Renliang Qiao, a famous young actor in China, was found dead earlier this month. His death was not only woeful for his beloved family, friends and fans, but also a reminder of everlasting cyberbullying.

Photo credit:Kate via SkimmedMilkDRAMA

Rumors scattered around

Shanghai Police Officials posted that a “Mr. Qiao” was found dead in his house on Sina Microblog, a popular Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, on September 16. But it didn’t catch the public’s attention until another famous director, Ziyuan Wang, paid his condolences to Renliang Qiao, a famous actor in China, on his Microblog shortly after the news broke.

The public was doubtful about the credibility at first. Qiao had always portrayed himself as outgoing and considerate in variety shows.

Then came the trolls. They fabricated the cause of Qiao’s death as S&M because he was found suffocated to death by a plastic bag with a few scars on his body.

These words led to a storm of speculation. There were doubts over whom Qiao spent the night with. Because Director Wang first posted the breaking news, people assumed it was Wang. Most of the comments said Qiao deserved it.

Later, police officials verified that he had committed suicide at home. He was diagnosed with depression in 2015, and this has become the most possible cause of his death.

Although the vicious speculations have died down, the emotional impact brought by cyberbullying would last a long time. Most of Qiao’s fans cried out for respect. Meanwhile some commenters said such scandals severely hurt his reputation.

Cyberbullying before his death

Cyber-harassment partly contributed to Qiao’s depression before his death, according to media sources. He once posted that he lived a life as desperate as patients with advanced cancer. But the public didn’t buy it. The trolls denounced the analogy of advanced cancer patients because this showed his disrespect for the cancer patients. Along with this, he’d been condemned for snubbing his fans as well as the directors in his work.

His friend still suffered

That was not the end of the story.

Most of his friends who are also well-known celebrities in the entertainment area posted their sorrow on Microblog, and Qiao’s fans reposted their words and gave support to them. But one of his best friends, Joe Chen, didn’t say anything of her friend’s death on her Microblog. Her social media was then overcome by floods of blames for her not being compassionate enough.

People seemed to be compassionate, but the moral coercion on Chen’s obligation to post her condolences was actually a completely un-compassionate act, critics said.

It’s not the first time cyber-harassment has grabbed the public’s attention in China. Social media is based on a mutually approved platform. People find support from others who feel the same way as they do. But today, social media has become more of a surveillance machine in society. When someone has a different voice, the majority of people may screen it out. Everyone gets a free pass, because everyone can be anonymous online. They don’t need to face any judgement. The impact brought by cyberbullying, however, could leave the victims at risk for anxiety, depression and other stress-related disorders. Yet it’s not easy to completely get rid of cyberbullying. Making it easier when facing it. That could be fine.