Caroline Flack: Fame does not mean words stop hurting - leader comment

Actions have consequence. The old adage about sticks and stones is simply not fit for purpose in today’s 24/7 social media driven world.

TV presenter Caroline Flack who died over the weekend. Picture: PA

Words do hurt. And every retweet compounds the pain.

While it is impossible to know what ultimately led to TV presenter Caroline Flack’s tragic death over the weekend, it will rightly provoke much soul-searching among sections of the media, both traditional and armchair.

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And they have much to think about.

Is the very fact that someone is considered a ‘celebrity’ an invitation to dissect their personal life and appearance, to assassinate their character, to aim and encourage abuse? No it is not.

Does it make it acceptable to take a snatched photograph of a private moment and examine it in minute detail to then flakily claim it proves your particular prejudice, or that it disproves an accepted view? Absolutely not.

These things wouldn’t be said face-to-face so why are they acceptable in a tweet or an Instagram post?

It is a symptom in part of the social media explosion which has grown up outwith the normal rules of society, and is now too large to tame. A space where outrageous opinions on someone you do not know can go viral in minutes, unchecked and unchallenged.

Flack was just 40.

Her death comes after two other Love Island stars took their own lives in recent years, and follows less than a year after the scrapping of an ITV show following the death of a participant.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is investigating reality TV and its probe has been given added urgency this weekend.

But this issue goes far wider that hit TV shows.

Who would be a politician today when you know everything you do and say, no matter how reasonable, will be taken out of context and then thrown back at you by faceless online trolls with the addition of poisonous venom and personal abuse?

Many in positions of power or celebrity will say they can ignore abuse, that it doesn’t really affect them. But it does, and it can have desperately tragic consequences.

People do not surrender their feelings when they enter the public sphere. Their problems do not magically disappear with fame, words do not stop hurting.