The sudden death of Caroline Flack was a complete tragedy. One which seems so unnecessary and totally avoidable. The role of the media, via social media and traditional forms, was immediately put under sharp scrutiny.

Few doubt the significant part it had played in the celebrated TV presenter’s decision to end her life. Judging from the outpouring of emotion across social media, there has been a collective acceptance that the continual hounding of an individual is no longer acceptable.

It can – and in this case did – have tragic consequences.

The online world we spend hours inhabiting has transformed our lives as consumers and as communicators. Largely, for the better. But the impersonal nature of the medium has regressed us into being less accountable for our words.

Would the words we text, post online, even email be the same words we would choose in person to their intended target? I think we’ve had times when we regret the harshness of our tone online.

Today, there is a cottage industry of commentators and columnists who have professionalised and monetised outrage. There is huge attention to be gained from outrageous opinions, leaving reasoned and rational discussion in its wake.

And where these influential figures lead, so others follow, just for the sake of the validation a few likes online. I think we all have that friend of a friend or distant aunt who posts things that make us wince and hover over the unfriend button.

But if there is one small positive from this tragedy it is the consensus to be kinder online. My social feeds were -for just about the first time ever- almost universal in their urgings for people to “be kind.” Digital media is still a new phenomenon that humanity is still getting to grips with. We are constantly refining our behaviours, not always for the better. But a step towards kindness is the very least we can all do for Caroline Flack.

18th February 2020 - Chris Broadbent