If there’s any indication we are reaching the zenith of online celebrity harassment look no further than the tragic events that have surrounded R&B songstress Kehlani this week. For the uninitiated, Kehlani had been in a relationship with Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving since the beginning of the year but on Monday her ex, R&B crooner PARTYNEXTDOOR, posted a now deleted picture on Instagram of the two holding hands in bed with the caption, “After all her shenanigans, still got the R&B singer in my bed.”
The internet, being what it is, went into meltdown and decided Kehlani was cheating on Irving and went in on her with some truly horrific slut shaming. Irving also copped his fair share of flack, although it was less hate and more pity, as he was widely perceived to be the victim in this case. It was also telling that much of the abuse was directed towards Kehlani and Irving, with PARTYNEXTDOOR, the instigator of the drama, seemingly unharmed by the shit storm he’d created. But it got worse.
Kehlani deleted her Instagram the same day this all occurred, before returning hours later with a picture of her in hospital with an IV in her arm. A caption alongside the pic implied she had tried to take her own life. Amidst her lengthy caption, Kehlani stated, “Don’t believe the blogs you read… Nobody was cheated on and I’m not a bad person… Everyone is hurt and everyone is in a place of misunderstanding… But as of today, I had no single wish to see tomorrow… But God saved me for a reason, and for that… I must be grateful… Cuz I’m not in heaven right now for a reason.” The singer also posted a picture of PARTYNEXTDOOR by her bedside with a comment thanking him for saving her life.
Kehlani took to Instagram one final time before clearing her account (again) to open up about her feelings and what she had gone through, telling fans, “is everyone that conditioned to celebrities not being REAL PEOPLE??? I’m fucking going thru it. Going thru 20 year old drama queen and issues and figure since all the trials in my songs that have seemed to help so many others, sharing my truths must be continued.” She went on to reveal that her and Irving broke up after she realised she’s still in love with PARTYNEXTDOOR.
While the posts from Kehlani were brave and honest, it didn’t stop a very vocal segment of the internet from commenting negatively about her situation—even Chris Brown decided to throw some shade her way, tweeting: “There is no attempting suicide. Stop flexing for the gram. Doing shit for sympathy so them comments under your pics don’t look so bad.” And while this is certainly not representative of the majority, it’s an unfortunate fact that some people agreed with the sentiment—as a celebrity, Kehlani should be held accountable for what she puts on the internet, as much as we are, and shouldn’t use social media if she doesn’t want people discussing her life.
But it does bring up the discussion of how we view famous people in the digital age. We interact with them through social media as if they’re on the same level as us, yet it’s obvious that’s not really how we view them. They live in world of wealth and privilege and seem almost non-human—is that why we find it so easy to ridicule their often very basic human trials? We feel detached from their world and it’s hard to see how one simple comment could affect them, but as Kehlani has shown, it can have a very real effect. They too have thoughts and feelings and have as much right to use social media without fearing what people will say. If there’s any good to come from this situation, it’s that it has, once again, helped shine a light on cyber bullying and the tragic consequences it can bring about. In light of its seriousness, the fact Kehlani’s willing to continue any brief discussion about her situation in the public forum must be applauded. She may be a celebrity, but she’s also a 20-year-old woman with the same insecurities and fears that plagued all of us in our youth. She could have just gone into hiding but has chosen to use her profile, albeit fleetingly, to highlight the issues that led her to self-harm.
The sad reality is what Kehlani experienced is something occurring on a daily basis, to people in your neighbourhood as well as on your TV screens, and as an online community, we need to put a stop to it. Nobody should be subjected to any form of unwarranted abuse, be it online or in the real world. It’s still unclear how or when this will stop but we need to continue to educate people and acknowledge the bravery of those who share their stories, in the hopes that people will think twice before posting that hateful comment online.
If you are suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, or just need to talk, don’t hesitate to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Words: Tobias Handke