In a world where you can be anything, don't be a twat.

24th Feb 2020

Unsurprisingly, and like most people, I hate suicide.

My childhood best friend killed himself when I was 21 and he was 20, and it took me 10 years to feel anywhere near "over" it. The fact that anyone, least of all someone I knew so well, could want to end their life and cause their family and friends so much pain and anguish just didn't make any sense to me. It took a lot of drinking, soul searching, talking complete rubbish, and dealing with my own demons to finally realise that those who take their own life don't do it for selfish reasons, they do it because the pain and anguish of those family and friends seems like the lesser of two evils – whatever the other evil is.

I wasn't a friend of Caroline Flack. I wouldn't even call myself a fan, but I followed her on Instagram like many other people and enjoyed her updates and personality. I was gutted when the news about allegations of assault by her to her partner came out, in a "I'm not mad, I'm disappointed" way. Another celebrity with so much to lose making a really poor decision.

The first thing I did when I heard the news was head to Instagram to see if she'd made any statement there, which she hadn't. In amongst her most recent posts, though, was one which had a flurry of comments coming in. You know the post, you might even have shared it over the past couple of weeks.

"In a world where you can be anything, be kind"

Good words. Below those good words, in the days between the news breaking of the allegations against Caroline and the news breaking of her suicide, were some incredibly unkind things. It's difficult to dig them out now, but there were thousands of individuals pointing out how ironic it was that Caroline should be sharing those words considering the fact she was apparently already guilty of assault.

Thousands and thousands of comments.

I don't know how many comments you get on your Instagram posts, but for me it's not thousands upon thousands. Can you imagine the impact of thousands of people describing to you how awful you are as a human being, on a well intentioned but ultimately throwaway post on a social network? There were a metric fuckton of people deciding that despite being in a world where they could be anything, they'd be unkind to someone going through something they didn't have the full story about. Don't even get me started on the stories in the papers...

Of course, the comments under that same post now are all full of very sentimental loveliness about how Caroline was taken from us too soon, about how much of a shame it is that she felt she needed to take that way out. I wish I had the stats on how many of the people telling Caroline to rest in peace are the same ones who asked her how kind she was being with a lamp, under the very same post. I very much doubt the number is zero.

I know that pressing share on a pretty picture with lovely words on it makes us feel better, and like we've done something somehow, but here's some pointers for things that would be better to do:

  • Don't be a twat, especially when the facts aren't out there yet.
    • It doesn't cost you anything not to say something.
  • Call out anyone who is being a twat.
  • Don't buy newspapers. Don't buy gossip magazines. Any of them.
  • Don't click on celeb news if it looks like it's negative.
    • I'd say don't click on celeb news at all, but you're human and those celebs are intriguing...
  • Don't only care about suicide when it's already happened. Someone close to you has thought about taking that option very recently, maybe even today. You could be the reason they hold on for another day.

I've definitely been less than friendly online plenty in the past, there's no point in pretending otherwise. Luckily, a combination of people calling me out and me seeing how little positive impact it had on anyone lead to me towards trying to stop that. I pretty much don't comment on anything any more unless I can be positive about it, especially on Facebook which has turned into a complete cesspool of a population unable to do a quick Google search before believing whatever a clickbait headline feeds them. Imagine if everyone could hold back from pressing "Send" on their negative opinions... what if that actually saved lives?

In a world where you can be anything, don't be a twat.

© Jason Dilworth 2020
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