On October 14, 2019, the death of K-pop star Sulli rocked the internet. Within minutes of the news, Sulli’s passing topped headlines and swept through social media. Friends were in shock. Fans were devastated. Comment sections exploded.
Some expressed grief.
Others expressed rage.
Sulli was a veteran in the Korean entertainment industry. Debuting as a child actress at age 11, and later becoming part of SM Entertainment’s wildly popular group f(x) in 2009, Sulli quickly became a household name.
However, constant scrutiny overshadowed her success. Headlines about Sulli were rarely positive; from criticism of her clothing or lack thereof to her relationships with fellow celebrities, no one seemed to acknowledge her successes.
Comments about Sulli were always full of malice and hate, even personally offensive. Despite standing up for herself, the comments were relentless.
Still, she remained positive and cheerful, persevering in spite of the hate.
Last week, the police confirmed that Sulli passed away by suicide.
So why were people angry?
Because those comments potentially caused her death?
Because those comments existed in the first place?
Or because almost immediately after her death, those comment sections that previously condemned her suddenly swarmed with sadness and regret?
Let’s look at another case study. Krystal Jung. Although she was a close friend of Sulli, when other celebrities grieved on social media, reminiscing and wishing Sulli peace, Krystal stayed quiet. She didn’t post anything. Two days after Sulli’s death, internet users dubbed “Korean netizens” started to criticize her for not paying public respects to Sulli.
Since when was posting on social media a requirement for mourning?
Shortly after, insiders revealed that Krystal had spent three full days next to Sulli’s memorial, accompanying her family all throughout the funeral. All while not saying a single thing on social media.
Hate comments calling her out faded away.
What do Krystal’s and Sulli’s cases have in common?
Social media networks have become breeding grounds for hypocrisy; a place for people to hide behind usernames and attack others. Hate speech runs rampant, and outdated speech laws can’t keep up. Reputations, mental health, and careers have all been permanently damaged by a ten-second post or tweet.
The internet is too quick to judge others. Users write exactly what is on their mind. After all, sharing your thoughts with millions of others all just comes down to a click. And that click can lead to ruined reputations — and in some cases — ruined lives.
Just because you can voice your thoughts in words does not mean that you should.
The internet should not be a place where you voice what you cannot say in real life. It should be a place to connect with people, to voice opinions in a respectful environment.
Netizens, there is a right place to voice all of your thoughts, but the internet is not that place.