As Caroline Flack's tragic death prompts #BeKind to go viral, Olivia Adams says it is us - not the media - who needs to be better
‘Be Kind’. These are the two words echoing around the office today. We all know why. Yesterday the six letters were also trending on Twitter, written on London transport tube boards and reposted to Instagram. It made me consider my character, and if being kind is a quality I can proudly claim.
I believe it is, but I often thought my former job in the showbiz journalism industry shunned this attribute. Because it’s true, bad news sells. Repercussions for spreading negativity? No, reward! It was my first job out of university and as a junior writer, at lunchtime I would watch my editors huddle around the picture editor’s computer to buy the most unflattering snaps of celebrities on the beach. At night, I was praised for obtaining controversial lines from drunk, sad or ‘fame-hungry’ stars.
But it is not the press who is unkind. I know, I would say that – I am the press. But hear me out. It’s the people. It’s us. It’s all of us. We like to see those fatter, uglier, poorer than us, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Ever wondered why soap operas are so damn depressing? It’s because we’re happier that these poor souls have had a harder day than us.
At this time of being a junior reporter, social media was in its infancy – but the concept of trolling was the same. I’m printing these derogatory words, but would I say it in person, to their face? Unlikely. And this question still rings true today. From whispering in the office about other colleagues to WhatsApping catty comments in your friendship group. Would you voice these opinions to their face? If the answer is no, we really shouldn’t be saying them at all.
Transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf worded it perfectly on social media yesterday: ‘I hope one day we stop tearing each other apart and realise that each and every one of our words hold weight,’ she penned. ‘How we treat each other in real life or on social media, is literally a matter of life or death.’
Caroline Flack’s decision to end her own life is as shocking as it is sad. The media is facing blame for covering the news so heavily (the presenter was due to stand trial on the March 4 after she was arrested and charged with assault on boyfriend, Lewis Burton, at the end of 2019), when she was clearly going through a distressing time and her mental health was in question. A petition has even started in Caroline Flack’s name (Caroline’s Law) to introduce stricter laws around press conduct.
But in my opinion, it’s not the industry’s fault. Nothing would be printed if there was no demand for it. And so, it comes back to us. We have to change us. The Oxford Dictionary definition of kind is, ‘someone who behaves in a gentle, caring and helpful way towards other people’. And today, February 17, marks Random Acts Of Kindness Day. So let’s all say something nice to someone, and not just today, but every day. After all, it’s nice to be nice. We can all agree on that.