An open letter to social media

When I became a journalist at the age of 18, I had no idea what I was getting into. Having spent a good chunk of my teenage years working in cafes and restaurants, I’d been sheltered away from the harsh realities of social media.

I became a journalist because I wanted to help people, I wanted to tell their stories, share their success, help them achieve whatever it is that they were setting out to do in their lives. What I didn’t see coming as part of my job is the sheer affect that social media would have on myself and others.

It’s been a huge part of my job, social media. I’m pretty sure that without it, I wouldn’t have had 80% of the opportunities that have come my way throughout in the last six years. I got my first proper job thanks to social media, and I’ve made friends for life through it, too. That being said, it’s not always been something in my life that I’ve enjoyed having around.

Working for both regional and national newspapers, I’ve seen first-hand the backlash that comes with being a journalist. I’ve seen the harsh words and comments fired at people I work with for simply doing their job; equally, I’ve also seen the abuse that’s hurled at people I’ve written about purely because someone doesn’t agree with their opinion or something that they’ve done.

I’ve always tried to be the best I can be when doing my job, portraying people the way they deserve to be portrayed, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes along the way, and I’ve had the cruellest comments from people that I don’t even know because I’ve tripped up in something I’d done. We’re human, we all make mistakes.

Social media should be a safe place, it should allow us to share the moments of our lives without judgement or attack, and it breaks my heart knowing that it simply doesn’t work that way. People are cruel. The world is cruel. In the same way that social media can change lives for the better, it’s taken lives too, and I’m not ok with that.

If I’m honest, I don’t even know why I’m writing this post. Mainly it’s because following the shocking news of the death of Caroline Flack yesterday, I’ve felt sad. Sad that she didn’t get all the help support that she needed; sad because even minutes after passing, people were so quick to jump on her saying that she deserved it; sad that some tabloid papers that spent months hounding and attacking her, went as far as deleting previous stories about her and her personal life; sad and angry that ‘journalists’ who called her an ‘incredible woman’ and shared their heartbreak over her death were the ones who were creating such harmful stories just to get clicks and money in their pockets.

These people are not journalists, they don’t care about the affect that their words have on others. All they care about is the clicks, the numbers, the very things that allow them to live their luxury lifestyle without second-guessing the impact their words are having. Words hurt. These people are bullies, they’re the ones responsible for the death of a woman who’d made mistakes and bad choices, but didn’t deserve to die at the age of 40. My heart is broken for her family, her twin sister, her friends, her colleagues. This shouldn’t have happened.

The real journalists I know are amazing people. They’re the ones who support their local community, help to put roofs over heads, run food banks. They care. Sometimes they even care too much. But the way that certain tabloids are continuing to talk to these sources and weave damaging stories just can’t go on, it can’t, something needs to be done.

If it wasn’t for my job, I don’t think I’d have social media any more. In a world that’s already filled with so much hate, I don’t want to have to feel sad every time I open up an app on my phone, that’s not the way things should be.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we all need to be a little kinder to one another. Before you hammer out an unnecessary comment on Twitter, Instagram – whatever, because you think it’s funny and might gain you a couple of followers or likes, please remember that there’s a person on the other side of that message who could really be suffering. Call a friend, send a text, reach out if you feel like someone needs help. We have so much to learn, but we should treat people with kindness, always.

If you’re finding things tough, there are some amazing charities and organisations that can give you the help and support you need:

Samaritans – website :: // free phone :: 116 123

Mind – website :: // phone :: 0300 123 3393

Papyrus – website :: // phone :: 0800 068 4141


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