Charlotte Dawson, a former judge for Australia’s Next Top Model, was found dead on Saturday morning in her home. The New Zealand Reality TV star was only 47 years old when she took her own life. Reportedly, Dawson was on Twitter before she committed suicide, where she had been receiving cruel messages. Now, the spotlight needs to be shifted to the cyber bullying she had been enduring on Twitter, as that may have been what pushed Dawson over the edge.
Cyber bullying is a major issue that is frequently addressed by organizations concerned with teen depression and suicide rates. The National Crime Prevention Council, for example, is one of the organization that works to combat cyber bullying through awareness campaigns and educating parents. The issue is a difficult one, because one of the appeals of the internet is the extreme freedom it gives its users. Taking action to blanket an issue like this would be considered censorship and would be incredibly difficult to enact.
No one addresses the fact that cyber bullying can follow someone past their teenage years and into adulthood. In fact, this is almost guaranteed if that person reaches any semblance of celebrity in their career from their accomplishments.
Charlotte Dawson had a history of depression and had even attempted suicide at least once before in 2012. Recently there has been a push for the normalization of discussing mental health issues, attempting to bring them back from the realm of the taboo and into the light. However, the media still expects that adults will be stable enough to handle anything that comes their way. Popular show segments such as Jimmy Fallon’s Mean Tweets emphasize this implication, having celebrities read the cruel messages that get sent to them through Twitter on camera for comedy.
Twitter is a hotbed for cruel, anonymous messages that are directed to people in the spotlight, such as Charlotte Dawson, whose decision to finally end her life may have been influenced by the bullying she had been dealing with on the site. People do not generally consider the harsh messages sent to celebrities to be bullying. Many people define bullying as the repeated, targeted verbal or physical assault from one or more people to a particular person. And this is just what “mean tweets” are.
Without realizing it, people will post a cruel opinion of a celebrity to Twitter, tagging the celebrity and thereby sending the message directly to their phone. If this were to happen to someone who were not a celebrity, it would be shocking and unacceptable. It would also be happening on a much smaller scale than what celebrities have to deal with.
Dawson was a popular TV personality, which means that all of these one-off cruel messages from strangers were being directly to her along with the messages from people who would take it upon themselves to actively tweet about how much they hated her. It takes a lot less than that to trigger many other people, so the fact that someone with a history of depression and a large following would be no different.
There is an expectation that a celebrity must have thick enough skin to deal with criticism, which is true for many. However, everyone tends to focus on the negative comments they get rather than the positive, no matter how much the positives outweigh the negatives. A spotlight must be shone on the issue of bullying on twitter in light of Charlotte Dawson’s tragic suicide.
By Robin Syrenne