There’s a Person Behind That Screen, You Know

by Anjali Yedavalli

Avoid getting caught up in the juicy details
of distant Internet dramas and gossip.

On May 21, 2021, singer-songwriter Olivia
Rodrigo released her debut album, Sour, finally
allowing the world to relish in 11 glorious tracks
spanning topics from heartbreak to bitterness.
Just months earlier, Rodrigo released her debut
single “drivers license,” which broke just about
every record imaginable.

Most have heard Olivia’s story. She and
Joshua Bassett, her co-star on the Disney+
show High School Musical: The Musical: The
Series, were allegedly in a relationship for some
time until he began dating another Disney star.
Many speculate that this was the inspiration
for the album, though neither has confirmed
anything of the sort. Which brings us to the
question: How much can we really expect to
know about these celebrities?

Joshua Bassett seems to think that
the public doesn’t know half the truth. On
December 3rd, Bassett released a trio of songs,
“Crisis,” “Secret,” and “Set Me Free,” all detailing
past relationships. “Crisis,” in particular,
sparked conversations about mental health
and the toxicity of social media, revealing that
Joshua received excessive death threats and
was harassed for months straight after Olivia’s
album came out.

It’s no secret that social media is
often used as a harbor for hate. A study
from the scientific journal Information and
Management describes how bullying through
SNS (social networking sites) can increase the
risk of depression and self-harming behaviors,
even leading to suicide. A large-scale study
conducted by the anti-bullying campaign Ditch
the Label revealed that 46% of respondents
reported being bullied more than once. What
makes social media so useful for bullies, and
therefore so insidious, is how it offers so many
opportunities for the interaction between the
bully and the victim to be extended.

Features such as likes, comments,
sharing, and hashtags arguably perpetuate
social interactions for longer than they would
exist in real life. This is certainly the case for
many artists who choose to remain on social
media, where demoralizing hashtags about
themselves may be all they see for periods at a
time. Studies on the effects of SNS bullying are
constantly underway, but it is clearly prevalent
in today’s society. Efforts are being made to
combat the negative effects of social media,
but it can be hard to elicit any meaningful
change. A study from the Journal of Social
and Physical Psychology suggests that
limiting social media decreases loneliness
and depression, with the sweet spot being 30
minutes a day as a maximum.

If we should take anything away from
Olivia and Joshua’s story, perhaps it is to avoid
getting caught up in the juicy details of distant
Internet dramas and instead consider that they
are, in fact, people. They are allowed to create
art without threats to their well-being. What is
far more interesting than fanning the flames
of gossip is how two talented artists are able
to evoke such vivid emotions through their
lyrics and music. So, as you trek through your
social media platforms—hopefully, only for a
little bit a day—keep in mind: These people are
real people, with real feelings, undergoing the
normal pains of a breakup. Focus on that first.

One hundred percent of Joshua Bassett’s
earnings from his song “Crisis” will be donated
to mental health organizations. You can stream
“Crisis” on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube Music,
or Pandora.

Works Cited and more information:
Bennett, Willa. “Joshua Bassett Is Still
Processing.” GQ, 3 Dec. 2021.
Chan, Tommy K.H., et al. “Cyberbullying on
Social Networking Sites: A Literature Review
and Future Research Directions.” Information
& Management, North-Holland, 5 Dec. 2020.
Hunt, Melissa G., et al. “No More Fomo: Limiting
Social Media Decreases Loneliness and
Depression.” Journal of Social and Clinical
Psychology, vol. 37, no. 10, 2018, pp. 751–768.

About Anjali Yedavalli

Anjali Yedavalli is a senior at Dunlap High School. Aside from taking academically rigorous classes, Anjali is involved in Speech Team (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Student Council, UNICEF Club, the school plays, Jazz Choir, and is the Madrigal Queen of Dunlap’s Madrigal choir. Anjali’s main goal in the community is spreading passion for both academics and creativity. She has organized and led multiple public speaking workshops for middle school students and volunteered her time at North South Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding underprivileged children in India. In addition, she has joined and contributed to the Dunlap Young Musicians, a student-created music group that performs at senior homes on the holidays. She is also active in her Sunday School (Chinmaya Mission) and has helped write promotional songs and plays to help fundraise for the school. Last but not least, Anjali is a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer of Mythili Dance Academy and has contributed to shows that have raised over $500k for a variety of charities.

About Terri Silva

Terri Silva is a 20-year-old sophomore at Bradley University pursuing a major in Television Arts with a minor in Interdisciplinary Film Studies. For Silva, art is a hobby in addition to a potential career, and she takes it very seriously. Silva thrives when she tells stories in all forms: drawings, films, writings, and more. Silva thinks of herself as a creative mind that wants to share ideas with others, while also taking in what they have to offer as well.