The true fallout from Caroline Flack’s death that nobody is talking about
Hounded to death, crippled by insecurity, tragic…The headlines and words used to describe the heartbreaking death of Caroline Flack have failed to ask one simple question when it comes to our celebrity obsession: why do we need to put some people on a pedestal and then watch, entranced, as they fall?
I like to think that Caroline Flack faked her own death.
I daydream that she absconded somewhere wonderful to escape the torture of the media intrusion into her life.
I love to imagine her safe and happy, in a hidden sanctuary somewhere beautiful, reading all the positive headlines about her life and career, shrouding her fragile mind with stories of kindness and understanding.
I picture her taking refuge — stolen in the night by a care-giver who knew it was too much for one person, too much for this poor shattered mind to take.
I’d like her to be aware that her death caused an outcry about things like social media, celebrity culture, mental health, media intrusion and privacy.
But, we know that reality bites.
In idolising celebrity, we’ve created a monster. And that monster is us.
We know that Caroline chose to take her own life rather than live her life the way it seemed to her at that moment. A room without a door. The walls closing in.
Suicide and the reasons why someone would take their own life are complexities I can’t and won’t pretend to analyze. The reasons are personal, irrational, heartbreaking.
But what we can ponder is how we got to this stage — the stage where everyday people pick others apart, on media, and on social media, without a second thought.
In idolising celebrity, we’ve created a monster, and that monster is us. We consume the headlines, we lap up every detail; the good, the bad… the 15th suicide.
It even has a name, celebrity worship. And the society we are living in now, whether we want to admit it or not has exhibited borderline pathological behaviour of psychoticism in the most extreme version of it.
Many people (too many) are clearly showing dangerous signs of self-identification with celebrities, they are obsessed with details of their life, they feel a right to have a say in how it all plays out.
We see it in the explosion in so-called Love Island look surgeries where young men and women get their lips blown up or their pecs filled out. We see it in 14-year-old school girls who save up for a Brazilian bum lift to become just like their heroines.
But what’s harm, right?
And that is the crux of the problem. It is harmful to obsess over someone else’s life, to fixate on trying to become just like them.
It is harmful to project this blurred line onto something as accessible as social media. The connections are so easy, so fragile.
We have to take responsibility for living a life with our heads stuck in a screen, obsessing over someone else’s life.
Tabloids have come under fire for their mistreatment and misreporting when it comes to celebrities of all shapes and sizes. But they are only responding to the demand (even that word says a lot about current attitudes) for all this peering through windows.
We have to, at some stage, ask ourselves why we are consuming this type of “information” and calling it news. Why is this what compels us?
Arguably, fame is an industry that attracts some of the most vulnerable, those who need the most validation, who care the most about what others think. So saying that they invited it in shouldn’t be used as an excuse as to why they deserve to be spied on, have their phones tapped or worse.
We have to take responsibility for living a life with our heads stuck in a screen, obsessing over someone else’s life. Why are we so invested in them, as they inevitably, humanly fall?
If this is what now passes as entertainment, it says more about us and the deterioration of self-esteem society-wide.
Author Vladimir Nabokov described life as “a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” A flicker in time where, at the moment, we seem to have our priorities horribly skewed.
Retweeting hashtag Be Kind seems to have been the only ripple that came from this hugest of tragic splashes.
“It isn’t enough to survive, you have to thrive,” pointed out Meghan Markle by way of explanation over why she and her husband wanted to step out of the spotlight, despite the duty attached to their roles. And despite the woo-woo American idealism it was criticised for, the Duchess of Sussex is right.
So right, in fact, that she had every right to try to escape circumstances similar to what Caroline Flack was ultimately a victim of — horrific headlines, bullying across social media, intrusion into her life. She just couldn’t take it either.
And when she changed her circumstances, she continued to be harassed, belittled, degraded, vilified for that too.
But that’s the world we now live in. A world where online, being a dick is actually the norm
And the saddest part is that retweeting hashtag Be Kind seems to have been the only ripple that came from this hugest of tragic splashes.
Being kind is something we all should have learnt from birth. It shouldn’t be the measuring bar that the internet has now decided to set. We shouldn’t have to tell people to be kind.
But that’s the world we now live in. A world where online, being a dick is actually the norm. We have to do more than just be kind, we have to look deep within and find something healthier to idolise, something to spend our time on that doesn’t ruin, maim and destroy lives.
So make the most of your brief, bright life, do good, chase happiness, and create a positive legacy.
Do yourself and others a favour and don’t spend your days craning your neck to watch someone else live their brightest life.
Image via BBC
Read more: Meghan Markle opens up about fame and Prince Harry
Read more: Russell Brand’s essay about the death of Caroline Flack