The recent passing of TV personality Charlotte Dawson has sent out a ricochet of concern directed towards social media and cyber bullying.
Her face was so familiar, I'd seen her on my TV screen numerous times, but was unaware of who she was exactly and what was going on with her life; that is until of course her life came to an end on Saturday the 22nd February 2014.
After reading a few articles, it became apparent that Charlotte had taken her own life, and had been struggling with depression for some time - also recently attempting suicide in 2012 after a terrible barrage of cyber bullying on Twitter. I was appalled at some of the things people had written to her, but not surprised. I'd seen this before.
I remember battling with people on Facebook in 2012 after Whitney Houston tragically lost her life. I was shocked to see that Facebookers' were making cruel and heartless jabs aimed toward Whitney the very day of her passing. I couldn't believe how cold they could be. There was no compassion at all. This was because she had been addicted to drugs. So, she was called a junkie and all kinds of names. I tried to remind people that she was a mother too, and a person who becomes addicted to substances are most of the time facing some kind of emotional struggle. A lot of the time it's a coping mechanism used to deal with residual pain from some kind of abuse and trauma they have suffered. No one aspires to be a junkie, and everyone wants happiness. Some people just don't know how to obtain contentment in a normal way and struggle severely with merely existing in this world. I've seen jokes and the like also being thrown around the minute a celebrity has passed away. It's as if people don't view them as fellow humans, and that they're completely detached from any emotional feelings.
Today I read a comment on a Facebook post related to Charlotte Dawson's passing, and this person was condemning her for having all the money and help she needed - but instead took the selfish way out and ended her life anyway. They went on to say that they suffered with depression too, and that if they were in Charlotte's position it would have helped them. I wondered how they would even know this. Pain is pain regardless of your social status or account balance. There are so many misunderstandings about mental illness out there, and so much lack of empathy and assumptions made that I find it very scary.
I watched an interview with Mia Freedman and Charlotte Dawson, where Charlotte opened up about all kinds of things ranging from her unsuccessful relationships, career, money and to the cyber bullying she fell victim to. She gave a brilliant analogy in regard to horrid comments on social media, relating it to people in a crowd shouting out at footy teams during a game; but if the player was standing right in front of them - they wouldn't be yelling and screaming the things they do. Such a great example.
I feel as though typing away and staring at a screen communicating with people takes us away from reality, and desensitises us from normal context and emotional reactions. We need to become more aware of this, and be mindful when utilising social media.
Charlotte came across a certain way on TV and in her roles; but this is not the person she is as a whole. People seem to be so easily fooled, and they form their opinions based solely on what they see. She recently opened up about all kinds of troubles she had in her life, which varied from first being born into a horrible circumstance where her mother gave birth as a teen and gave her up for adoption; to being sexually abused as a child by an elderly neighbour, suffering through a string of bad relationships and facing the fact that she couldn't bear children.
People need to think deeper into things before forming an opinion and broadcasting it to the world via the internet, and also need to realise that what they say or type does actually affect the person their comments are aimed at, and at anyone else who reads it. I wonder how different things would be if we were no longer typing our conversations or comments and instead skyping them...surely things would come out in another way.
If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, then don't type it, I say. We are all learning a lot from the new world of online interaction. Let's just hope it gets better and not worse. Converse all you like, but remember that what you type could very well either save a life or contribute to ruining one.
Rest in peace, Charlotte Dawson, and I thank you for being brave and strong enough to come forward, and also for leaving behind a dose of reality for those who need it. Some may say that she lost the battle she had been fighting; but I think she fought damn hard. I don't see her as losing. I feel as though the world has lost a strong, experienced, knowledgeable, independent and lovely woman.