Internet Trolls By Far Deadlier Than Boloms!
Over the last several weeks, in the United States and in Britain, a disturbing number of celebrities have reportedly taken their own lives just when it seemed they had everything going for them. Just three weeks ago in the UK, Sophie Gradon hanged herself at her parents’ home in Newcastle. In 2016 she had been on the highly successful sex-oriented reality-TV show Love Island. It has now emerged that she had depression-related issues at the time she joined the show. The popularity she gained as part of the cast seemed to be, if only for a time, just what the doctor ordered. According to people close to her, Sophie could not handle the relative obscurity that followed her departure from Love Island. The passing of a very close friend only made things worse.
Four days following her funeral last week, her boyfriend Aaron also committed suicide. According to UK press reports, he had tried to take his own life four years earlier. Moreover, that Internet trolls had contributed to both suicides. Throughout Sophie’s stint on Love Island, they had made her life a living hell, calling her ugly and useless and immoral. The trolls were relentless, even when the young woman was no longer on the show.
Instagram messages from her boyfriend signaled his own demise. In the hours before he hanged himself the young boxer from Northumberland was taking on bullying Instagram trolls, one of whom accused him of desperately courting attention and seeking to cash in on his association with his deceased girlfriend. In one instance, Aaron fired back: “It’s scumbags like you who drive people to suicide.” He also posted this message just days before his death, obviously referencing his departed 32-year-old girlfriend: “I will never stop loving you and my heart will be yours until the day I join you. I will see you very soon, my angel.”
In TV interviews she gave after leaving Love Island, and on social media, Sophia described having “sold my soul to reality TV” and the terrible anguish afterwards, exacerbated by online abuse. Citing her torment, she told one reporter: “The harsh reality is it can end with a person taking their own life.”
According to one mental health expert and contributor to a popular UK magazine: “Contestants on talent and reality shows sometimes seem naïve and mentally vulnerable, especially when it comes to coping with instant fame.” There was Susan Boyle who, despite having learning disabilities, appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009 and became an overnight singing star. What is not generally known is that just days after winning the BGT final she suffered a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric clinic.
As far as is known, no suicide in Saint Lucia has been attributed to the rigors associated with being a Carnival Queen Pageant contender. Or with being a contestant in a bitch-bites-bitch Miss World or Miss Universe event. But it can’t be easy jumping from behind a Massy check-out counter or some government department desk onto a lit-up stage somewhere in Europe, the United States, China or Japan.
Imagine face-offs with far more experienced contestants who’ve been preparing all their lives for an event, most of them generously sponsored by worldfamous names in the fields of cosmetics, swimwear, women’s footwear, dentistry and formal wear. That is what awaits our candidates, some with just one pageant under their belts, never having stood—let alone performed—before an audience of more than 300 people, mainly friends and relatives.
Miss St Lucia-World is expected by the folks at home to exude movie-star selfconfidence while competing overseas, no matter that in her Gregory Lorde creation she feels more like Cinderella at the moment that fabled clock struck midnight.
Imagine yourself in high-jumper Levern Spencer’s shoes as she starts the run she hopes will end with her soaring with the grace of an egret over the bar. She knows millions of foreign eyes are upon her but what she actually feels is the heat emanating from the relative few eyeballs on the faraway rock that is her homeland. Regardless of how well she may have performed on her previous two or three outings, all of that will be instantly forgotten should she fail to rise to the particular occasion—for whatever unavoidable reason.
Yes, so consider the killing stress our star high-jumper must endure before and during every meet. Picture yourself as Levern Spencer, a Carnival Queen contestant or a Miss World fantasist fallen short of the local expectation. Imagine the social media comments from know-alls who know not that they know shit! Perhaps now you begin to understand why so many desperate young people, all of them permanent Internet residents, eventually decide there is only one way out of their troll-besieged world.
We can only conjecture about the shocking suicides reported right here in Saint Lucia, without official comment. Do we have any idea how a vulnerable young woman or man might feel after their sicko former BFF has threatened to share with the whole wide world what was meant to be between two individuals who cared about each other? Blackmail, whether merely threatened or carried out, is among the most dangerous of serial killers.
Of course, not all victims of blackmail and character assassination—chief among the assassins being the earlier cited anonymous Internet trolls— commit suicide. Some simply become other than they had been before the trolls took their lives away from them. Some inexplicably turn on themselves and on innocent others. Some become withdrawn, hateful, having taken permanent residence under an impenetrable cloud of depression . . . with only one way out.
I am reminded of a recent Whatsapp exchange with a man I’ve never met. We’ve been texting each other for over a year now, usually about what he refers to as “affairs of state.” I hesitate to call him a friend, even though by today’s standards he qualifies. For me, friendship demands one face-to-
These Queen Show finalists may be all smiles but they alone know the rigors of pageant preparations, and the effects after the curtains have come down!