It’s no surprise to me that Pakistan’s social media is flooded with news of the unthinkable; Shoaib Malik’s marriage to Sana Javed. How shocking for the human race to witness that two individuals got divorced and decided to re-marry. Did they not realize that as celebrities who are idealized by many, they cannot make choices that make them fall from the pedestal? And so, Twitter or X is trending, and social media is choked with trolls and speculations and criticism for this marriage. Old videos of Shoaib and Sania and Shoaib and Sana are surfacing and we are all trying to give our two cents on why both these marriages failed. The popular vote is that it’s a case of an illicit affair and of course, how can the Pakistani society forgive an affair? We can ignore injustice, crimes, ill-treatment of the underprivileged, basically the crumbling state of affairs in the country currently but will happily jump on the bandwagon of trolling and hateful judgment of personal choice of others.
I am a therapist and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t but help look at everything through the psychological lens. So, who are these trollers? People who post inflammatory and offensive comments on social media accounts to their heart’s desire. They seem to be running free without any sense of boundaries. Many of us will argue that it shows their lack of credibility and failing sense of humanity and empathy. We troll the trollers and attribute this behavior to their backgrounds and by that, we mean lack of education, and social status and there is no doubt that we are judging them for judging.
It is important to look at this culture of trolling from a wider lens. Firstly, celebs these days have created a space inviting the world to witness their personal lives and they permit the public to know about their private lives. It’s a choice they have made via social mediums like Instagram where they are revealing information about their lives to the world. Does that mean they should receive hate? No. But look at it as the celebs now having family members beyond the blood ones and so family members criticizing anyone’s life choices won’t be considered trolling, will it? Insta family now has the right given by the celeb himself to comment on his life choices.
Another factor to consider here is that many of us vicariously live our unfulfilled lives through these celebrities. We are attached to their successes and failures, especially in this age of digital media where there is very little sense of mystery around a celebrity’s life and a lot is known.
Let us also understand that we all want to believe that celebrities lead perfect happy lives and that the picture is portrayed through various social media posts. It all feeds into our idealized projections and compensates for our losses and painful experiences. The fantasy image created by these public figures becomes bigger and bigger and instills hope in us and makes us dream for the same. A celeb getting married for example and we see a successful couple balancing work and a great relationship which for many of us is inspiring and we start to believe it as an ultimate truth. And when we hear of a divorce and unlike the earlier constant information of holidays and dinner and romantic birthday wishes, the relationship challenges are never shared and we wake up in our morning to hear the fantasy castle crashing before our very own eyes with news like a divorce.
So, I don’t blame the trollers for their trauma response which comes across as hateful trolls. There is shock and anger which is rooted in the denial of the reality of life which hits them in the face with the news like a divorce of two people loved by many. So, in a knee-jerk reaction, they troll away, and it is all an emotional response to something that is triggered within them. I remember how upset I had felt when I learned that Sajjal Ali and Ahad Raza Mir had separated.
If any of the traumatized trollers are reading this, I get you. I understand why a stranger’s life choice provokes such a reaction from you. But next time, breathe take a pause, and try to process what a piece of news like this means for you in your personal life rather than deflecting it on someone who probably won’t even read your post. Slow down and see why you are so triggered, and if you can use that information to choose differently for your life. Traumatizing others with your trolls because of your unprocessed wounds is not the answer.
The writer is a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psycho-therapy) accredited individual and couple psycho-therapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com.