Anonymity is Privilege

“Exclusive visuals after Sidharth Shuklas’s funeral”
“No foul play found in Sidharth Shukla’s death”
“Shocking condition of Sidharth Shukla’s girlfriend”

Do these headlines sound familiar? Well, this is how the media reported on late actor Sidharth Shukla’s demise in the last one week. When celebrities start their journey on the path of Bollywood, they enter into this invisible contract with the public at large with a clause to give the public a right to impeach their right to privacy. This clause is not only valid for the duration of their life but the effect further passes on to the family of the deceased celebrity.

This was evident when the media harassed Sidharth Shukla’s elderly aunty, asking her the most inane questions after his bereavement. It became clear when a video of Shehnaaz Gill at the cremation site went popular on social media. Is this what it means to be a journalist in India?

Media houses were established for a reason: to serve as a conduit for disseminating information about what is going on in the world around us, so that we, as individuals, may make decisions in our lives based on our surroundings. When we read about the devastation caused by a storm in Kerala through the media, we all get together to put a bandage on the wound. When we suspect an oncoming recession, we set up an emergency fund to combat financial difficulties. When we learn of a conflict in another nation, we are thankful to be waking up in a safe atmosphere with our loved ones. Almost every piece of information that you read about in newspapers or on news applications on your phone will elicit a reaction, whether positive or negative.

It’s reasonable that as a fan who carefully followed the late actor, you’d want to know the how, when, where, and why. This was the first piece of information we all got. The news that follows, on the other hand, is basically tabloid journalism, whether it’s about his parents’ sadness, his lover’s response, or the amount of celebrities who attended his burial. Reading them does not improve your life, and you are rarely better informed as a result of them. These snippets of knowledge have no effect on our daily lives or the decisions we make. If anything, everyone of us contributes to exacerbating the agony of a family grieving the loss of a loved one.

This isn’t an isolated incident; it’s a tendency we’ve seen every time a star dies young. When Rhea Chakrobarty was on trial for Sushant’s suicide, the entire internet took it upon themselves to convict her? Why? Because it is simpler to believe that someone pushed him to perform the action he did than it is to recognise the country’s prevalence of ignorance towards mental health. Accepting our role in promoting nepotism in Bollywood is far more difficult than accusing his closest associates of the terrible news. It almost makes you question if the process of becoming a judge in India is a waste of time if it is this simple to convict someone.

We have been following a pattern of insensitive behaviour. A YouTube video from Huff paranormal in which the YouTuber talks to Sushant Singh Rajput’s soul has over 1 crore views. A video titled ‘Sridevi’s Death Mystery Will Astound You’ has 3,00,000 views, while another video titled ‘The Actual Plan- She Was Expected to Die Dancing at the Party’ has over 5,00,000 views. Take note of how clickbait titles are being exploited to brainfeed you with bad information. We all consume more contentious stuff than we do quality information. This is how we are all contributing to the issue at hand.

Media outlets will continue to provide insensitive media coverage as long as they receive TRP, which we all provide. There is usually one piece of information provided in the media coverage of a celebrity’s untimely death that has the character of a disclaimer “No foul play suspected.” This is a setback for media outlets who were hoping to increase their viewership quickly by adding some spice to their news pieces to offer readers what they want.

Today, we are experiencing some of the most heinous examples of insensitive media coverage, and as consumers, we can no longer passively swallow whatever information is provided to us. The first step is to comprehend the complexities of the relationships we form with celebrities. We frequently engage in parasocial behaviour. Parasocial interactions are one-sided partnerships in which one person expends emotional energy, attention, and time while the other party, the persona, is entirely oblivious of the existence of the other. We have a tendency to believe that the more we know about the individuals at the top, the better we would be able to navigate the social sphere. This social proclivity to care is firmly embedded. This is precisely why we nourish ourselves on celebrity gossip. Rather than ingesting whatever is available, push yourself to make more deliberate decisions about the brain food you consume. If a late star had a popular façade of physical fitness yet died early, drawing the inference that remaining healthy is pointless, is not the most rational concept. It is a campaign to rationalise illogical actions that undermine our economic and social well-being when we cite the inevitability of death to encourage living in the moment rather than the future.

Improving media and journalism in India would be accomplished in two stages: establishing strict media ethics rules for media houses to understand the limits of their interference; and becoming more conscious of the brain food we feed ourselves and how we contribute to the encouragement of insensitive media. Always remember what Marcus Aurelius said: “Do external things distract you? Then create time for yourself to learn something important; stop being pushed in all directions.”

– Janvi Gupta

Picture Credits: zoomtventertainment.com

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