Zayn Malik Takes a Different Direction, Fans Take It Too Far

When Zayn Malik left mega-successful boy band One Direction, no one expected a reaction like this. And no one is proud of it. Caution: possible trigger warning.

Zayn+Malik+in+the+earlier+years+of+One+Direction.

Mike Marsland

Zayn Malik in the earlier years of One Direction.

Selina Fluty, Columnist

On Wednesday, Mar. 25, Zayn Malik announced he was leaving One Direction, a five-member pop boy band started in 2010 on the British version of “The X Factor.” After the release of their fourth album, “Four,” he confirmed the rumors that he would leave the band. Things like this – people coming and going from band to solo career in the music industry – do tend to happen. But his leaving created an effect that left many appalled.

A trending hashtag on Twitter arose that same day, and its contents are quite triggering. People decided that hurting themselves, then uploading evidence of it to the internet via hashtag #cut4zayn, was a good idea. It was gruesome and depressing and completely uncalled for.

When I found out about this trend, I wanted to throw my phone across the room. A band member leaving isn’t something to hurt yourself over. Nothing is. These are scars that will last forever, and this is all because of a boy band? How will they explain to people that they got these scars because of a trend on social media in their future, with partners and children and grandkids?

Nothing is worth hurting yourself over. Self harm is dangerous, and can lead down darker roads. If you need help, don’t inflict suffering upon your body. Your body only cares about keeping you alive. Don’t try and hurt it. And over such a small matter? Okay, go ahead and cry. Go ahead and cry your heart out. I understand what it’s like for a band to break up, one that you devoted your free time to, that helped you out of a tough spot. I understand crying and being angry. But leaving threatening, hateful comments on social media about their decision? Trying to guilt-trip someone to get back into the band in an extremely horrible way? This was so out of hand, such an overreaction, and I’m enraged and disappointed in these fans for doing this.

Self harm is a real struggle, and these people are romanticizing it, making it a gruesome but shamefully trendy tag. Nothing about self harm is pretty or trendy. Nothing about self harm should be used to try and guilt-trip a celebrity whom, if you ever did meet, would probably forget what you said to them within a month. Nothing about self harm should be used to influence someone. It’s so infuriating to see that people think that this is an okay reaction, that self harm is being normalized, becoming a culture in itself.

I am aware that many people turned to the tag to tell people that this was a bad idea, and that people who self harm need to go get help. And according to the Independent, there are several mental health charities putting up notices about being careful and getting off the internet for a while if you struggle with self harm or are upset over the situation. This is an idea that should be taken into account – in situations like this, the effect of the trend can be greatly lessened by keeping off social media. Also, according to the Telegraph, this could have even been a hoax, something to encourage people to self harm.

4chan, a forum that started several other mass self harm trends on social media (such as #cut4bieber several years ago), were sourced for this trend. One of the users had showed what appeared to be self harm marks on their arm and supported it with the hashtag. This was not started by fans, but it was sped along by others. One Direction fans latched onto this hashtag, and even though it wasn’t the best course of action by far, they participated in it, from evidence in the Telegraph. They were originally tricked, yes, but it turned into a guilt-trip that could have been avoided.

This isn’t an okay response at all, even if someone started this hashtag was “trolling.” Self harm is not a safe course of action, and it leaves permanent marks, obviously. Even if you thought someone did this, you can’t just self harm to join in. Your sadness and anger could have been redirected down a safer route. Make an edit, write a song, write something, make a craft, talk to a friend, burn your posters if you really need to. Don’t hurt yourself.

Zayn Malik should have been allowed to leave the band without having tons people threaten him and hurt themselves. He should have been able to leave without hundreds of people posting themselves crying on the internet because he left. Malik leaving One Direction would have caused a ruckus no matter what he did, but this is not okay, no matter how you try and defend it.

Self harm is a problem that needs to be addressed and then eradicated from the world. This hashtag doesn’t help that cause at all. This reaction to a common occurrence is shameful; these fans need to stop hurting themselves, because no one is worth you hurting your body. Nothing is.

If you’re at all affected by self-harm, contact Childline on 0800 1111

If you’re a parent worried about self-harm, call Young Minds on 0808 802 5544