Over this weekend we have been hit by shocking and heartbreaking news. One of UK’s most loved TV presenters, Caroline Flack has taken her own life at the age of forty. Without personally knowing Caroline’s, this has shaken me to my core. To the outside world, she was the most bubbly, happy, beautiful young woman you could ever meet. Behind closed doors, she was fighting her dark demons, until finally on February 15th, she reached a point where she wasn’t strong enough to continue with her fight. The reason why am I so sad about this is because every time I was watching a TV with Caroline in it, I smiled. No matter how bad or good my day was, her laugh was so contagious, I couldn’t help but giggle myself.
To know how she was struggling so badly she couldn’t see any other way than to end her own precious life, it’s deeply disturbing and heartbreaking. I know everyone is going through different things. I know that. A problem that affects me, might not be perceived as the end of the world for you if we swap places. And that’s ok. Everyone experiences different things in life, everyone thinks differently, and everyone pulls through differently. What matters though is that we are all humans, and we all suffer in low moments.
For me, the fundamental issue lies in the digital world. We look at ourselves based on how others perceive us and that is exactly what is destroying us. Over the last few years, the world has developed into this crazy, fast running tech machine without even giving us any warning on how to deal with it. Of course, it’s great we have internet, and that we are able to use it every day for various purposes, like writing a blog for example, but the way social media has affected millions of people in a very negative way is a sign we should start raising questions where freedom of speech ends and bullying begins?
When Mila Key was still a fashion blog, I had profiles on both Facebook and Instagram. I was excited to share my fashion taste with others, but at the same time, I never was more petrified of posting ideas online than then. The thought of being judged by people that don’t know me was like a disease to me. Every time I posted a picture, and I didn’t get even ten likes, I would think: ‘So they don’t like it then’. It didn’t matter how many people it reached, the response just wasn’t there. At the time I was very active on my private profiles too, posting pictures and short term stories of my life pretty frequently. So when the ‘idea’ of me and my posts not being liked was planted in my head like a small seed, it grew to the extent I never imagined. Not only I closed Mila Key social media accounts out of fear and anxiety, I started to believe I am a failure and nobody likes me. I was so obsessed with how I was perceived by others, especially on my private accounts, that my own reflection in the mirror became the hardest punishment. I couldn’t look at myself without thinking: Failure, Unlikelable, Unloved, Weird. And when you go through difficult times, like losing a job, or someone you love is unwell, then all of your negative thoughts are spinning around that little seed, and they are running faster and faster and faster. As a result, each situation I have found myself in was making me more anxious and depressed creating a tornado in my head almost impossible to stop. Eventually, you start to believe there is no other way to stop it than to commit suicide.
I thought I was kind of invincible to social media and it won’t damage me, because I can ‘control it’. How wrong I was only a few will know. And I think the scariest thing is that you think nobody will understand you, so you keep all of your emotions and feelings to yourself. You share a small, carefully selected side of your mind with your friends and family, but the full extent is only known to those suffering from mental health problems. You feel embarrassed, petrified about your own future, you don’t see any point of being here and you are in constant pain of thinking about it all. You don’t sleep, you can’t concentrate, you feel permanently exhausted, you are fragile and vulnerable. During my darkest moments, I saw myself as fully exposed and weak and felt like I wasn’t wearing any protective shields around my head. And being still active on all social media was the final nail in my coffin.
I was first bullied when I was just thirteen. I was surrounded by cruel kids who thought it’s super fun to laugh at me because I wasn’t pretty/smart enough, because I was from a small village outside the town and my parents didn’t have much money. Of course, this has affected me and my adult life massively, resulting in a depression in my thirties, but I am somehow grateful social media weren’t there at the time, because I don’t know if I would ever recover from it. I see this period of my life as a distanced memory now, and accepting and understanding this wasn’t my fault did make me feel free. The difference to now is that with social media you are constantly out there surrounded by wolves and other trolls, who feel entitled to bully you on a daily basis. They say it’s freedom of speech, but it’s not. Being behind a computer or phone screen and sending abusive, offensive messages to someone you know or you don’t isn’t freedom of speech. It’s freedom of hiding. You hide your face thinking nobody will find you and you are invisible. You think you can say what you think because you have an opinion. Bullying isn’t having an opinion – it’s having no morals and being an asshole.
And if I am completely honest, having the government’s regulations won’t really help here, because the system will be abused anyway. In my opinion, social media without likes and comments not only will survive but will also be a safe place for users. People will be able to post images or personal updates based on their feelings, without worrying about how they are perceived. And yes, it will mean we will lose all the positive comments too but is it really that important to have hundreds of likes under your picture? They don’t make you feel better, they only make you anxious and put pressure on you to deliver another picture with another set of hundreds of likes. And if you don’t, you end up feeling like a failure. It is a sad fact. Having thousands or millions of followers is enough, you can still be heard or seen. And if you are an influencer, you can still earn money with paid partnerships. But reading good comments is as damaging as reading bad ones. Either you are under enormous pressure to deliver or you are being bullied. Either way, you end up with low confidence that results in depression, anxiety, and often suicidal thoughts. And this so-called ‘freedom of speech’ on social media isn’t just worth another life.
I think that we would be happier if not only we focus on ourselves by doing what we love, without worrying about other’s opinions, but also by minding our own business and letting others live the life they want. I’ve mentioned that already in my previous posts, we have seven billion people on the planet and seven billion opinions. Us disagreeing won’t make mine or your option better or worse. We are just different people, that’s all. Accept that.
Caroline Flack paid the highest price for this. I know how to be in the place in which she has found herself in, and I know she had the greatest support from family and friends. But being exposed to bullying, trolls, comments, likes/not likes, fears, panics, unrest, antipathy, scrutiny, suspicions, nerves, and anxiety is like being killed by invisible ghosts every day, again and again, and again. This has to stop. We have to stop killing each other with our words!
In loving memory of Caroline Flack and all others who lost their lives as a result of mental health struggles.