I woke up this morning to the news that Love Island presenter Caroline Flack committed suicide yesterday. I’m a huge Love Island fan. Caroline was young, stunningly beautiful and good at her job. Should she have assaulted her boyfriend? No, of course not. But the judicial system was dealing with it. Despite that, the internet was awash with the Court of Public Opinion. The likes of you and me voicing our judgement on a situation we knew fuck all about because we weren’t there and don’t know either of them. Forgetting that, at the end of the keyboard, was a young woman who’d admitted to depression in the past and who was obviously emotionally out of control or she wouldn’t have hit her boyfriend. And now she’s dead.
The internet is relentless in its judgement on all manner of topics. From criticizing our politicians, who are also just people, to scrutinizing Prince Harry & Megan’s every move (did we learn nothing from Princess Diana’s life and how miserable we made her?!), to the endless judgements on women’s appearance. What is the intention of the judgement, I wonder? What are we hoping to achieve? And how would we live up to that level of scrutiny? Have we never made a mistake? I walloped a boyfriend when I was in my twenties on more than one occasion – did that make me a terrible person? Or did it make me a young woman suffering from depression whose upbringing had included witnessing physical violence and hadn’t given her the tools to deal with conflict or her own emotions very well? Would I ever hit someone now? Not in a million years, because when you know better you do better – I’ve grown and matured as a human being. Isn’t that what life is all about?
There is a sickening lack of empathy, kindness and compassion in cyberspace. I find it frightening how vicious most people are and how relentless the criticism and judgement, on everything from poor grammar to a total stranger’s private life, like it’s any of our business. We use others’ misfortune as entertainment. As a way of feeling good about ourselves because we would never make that mistake. I’m not saying we should never hold our politicians to account, or that we should condone violence, but unless we have a specific end goal like righting injustice, or a legitimate purpose for our actions such as outing an abuser, I’m not sure what all the criticism on social media achieves, other than to make us feel superior with no thought to how it affects the person being judged. I’ll end with something Caroline posted on her Instagram recently – if we’d all been more kind maybe she’d still be alive.