We no longer check to see whether Telegraph.co.uk displays properly in Internet Explorer version 6 or earlier.
To see our content at its best we recommend upgrading if you wish to continue using IE or using another browser such as Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome.
Zayn Malik: The dark truth about the #Cut4Zayn trend
Zayn Malik\'s decision to leave One Direction has sparked a worrying Twitter trend encouraging fans to self-harm. But Radhika Sanghani says it might not be what it seems
Zayn Malik\'s decision to leave One Direction has sparked a worrying trend
One Directioners are utterly devastated by the news that Zayn Malik has quit the band. Their heartbreak is evident in the hashtags flooding social media: #AlwaysInOurHeartsZaynMalik, #ZaynMalik, #ZaynPain, #ZaynWillAlwaysBeAPartOf1D and #OneDirectionNeedZayn.
But there’s one other hashtag trending on Twitter that is truly shocking: #Cut4Zayn.
The idea behind this hashtag seems to be that if enough One Directioners self-harm, they’ll persuade Malik to backtrack on his decision to leave the band to be “a normal 22-year-old.”
It has already been used 90,000 times on Twitter and though many of those comments don\'t appear to be from people acting on the trend, it\'s still worrying that some young people are being encouraged to self-harm.
But what anyone using the hashtag needs to know is that it might not be exactly what it seems - #Cut4Zayn may have a darker motive that One Direction fans are oblivious to.
“There’s a high likelihood it’s a hoax,” says Rachel Welch, founder of charity selfharmUK. “We’ve seen something similar in the past with #CuttingForBieber.”
That Twitter trend came out in 2013 after photos were released suggesting that Justin Bieber was smoking marijuana at a party. At first it looked like teen fans were self-harming as a protest against his alleged drug use – until website Complex Music said the hashtag originated with online forum 4chan.
It looked like the hashtag had been started as a sick joke, with hoaxers hoping to trick innocent teens into self-harming out of their dedicated to Bieber. Welch thinks something similar might be happening here.
Justin Bieber seemed to inspire a similar hashtag. Photo: REUTERS
“People are joining in with it, thinking they’re part of a community that feels the same, but when you’re online people are just names,” she explains. “There’s a risk you’re being duped into something that isn’t as authentic as you might think. You don’t know who even cares about One Direction.”
Looking at the origins of the hashtag, it’s unclear exactly how it started. It was first used two years ago, just after the Bieber one came about, but started trending on Wednesday after Malik’s announcement.
But whether it is a hoax or not, Welch says: “It’s manipulative.” One Twitter user posted an image of what appears to be self-harm, and was told by users that they hadn’t gone far enough.
These types of comments are clearly from people trying to encourage others into self-harming. It’s the sort of behaviour seen on pro-self harm websites, and it’s incredibly damaging to anyone witnessing it.
“The images will be there forever and it’s polluting our social media,” says Welch. Her big concern is that they’ll then end up on pro-self harm websites and will be used to persuade others to join the self-destructive behaviour.
This is something people using the hashtag need to know. If they post photos, comments or even just the hashtag, they could be promoting the idea of self-harm to vulnerable people. What’s more, it might not end here.
“There’s a risk that comes with it,” says Welch. “If you have never self-harmed before, but you choose to do it over Zayn Malik, there’s no guarantee you can stop self-harming at the end of it. You could be left with a life-long issue.”
This is disgusting and must stop NOW > #cut4zayn
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 25, 2015
The other danger is that people criticising the Twitter hashtag could inadvertently be making things worse for young people who already self-harm. Piers Morgan recently tweeted that the hashtag is “disgusting” – something that has been retweeted hundreds of times – and Welch says this is incredibly damaging.
“It sticks. For the kids out there who are cutting themselves because of nothing to do with Zayn Malik, they’ll read it and apply it to themselves. What Piers Morgan and others are trying to say is the situation is disgusting. But that doesn’t come across in that way. How many kids will now think I can’t ask for help because it’s disgusting?”
Zayn Malik with the rest of One Direction. Photo: PA
But this is precisely what experts do want anyone to do if they’re considering self-harming over Malik: ask for help.
“Self-harm is an extremely self-destructive way of coping with difficult feelings and you must seek support if that’s what you’re doing or thinking of doing,” says Lucie Russell of charity Young Minds.
“It feels like a loss. It is a loss but you’ll get through it and it will be OK. Make sure you’re kind to yourself, and tell a friend or a trusted adult if you’re thinking about this.”
She adds that fans need to accept their sadness and it’s natural for them to feel emotional, but they should follow the advice of Malik himself:
“We see him as a role model for other young people because he’s done what he thinks is best in terms of his own being [by quitting the band]. That’s an important message for young people, which is to look after themselves.
“He wouldn’t want any young people to be unduly sad. That’s the last thing he’d want.”
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
There was only one person who could have stopped Jeremy Clarkson from attacking his producer and Beverley Turner reckons she\'s also a dab hand with a toilet brush
Out of a total £26 billion garnered by the Government in direct taxes and cuts to social spending, a staggering £22 billion came from women\'s pockets, according to new analysis
Don’t you dare shame Zayn Malik’s girlfriend
Zayn Malik walk-out: Devastated One Direction fans are aiming some of their ire at Perrie Edwards. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself, writes Emma Barnett
Date with a Page 3 girl? Here\'s what\'s really on offer
A Daily Star advert, offering a date with a Page 3 model as a \'prize\', has been banned by the advertising watchdog. Rebecca Reid explains why a visit from \'one of our babes\' isn\'t all it seems
Celia Walden notices a strain on a friend\'s marriage now that foie gras is back on Californian menus
Your phone is ruining your life. We all need a digital sabbath
It\'s rather ironic that as dot com millionaire Martha Lane Fox pushes for everyone to get online that the digerati have finally started to log off. It\'s about time, writes Emma Barnett
Girls abandon outdoor sports because \'it\'s really cold\'
A new report looking into why young girls drop out of sports has found they don\'t like the cold and face negative stereotypes from boys who think they can\'t play football
Slow down the action and more skinny dipping, please, Poldark!
From their first kiss to marriage in under five minutes, the turbo-charged romance between Demelza and Ross is cheating viewers
"I’d love TOWIE to do the Only Way is Tudor and what about Masterchef does Rationing, wouldn’t that be fun?"
Historian Kate Williams, a panellist on the BBC\'s high-brow, new quiz, Quizeum, talks trash TV, Horrible Histories - and that spat with David Starkey
Who would want to spend their days catching rats, asks Lucy Jones
Zayn Malik: Dark truth about #Cut4Zayn trend
Girls at single-sex schools aren\'t that innocent
Latest and breaking stories from the United States
The very best of Goodwood\'s Moving Motor Show in pictures