Caroline's Law: The Psychology of Trolling

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

Suicide is something that should never be taken lightly. A person has to be in an extremely dark place to decide that their only option is to end their life. While there are many factors that can lead to this decision, victims of bullying are up to 9 times more likely to consider suicide an option.

In the past, a stereotypical bully would be tall, well-built and very intimidating looking. Since the birth of cyberbullying, it has allowed bullies to wear a 'mask' and not to fear retaliation from their victims. Bullies now come in all shapes and sizes and what's even worse is that some people don't even realise they're bullying someone.

Cyberbullying is used to describe a collection of online behaviours which inflict harm, shame or alienate. Victims have increased rates of anxiety, depression and insomnia, as well as an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, leading it to become a serious public health concern.

It comes in many different forms:

•'Flaming'- broadcasting offensive messages

•'Outing'- broadcasting embarrassing personal information

•'Trolling'- posting content to trigger embarrassing reactions

When somebody is cyberbullied so incessantly that it leads to them ending their own life, there is a surge of online support for being kind to others however, it isn't long before these positive comments are drowned up by negativity once again.

Social media has become such a huge part of our lives, but unfortunately, it allows people to hide behind a keyboard and air their opinions on someone very freely. It is sometimes hard to remember that there is a real person behind every social media account. When mean comments are written about a person, there is a 'swarm' culture, where everyone with that same opinion will chime in. This can leave a victim feeling as though they are being singled out.

With so much negativity flying around social media, it is very easy to slip into social conformity and change your behaviour to fit in with the norm. This is so damaging to other people and affects them more than you may realise. If you write a nasty comment, you may think about it for a few minutes but once the receiver reads it, it will stick in their minds for weeks, months or years.

Once the swarm of social conformers arrive, it drowns out any positivity and damages the victim's self-esteem. Each comment chips away until the kindness is no longer internalised. It may be easy to tell a person to avoid social media, but this shouldn't have to be an option and can make them feel even more disconnected from society.

When you aren't in somebody else's shoes, it can be very easy to judge their actions, appearance or lifestyle. Airing these opinions isn't helpful for anyone and does not, in any way, improve a situation. It's always best to try to see the bigger picture and not be too quick to judge.

In the case of celebrities, it should be remembered that the media is not a reliable source of information. They want a story that sells and gets attention. Unfortunately, this means that they skew reality for a good headline and often portray things as one-sided. Don't fall for their click-bait and encourage them to continue their targeted content.

Form your own opinions and be kind. It's simple.

RIP Caroline Flack

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