The fatality of public opinion

Ethan Gullet

Ebony Purks, Staff Writer

Caroline Flack, best known as the host of popular television show Love Island: UK, died by suicide on Saturday, Feb. 15. Before her untimely death, Flack was facing charges of alleged domestic abuse against her boyfriend. As a result, her character was ripped apart by British media outlets and people on social media. This article is not meant to defend Flack’s alleged actions, but rather to preserve a conversation surrounding the negative effect media outlets play on peoples’ mental health and emphasize the importance of kindness.

Flack’s unfortunate passing started immediate discourse about mental health awareness and irresponsible journalism on social media. Many speculated the viciousness of online bullying was to blame for Flack’s death, while others criticized British media, as they are infamous for their relentless pursuit of a story. While one should never speculate a specific reason for a person’s suicide, as the complexity of self-harm could never be pinned to one cause; in an unreleased statement from Flack, displayed by her family on Instagram, even Flack recognized public shame and toxic opinions tore down her self-esteem.

Journalism outlets have a responsibility to uphold moral integrity, and in turn need to be mindful of how influential their platforms are when covering stories. There is no doubt that social media can be cruel. Celebrities don’t deserve to be persistently torn down, and as the public, we aren’t entitled to bully them. Along with journalism outlets, all of us who have social media accounts have a moral responsibility to use our platforms, however big or small, with the same social accountability expected of us in real life. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can take from this tragedy, is that whether on social media or not, we need to be kinder to one another. The old saying of sticks and stones is a myth. Words can hurt. Regularly tearing others down shouldn’t be the way you pass time, and hate speech should never be your preferred form of speech. Our kindness is how we maintain our humanity. We all cope with the consequences of life the best way we know how.

To quote the late Princess Diana, “carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”