What Have We Learnt a Year On From Caroline Flack’s Death

CW: mentions of s*icide.

The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.

Caroline Flack’s death was harrowingly unexpected. The presenter best known for her appearances on Love Island, Strictly Come Dancing and The X-Factor, tragically died by suicide in February 2020. In the months leading up to her passing, Caroline was under investigation for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, whilst he slept. The severity of this allegation led her to step down from her role as Love Island presenter. 

Caroline’s death was the third suicide tragedy to hit Love Island: former contestant Sophie Gradon died in 2018 and Mike Thalassitis in 2019. The show was deeply scrutinised for it’s lack of onsite welfare and care of contestants after leaving the show. Whilst there were calls to axe the show, it is continuing to be broadcast but with updated aftercare policies.

Following a death by suicide, the blame is typically attributed to something or someone. For Caroline’s death, the blame was ascribed to the media for their invasive reporting on her life which was exacerbated in the months leading up to her death. Her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, described the media as “constantly bashing her character, writing hurtful stories and generally hounding her daily.”

Over the years, social media has been merciless in its harassment of Caroline. She received online abuse, intrusive messages and was called a pervert because of the 14 year age gap in her relationship with Harry Styles.

The aftermath of Caroline’s death had people scrambling to their social media accounts checking whether they tweeted or liked anything malicious about Caroline and her upcoming trial. This care and consideration to not over step the mark after the death of a celebrity should be enforced on all posts. It can become easy to forget that celebrities are humans too and mindless comments about their weight, relationships and private life can grievously affect them. 

In one of Caroline’s final Instagram posts she stated: “In a world where we can be anything, be kind.” A year on, this is something people still haven’t comprehended. A year later, it is beyond upsetting to see little to no change in the way celebrities are treated online. People still hate; it is as simple as that. Social media breeds toxicity and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. 

2020 saw the rise of TikTok, which has fast become one of the most toxic platforms on social media. Everyday, the app shows the perils of having an online platform through the sheer amount of hatred it produces. It has created a new generation of social media stars to which Charli and Dixie D’Amelio are at the top. Since the beginning of their TikTok journeys these girls have received incessant hatred. Whether it be on their clothes, appearance, or body, they constantly commentated on. Bearing in mind these girls are 16-21 years old, this online abuse is difficult for an adult to handle let alone a child. Charli lost 500,000 followers in mere hours after a video was posted in which it seemed she acted entitled and overly privileged. In amongst the backlash of this video, Charli broke down in tears on a livestream after she had received comments telling her to kill herself. She stated: “People telling me to hang myself, people just blatantly disrespecting the fact that I’m still a human being is not okay at all.”

When people disseminate hateful comments online, it creates an endless cycle of animosity. As a society we need to be conscious of what we are posting on social media. Everybody should consider: could this comment cause somebody unnecessary distress or upset? It is incomprehensible to see frequent hate fill every social media platform when it is widely known what the outcome could be.

In the wake of Caroline Flack’s death, the hashtag “Be Kind” was trending on social media. Why does the preaching of kindness only last mere weeks after a death? How many more people have to die before people start being empathetic online? We as a society still have a long way to go. Before you publish something mocking a celebrity about something serious that could have unprecedented effects, take step back and think.

Samaritans can be contacted 24/7, 365 days a year on 116 123.

Image courtesy of Prateek Katyal.

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