How much does a famed artist owe their fans on social media and what bandwagons should they be jumping on?
Chan Marshall AKA singer-songwriter Cat Power posted a picture on Thursday on her Instagram feed (Warning: Image may be graphic) from user @justtowatch that shows apparently self-inflicted wounds. Marshall engaged with fans in the comment section who were calling for her to remove the picture. Marshall is no stranger to mental health issues. In 2012 she was hospitalized after admitting to having an alcohol problem. She documented her stay at Mt. Sinai hospital on her social media as well.Far too many teens suffering from mental illness take to social media seeking for help. Instagram and Tumblr are littered with teens posting pictures similar to @justtowatch’s. Many times comment sections are filled with support, but other times trolls bagger the troubled teens into suicide.
Marshall’s reposting of the picture admittedly comes from a good place but might be a bit misguided. She seems to be looking for support herself. She wrote @justtowatch a hastily written message in the comments: “I found u searching some pain I been going through, past few months & I searched #fakefriends while feeling pain of loss, of trust & camaraderie… and I discovered you. I lnow [sic] i don’t know you & neither do my followers & I know you don’t know me, but I wanted to reach to you.”
But the graphic nature of the picture caused outrage among many in the comments. @frankiebartram summed up many fan’s calls for the picture to be removed: “I completely understand and agree with everything you’re saying and what you said to her was very admirable and kind, i just found the image that came with it too graphic and so could cause problems for other people.”
Marshall replied: “u are correct. I will direct message her. I just thought maybe the seeking of attention may give her the platform for others to reach out to her. We all need support & most of us who grew up without it, but who came out of it, look at social media differently than most… We look at it as a wider tool.”
She then said she would take the picture down, only to received support from others urging her to leave the picture up.
@lilkayne wrote: “we see where you were coming from chan dw lots of love to all those out there struggling, you are strong & will survive.”
Where is the line between help and self righteousness? Ever since Marshall’s 2012 hospitalization, her social media presence has been full of political fervor over a number of causes. At the height of the unrest in Ferguson, she even bought a ticket Missouri and joined the protesters. But the posting of a fan’s self-mutilation picture feels more like a cry for help and less like a cause célèbre. It’s Marshall herself saying, “this is how I feel, too” not “we should help people that do this.”
Like the original poster of the picture, Marshall is seeking the same kind of attention, but instead of posting a graphic picture herself, she is perhaps using @justtowatch’s display to elicit a similar response by proxy. The singer admits she’s been searching the hastag #fakefriends, alluding to some sort of unnamed personal frustrations.
But does the troubled singer have an obligation to due diligence before she out-of-the-blue reposts something as evocative and possibly triggering as a cutting picture? If she did want to draw attention to an issue, there are better likely ways to go about it.
As of publication time the picture has not been removed and @justtowatch’s profile has been taken down.
The mutilation picture has almost 400 likes.