Kehlani’s story is a reminder that Facebook and the ‘gram doesn’t care about you.
When I heard about Kehlani Parrish’s alleged suicide attempt, my first thought was: Who the heck is Kehlani Parrish?
I, like many others, hadn’t even had a chance to catch up on who she was and why this was news.
[In brief, in case you need to get caught up too: It’s been reported that singer Kehlani had been dating basketball player Kyrie Irving. Her ex, a rapper named Party Next Door, posted a photo of her tattooed hand on Instagram, insinuating that she was in his bed and that Kehlani was cheating on Kyrie.]
After hours of being roasted on social media, Kehlani posted a photo on Instagram of herself with an IV in her arm, saying, in part:
"I wanted to leave this Earth. Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I'd get to such a low point.”
My heart broke when I read that. Because I know exactly what that feels like.
I’ve suffered from depression off and on for years. Sometimes it’s situational—a tough moment, losing a friend. And sometimes, it strikes completely out of the blue—a chemical imbalance I can’t control.
It takes Herculean effort, (and thousands of dollars for the best doctors available, who often don’t take health insurance), to stay balanced. And I have the benefit of an extremely supportive circle of fellow writers, family and close friends.
There are several things I have to do to stay balanced and these are things that are non-negotiable. I have to eat right and exercise.
And I have to limit my time on social media. Social. Media. Is. The. Devil.
Yes, it’s great that I can connect to my readers via social media. And I have people I consider true friends that I have never met a day in my life. But social media is way more harmful than beneficial. If I post something that no one reacts to, it stings. And when I post something that hundreds of people Like, it’s a rush. If you say otherwise—you’re lying. This back and forth is not healthy for anyone but it can be deadly for people with mood disorders.
Kehlani Parrish is only twenty years old. She is a BABY. She is not even LEGAL.
To be embroiled in this kind of drama on the public stage is just inconceivable. Whether or not the photo of her in bed with another man is recent or old, it doesn’t matter. The person who posted it wanted people to think that she was cheating on her boyfriend. And the reaction from the world was swift and brutal.
I am 42 years old. I came of age before social media. And I thank the Universe for it every day. Because if Facebook and Instagram had existed in the late ‘90s, when I drank and went to clubs almost every night and just straight up acted a fool? I shudder to think what could have happed to me.
And having someone blow up your spot on social media is only the first part of the crisis. Then, there are the reactions that can further push someone to the edge.
Someone on Facebook commented about Kehlani:
“Couldn't care less about her. And frankly, I’m sick of the Kelanis of the world just knowing they have a right to any Black men with money.”
First of all, most reports say that Kehlani is a Black woman. But that doesn’t even matter. How do you hear that a woman has reportedly attempted to kill herself on the heels of a social media scandal and say you couldn’t care less about her.
And then, you have someone like the clearly unhinged Chris Brown saying (among other hateful things):
I’m not touching on Chris Brown’s idiocy. What’s worse than the garbage he spit is that fifty thousand people supported that post. Fifty thousand.
Kehlani saw that 50,000 people supported the idea that she faked a suicide attempt for sympathy.
What if she did? So what if this 20-year-old girl wasn’t serious about killing herself? What if it was more of a cry for help? Does that mean we should dismiss her? Does that mean 50,000 people should agree with Chris Brown?
I have to limit my time and interactions on social media because it mirrors my mental space. If I’m doing well and in a good space, social media amplifies it. But if I’m not in a good space, Facebook and Twitter simply make it worse.
I want this young lady to be supported.
I want this young lady to get the help she needs.
I want this young lady to be able to put this beyond her.
And I want this young lady to get the hell off of social media.
Because the saddest part of Kehlani’s story is that the day she ended up in the hospital—a place where she should not even have had access to her phone—she felt the need to share her darkest hour with (at least) 50,000 people who don’t care about her at all.
Aliya S. King, an ESSENCE.com contributor, is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times best-seller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. She lives in New Jersey. Find her on Twitter and at aliyasking.com.