.
I’d be interested in knowing what everyone thinks about Be Kind. Do you agree or disagree? What steps would you want to see taken to improve online safety for all?