Sometimes, the vitriol famous people endure online impacts their mental health. Sometimes people die as a direct consequence of this. However, most of the time, my hot take on the latest celebrity thing will have no impact whatsoever on the people involved. They won’t notice me judging them, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t care.
The people who will see my hot take are my friends, most of whom aren’t especially famous. If I body shame someone, it will be my friends with body shame issues who feel that. If I stigmatise someone for their disability or the state of their mental health, it will be my struggling friends who are impacted. If I am sexist about someone because I don’t like them, it is my female friends who will be hurt. If I mock someone for saying they feel suicidal, it is my suicidal friend who becomes less confident about asking for help.
I’ve talked before about why I think celebrity culture needs taking seriously. It is culture. In just the same way that what we do online is real and not magically hived off from the rest of existence. Wound someone emotionally via the internet and they are still wounded. How we talk about famous people can have a huge impact on the people around us.
It is important to call out people for the things they should not have done. I’m all for that. But all too often, the insults that come with it reveal a lot about the person making the comments. The kind of sexism hurled at women isn’t ok, no matter what they did. Call them out over their behaviour, but don’t link it to appearance, or desirability, or how appealing it seems to have something horrific happen to them.
If your main focus is on taking down people you don’t like, then weaponising anything you can about them will seem like fair game. It’s a toxic way to behave. What we need to focus on is building something better and that means not hurling abuse for the pleasure of it. It means staying out of the personal attacks. It also means checking, and double checking your assumptions. If it feels ok to hurl sexist abuse at a woman because she’s on the other side of a political divide, that’s still hurling sexist abuse and it upholds sexism.
Focus on what you want to build, not what you want to take down.