Over the past few months, there has been a series of tragic news about celebrities. So then, what drove them to these awful choices? What has made the public feel even more anxious is that their common causes of suicide were malicious comments on the internet and depression. It’s not only the famous celebrities we often hear of, but also countless broadcasters, and even the general public that experience the mental and physical pain caused by flamers. The comments, which have consistently been a serious cyber-bullying in our society for quite some time, have been brought back to the surface in the wake of recent incidents, sparking public attention and growing needs for institutional regulation on malicious comments. Amid the mounting criticism of flaming, this article will deliver the definition, cause, impact, and seriousness of flaming.
What is flaming?
The word flaming means malicious comments posted online. They often contain insults, offensive e-language, invasions of privacy, leakage of personal information, copyright infringement, the promotion of violence or gambling, sex trafficking, lewd remarks, advertising, and gambling. According to the analysis of cyber-violence reports, the number of cyber-bullying reports, such as defamation and abuse, rose sharply from 3,141 in 2004 to 46,720 in 2007, of which cyber-bullying caused by abusive language soared from 1,066 in 2004 to 40,33 in 2007. As such, the damage caused by flaming has been continuing for a long time.
Cause of flaming
1. Chronic Desire Failure
Flamers are people who cannot resist reality because they are always insecure due to their inferiority and anger caused by chronic frustration of desire. They vent their anger to others that are built from the inside. For them, the comfort of their lives comes from the unhappiness of others, and they think they can destroy others through flaming and find comfort by checking and reminding the angry appearance of others. They feel excited when the people they attack become stimulated by their comments. Also, if the victims are popular and influential, the flamer feels they are equally influential and high in status.
A speed-oriented society, where everything should be "quick and fast," can also be a cause of flaming. There is always a competition to post comments faster than others. The competition itself is more about pure amusement, but the problem lies in the speed is that the readers do not properly read the posts, and comments on them. Many of the comments are hastily written after assuming the contents of the post based on the title alone without properly examining the contents. As a result, the wrong information is spread widely.
3.Flaming vs Criticism
It is a case of public criticism that certain entertainers, such as actors, singers, and comedians cannot sing or act. In this case, the standard of flaming becomes slightly ambiguous. Some argue that anyone, including ordinary people, can be criticized for not being professional in their main job. They also claim that public criticism is an inevitable part of a celebrity's job characteristics. Nevertheless, if critical comments pile up, they can end up causing enormous mental pain to the parties, and if they post insults and ridicules beyond simple criticism, they are considered serious cyber-bullying.
Although there are several major causes of flaming, it is difficult to determine exactly which type of flaming there are and why they are posted. Rather than hastily identifying the flamers as "sick people", we should check the comments we write and consider whether they can damage other people in any way.
The influence of flaming
- In 2005, the son of social activist Lim Soo-kyung, an elementary school student, was drowned in an accident in the Philippines. When the case was reported, several flaming comments were posted, and Lim sued the people who posted the comments. It was also controversial when it was revealed that the flamers were socially high people such as doctors, lawyers, civic group activists, and government officials, unlike the teenagers they’re often expected to be.
- In October 2008, actor Choi Jin-sil took her own life after suffering from depression due to false information that Choi Jin-sil was involved in a private loan business for her ex-husband Ahn Jae-hwan.
- In November 2018, Jung Seon-ho, a YouTuber, declared the suspension of his video activities, saying, "It's hard to withstand the excessive criticism and ridicule toward me and even my mother”.
- In October 2019 and November 2019, singers Sulli and Koo-hara took their own lives after suffering from depression caused by flaming.
The number of cases by flaming is increasing every year, and the coverage of flaming is huge, from the public to broadcasters, creators and well-known celebrities. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Press Promotion Foundation in 2019, 98.1 percent of 1,000 adult men and women in their 20s or older responded that they are aware of news from celebrities who have committed suicides due to flaming. When the respondents were asked on the extent of the belief that negative comments influenced the extreme choices made by celebrities, 97.7 percent said they were influenced by the comments. Of them, only 25.1 percent said they had a slight impact, while the remaining 72.6 percent believed they had a significant impact. The percentage who responded that flaming influenced the suicides showed high level, which represents the seriousness and the public perceptions of flaming.
There are two main types of punishment that flamers can get, contempt and defamation.
One of them is contempt. Contempt is charged when posting abstract judgments, derogatory expressions, without specific details and facts. If a person commits this kind of crime, he or she could face up to one year in prison, imprisonment and a fine of up to two million won.
The other is defamation. Defamation is a crime that when a person publically speak out about something that undermines the social reputation of the other person, even if it is true. If a person is guilty of defamation, he or she will be sentenced up to two years in prison or imprisonment or a fine of up to five million won. If he or she posts the fact, they will be sentenced up to five years in prison, suspended for up to 10 years, or fined up to 10 million won if he or she posts false information.
If contempt and defamation are committed at the same time, contempt would be charged. Considering that flaming is not just a verbal abuse but a serious cyber-crime that threatens other people's lives, the level of punishment for flaming is ridiculously low. Recently, there have been growing calls for the development of the social system and regulations as the damage caused by flaming is highlighted. In response, Rep. Kim Jae-won of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party proposed a revision to the criminal law that would drastically raise the level of punishment for the insult. In addition, on October 31, Kakao Group abolished the comment service on their portal website, Daum.
It is difficult to eradicate flaming despite the enactment of relevant laws and efforts of society. There is a limit to deal with flaming only by relying on the law. Therefore, above all, users must control themselves. According to a U.S. social psychologist, the evilness of human beings is revealed when anonymity is guaranteed. In other words, when anonymity is guaranteed, it reduces guilt and increases the chance of having antisocial behavior. Therefore, we need to think about whether our comments are opinions based on anonymity. If many users think a little more about the feelings of others, it will greatly reduce the number of comments that can even lead someone to death. I hope you look back and see if one comment you casually posted today has hurt others.
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