A powerful video message shared by Pakistani model Anam Tanoli where she tries to explain that bullying is bad, and she encourages victims of bullying to stay strong. She also encourages people to watch out for people who are being bullied and to talk to them.
A few days ago Anam Tanoli was found hanging from a ceiling fan of her bedroom in her house where she lived with her husband and two children. According to The Economic Times, her husband Navid Ahmad claimed she committed suicide because she was suffering from depression and was going to see her doctor prior to hanging herself. Zoom TV Digital also reported that police have a recorded statement from Anam's mother stating that Anam was under tremendous mental stress and was scheduled to meet her therapist.
Her Instagram account was recently removed, but reactions to her death on Instagram have revealed a very disgusting side of the Internet and Social Media.
Reading over these comments and countless others on Instagram hasn't been easy. Its not only infuriating, but it is sickening to see how entitled people feel with their opinions and with the need to share them. This sheds light on a bigger underlying problem which is the lack of understanding mental illness in our communities.
I'll be honest with you, I'm no expert. But, when we say, "how pathetic it is to feel so strongly about negativity and criticism," and that "she could easily have ignored it," it makes you realize that people simply don't understand that no matter who the person is, no matter how strong they are, now matter how strong of a face they put on, we are all human with our own frailties, our weaknesses, and our own insecurities. Negativity and criticism do eventually begin to have a tremendous impact on one's mental health.
I've been on Instagram for over 3 years now, and over the years I've had many people both young and old reach out to me with their problems. I've spoken to young adults who have been traumatized and experienced sexual abuse in their childhood, I've gotten to know young women who have survived their way out of abusive marriages. In my personal life outside of Social Media, I've known people who are or have battled with depression, I've also lost people I loved due to depression. I understand how serious it can be and how overwhelms one's soul. To the one's who feel that embracing Islam/religion or religious spirituality is the solution to depression, its not. It's like saying if you have a cold, prostrate and read the Quran, call out to your Lord - you'll get better. If you're on the brink of extreme anxiety, if you can't sleep at night, - its fine, just pray! If you've broken a leg, no problem - just make Du'a. It doesn't work like that. Finding peace and contentment is a journey, finding God is a journey, religion and spiritual attainment is a journey. There is no immediate fix to a broken heart, there is no miracle solution to years of anxiety and depression after being bullied, raped, abused, or having been sexually assaulted.
Having a cold or a broken leg, these are injuries and illnesses that are visible to the eye, and we understand these to be painful or discomforting. Mental illness is something we can not see, it is deep beneath the surface, and it is far more excruciating and painful than any illness or injury visible to the eye. It requires help, it requires talking and being heard, most of all it requires being understood.
I encourage you to talk to people. I encourage you to listen, and most of all I encourage you to listen with the intention to understand, and not only to listen with the intention to respond. Start from home. Your mother, your father, your little brother, your elder sister, your nephew, your niece. Everyone has a story, a piece of them that is troubled that you have no clue of. Fix the gaps in your personal life, make people around you comfortable enough to share something personal with you. You never know how much a small act of kindness and simply listening will help. Don't turn them away by saying, "pray and you'll feel better." Prayer is powerful. Yes it is the weapon of the believer, but you need to understand that in order to be a believer you need time and consistency, however, a lot happens along the way that weakens you and makes you disbelieve. We all hurt differently, we all feel differently, and we all deal with it differently. Perhaps your kindness itself will make someone hold on for just a little while longer, perhaps that strength could be enough to push through their battle and inevitably believe.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to encourage you and myself to re-evaluate what we find funny on social media. I wanted to call out Meme Pages, and Entertainment Blogs that encourage Social Media Bashing, and online bullying for page likes, follows, and to build their online presence. This includes pages that post things like "India vs. Pakistan - who did it better?"
"Saba Qamar, or Katrina Kaif - who wore it better?"
"Iqra Aziz, most stylish icon - could she have worn better?"
They call this feedback, 'constructive criticism', but who are you to judge what is constructive criticism and Social Media Bashing? To those who feel entitled enough to share their opinion on what a woman should wear, or who a celebrity should date - You need to understand that there is a fine line between sharing your opinion and bullying.
I'll give you some examples:
Opinions on the Hocane Sister's are beginning to get out of hand. These remarks related to everything from their fashion sense to their looks.
Momina Mustehsan has been a frequent target on Social Media lately.
An example of this is the comments on a recent video of her singing, which was shared by @behtareenpk
Meme's comparing celebrities such as Hania Mir with celebrities of other nationalities are examples of memes that encourage people to share their 'constructive criticism' as if they're qualified enough to set standards of beauty.
Disrespectful memes of Iqra Aziz are an example of how people mock the personal lives of celebrities with degenerate comments for the purpose of Social Media Exposure. This is one of the things that many people find funny, and here is where I encourage you to re-evaluate your sense of humour.
Farhan Saeed and Urwa Hocane have been targets with hatred being focussed towards their personal lives and relationship.
The idea is that celebrities and public figures are public property, and when they enter the entertainment business, they are well prepared for such criticism, and it is to be expected. But we forget, that these are real people, with real feelings, living real lives.
Imagine being comfortable in your skin, completely confident in your smile, and sooner or later baseless comments about the crookedness of your teeth begin to show up on a selfie you posted. Sooner or later, no matter how much you try to over look these and ignore them - it'll lead to insecurities and issues with self confidence. Well... "You should have expected negativity, it's social media! You shouldn't have posted a selfie, first of all its Haram!" Is that what you'd say to them?
Public figures and celebrities deal with these everyday, and with a following in the thousands and even hundreds of thousands - you can imagine the number of hate and negativity they could potentially be subject to. Depression among celebrities and public figures is more common than you know.
Here is a post by Momina Mustehsan that she shared recently, soon after the death of Anam Tanoli.
In an open letter, Momina writes:
I’m sorry you had to give up. I’m sorry I didn’t understand the intensity of how much you were hurting. I know you were trying your best to be positive and you were a champ. I was super proud of how far you had come in the 9 years I had known you and the person you had grown to become. I swear you had the strength to keep fighting back, staying strong, and standing tall. But you just needed to hear more of that from the people around you, a little more often. I’m so sorry.. I know how it feels when you hit a point so low that it makes you feel like giving up. We all know that feeling. Every single person is fighting their own battle from behind the face we put up for society to make it look like all is under control.
Fortunately or unfortunately, with the growth of social media, random people’s uncalled-for opinions and hate speech make their way to us. Now more than ever, we need to learn to love and value ourselves, and KNOW our own selves and our own worth, so that peoples opinions of us don’t get to us and impact our perception of ourselves.
For the trolls: Let people be. Give them the right to be human sometimes. Give them the liberty to make those occasional mistakes. Because without that, no one can ever learn or grow. Reflect and focus your energies on fixing and working on yourself more than scrutinizing, judging and putting others down.
Let’s please all shun bullying and hate speech. When you see it happening to someone, please stand up for them and make it stop. Build each other up, don’t be a bystander watching someone being tormented." - Momina Mustehsan
With the words of Momina as a guide, I conclude this entry with a reminder to you to love yourself enough so that the opinions of others don't impact our perception of ourselves.
If you're going through depression, and need someone to listen to you - my DM's are open to you. I usually don't respond to DM's because of unwarranted and inappropriate experiences in the past, but I welcome you to talk if you need a friend.