“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
Those were the poignant words in one of British TV presenter Caroline Flack’s final Instagram posts before she tragically took her own life on Saturday 15 February 2020.
Caroline Flack was a popular TV presenter in the UK. She was best-known for hosting ITV2’s most-watched show, Love Island.
The sad news of her suicide shocked the UK. Caroline’s recent troubles had been well-documented in the British tabloid press, but still, no-one knew just how much she was struggling behind closed doors.
Caroline is not the only celebrity to have taken their own life following incessant tabloid intrusion and social media trolling. She has become the third celebrity associated with ITV’s Love Island to turn to suicide, following Sophie Gradon in 2018 and Mike Thalassitis in 2019.
Which begs the question: when will this stop?
The British press has been called ‘ruthless’ and it would seem that anyone who lives their life in the spotlight is a fair target. The fact that these people are real, and often vulnerable, gets lost in the quest for an attention-grabbing headline.
Just last month, the relentless media campaign against Meghan Markle was said to be a deciding factor in hers and Prince Harry’s relocation to Canada.
What happened to Caroline Flack?
Aged just 40, Caroline Flack was found dead at her home in London over Valentine’s weekend. She was due to stand trial for the assault of her boyfriend, Lewis Burton.
Caroline was arrested and charged with assault by beating, after police were called to her home on 12 December 2019.
In the days that followed, the press ran new stories daily – with paparazzi shots of Caroline, her boyfriend, and the outside of her flat, paired with unconfirmed details of the assault and speculation over what happened.
Everyone had an opinion. Much like Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back as senior royals, we felt entitled to an opinion, and even more damagingly, to make that opinion heard.
Caroline was due to fly out to Cape Town in early January to commence filming for the first winter series of Love Island. Following her charge, Caroline stepped down from her presenting duties.
Caroline was charged, despite her boyfriend not wanting to press charges. She was banned from having any contact with him.
Ultimately, no-one knows the exact circumstances that led Caroline to feel she had no other choice. However, what we do know is that she was treated with anything but kindness in the news reports, like so many before her.
Why can the press print whatever they want?
Britain is a country that is proud to enjoy freedom of the press. However, in this current climate of intrusion, harassment and bullying, there are increasing calls for more regulation.
We have all seen the salacious tales published in gossip magazines that have no real proof behind them. Crediting a story to an “undisclosed source” is sufficient enough to get it published. It is becoming ever more difficult to determine fact from what Donald Trump likes to call “fake news”.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have mounted a legal claim against the Mail on Sunday newspaper for publishing a letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father. This level of invasion into people’s personal lives needs to stop.
Just like the media campaign against Meghan, the press is again being called into question around their treatment of Caroline Flack.
A petition has now been launched calling for stricter laws on protecting people in the public eye.
Why do people troll on social media?
“It was only a matter of time before the media and prolonged social dogpile, hers lasted for MONTHS, pushed someone completely over the edge” – Jameela Jamil, actress and presenter.
It is not just the printed media who treated Caroline so terribly.
Social media has created a space where so-called “keyboard warriors” can speak the unspeakable and not face the consequences.
Bullies are insecure. They criticize and tear down others to make themselves feel better. Online, they can take it to another level by creating a completely new anonymous identity to carry out their bullying.
TV presenter Laura Whitmore, who replaced Caroline on the winter series of Love Island, took a stand against the trolls who abused her friend on her Radio 5 Live Show on Sunday 16 February:
“Anyone who has ever compared one woman against another on Twitter, knocked someone because of their appearance, invaded someone else’s privacy or who have made mean, unnecessary comments on an online forum need to look at themselves.”
How can I be better?
“Critical people have the most criticism reserved for themselves”, explains Marisa Peer, voted ‘Britain’s Best Therapist’.
Bullies are outwardly expressing their inner criticism, hurt and pain. To stop yourself from becoming a bully or online troll, you need to understand where your negative behavior comes from and resolve it.
Work on improving your self-esteem rather than destroying that of others. You can change your mindset to know you are enough and your criticism of others will cease. You will be kinder to yourself and others and live a happier life.
While you may not be proud of your actions in the past, you can change how you behave in the future.
Say ‘I Am Enough’ to yourself every day. Repeating these words daily can dramatically change your life. Your mind learns through repetition and believes what you tell it. Each time you repeat a positive belief statement, it becomes more real.
What can I do if I am being trolled?
Knowing that the problem is theirs and not yours is the first step.
Mentally hand back that negativity to your bullies – it is their issue to deal with.
You need to focus on you.
Marisa Peer advises “no-one can ever make you feel bad about yourself unless you let them.” No-one can reject you without your permission.
Turn your attention to building up your confidence and self-esteem. Know that you are lovable and worthy.
Do not be afraid to speak up
Following Caroline’s death, celebrities and public figures are calling out the press and social media trolls for their actions. The more people speak up, the more we talk about things and the closer we get to change.
Know that you are not alone. Speak to a family member, friend, counselor or doctor about how you are feeling.
Do not suffer in silence.
Remember, you are enough.