In­ter­net Trolls By Far Dead­lier Than Boloms!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

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!

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