Suicide is a shock. In every suicide there is an actor who becomes a history after death. Majority of lesser known persons committing suicide remain anonymous. The act of suicide on part of celebrities in general, and film actors in particular triggers a trail of sensationalism peddled by modern media outlets. This over stretching of reel life over real life is currently witnessed in Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide that is trending like wild fire. Portrayal of suicide by a celebrity in media by adding costume and colour for entertainment is a big shock. Dramatizing suicide is a dangerous trend and can pose serious challenges to society as a whole.
Television channels are over obsessed with celebrity mania and it seems news anchors have nothing to debate other than fancy tales of filmy world. TRP obsession forces media outlets invent and exaggerate entertainment instead of information. Extracting news from trivial matters has become a routine. Professional ethics exist no more. Instead of attempting to break silence on issues that merit attention, the newsrooms are turning into horror hubs displaying graphics and odd pictures to spice up stories. Some even stoop down further by injecting animation effects to dramatize events that are far from actual reality.
Anchors are seen madly competing for catching attention as they encroach upon the viewers by their self-prophecies. In this hysterical adventurism, professionalism witnesses a silent death.
In elite circles ordinary untoward events are projected by media channels as extraordinary happenings. A common man getting infected with pandemic and losing battle for survival is nobody’s concern. But if a celebrity sneezes, the cameras start rolling over and anchors weave stories from humour to horror to increase their TRP. Infotainment – the blending of information and entertainment has sabotaged the professional ethics of journalism and converted this noble profession into a circus of sensationalism.
Glamorizing or romanticizing any disapproving act like suicide can adversely allure youth to perceive such acts to be fair ways of receiving prominence and popularity. Adolescents and young adults are sensitive and crave for role identity at such stage of life to feel related and recognized in the society. The lines of demarcation to distinguish between right and wrong paths are highly blurred. Any misleading example presented and projected unfairly with rosy colour and content can jeopardize their career and at times threaten their lives.
Teen agers and younger people are sensitive to influence of media stimuli. Youth are easily enticed to follow the trending breaking news pertaining to film industry. Actors for some are role models as their heroic acts in movies leave significant impressions that develop a form of virtual proximity between the actor and the audience. These imaginary threads entrenched in the world of imagination and fantasies arouse sentimental reactions and responses from fans towards their favorite stars. From success to failure, from distinction to dejection and from stardom to suicide – any development or disappointment related to celebrities becomes breaking news.
In one of the reports Time Magazine warns that, an important concern for teen agers during adolescence is their self-image and is virtually linked to smartphone driven storm of carving space on social media especially instagram, facebook, twitter etc. Seeking attention for getting noticed and liked by many develops a fancy form of addiction. Poor response or lack of desired attention induces low self-confidence and encouraging depressive patterns. This critical state of mind under the whirlpool of depressive thoughts adds to the vulnerabilities of teen agers and youth for finding euphoric gratification in acts of suicide.
Electronic and print media narratives on suicide of any celebrity particularly film stars must consider the intricate sensitivities involved. Bombarding viewers continuously with pictures, graphics and animations triggers and evokes diverse emotional responses. Individuals with weak coping capacity who struggle in real life situations take clues from such much hyped media generated versions. Influencing their mental modeling, glamorization of suicide proves highly detrimental. At times the elaborate details brutally exposed offer access to the viewers to delve deep inside the plateau of pessimism. Such excessive exposure only piles up the repository of negative memories and imprints that intervene and intersect with ones coping strategy in real life situations.
Internet has provided open access to teen agers and young people to stretch their reach to all forms of content available at print and electronic media platforms. Care and caution is to be observed to regulate the usage as well as selection of content. Teen agers and young persons need supervision from parents and teachers to monitor the usage patterns and duration to ward off indulgence and exposure to unsafe stuff. Establishing healthy communication and cordial interactions in a conducive homely environment can anchor and enrich inter-personal relations. Strong social support systems can act as a resource to handle any crisis.
Our youth need to be told stories that inspire; successful struggles of people who defeated adversity and converted them into opportunity. Personified anecdotes of patience that paved ways to accomplishments must be made public to instill optimism. Examples must empower and encourage. Real life challenges must be a focus rather than reel life fantasies.
Dramatic reporting on suicide must stop. Both producers and editors in print and electronic media must realize their influential roles while dealing with sensitive issues like suicide. Viewership is a choice. Let us not get driven by mighty waves of dramatization and infotainment. Life is not only about the story of celebrities. Let us celebrate the beauty of living with hope and optimism.
Bilal Kaloo is Assistnat Professor (Department of Education – South Campus University of Kashmir)