WHEN Heat magazine launched in 1999, it revolutionised the market for celebrity gossip.

I was around 16 at the time - prime target audience - and I still remember the tantalising lure of those glossy pages filled with unflattering paparazzi shots of pop and soap stars and the tongue-in-cheek tone of the coverage.

It was so different from the deferential style of the likes of Hello!, which had relied on a diet of Princess Diana stories and seemed lost and outdated after her death.

It was also the era when reality television was born with the arrival of Big Brother and Pop Idol, when texting on a mobile phone felt exciting, and Facebook, Twitter or Instagram were still far off.

READ MORE: Coronavirus panic is just another example of the West's health voyeurism 

The arrival of Heat sparked a proliferation of copycat brands to feed consumers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for stories about celebrities’ break ups, weight gain, wardrobe malfunctions and career implosions, from Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse.

Today - with magazine sales in decline along with the rest of the traditional media - it is still encapsulated by Mail Online’s so-called ‘sidebar of shame’, packed with stories about female stars’ “leggy displays” and the latest Kardashian crisis.

Such outputs have come under scrutiny this week with the suicide of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack, who was at times ridiculed for dating younger men, scrutinised for her weight, or pitied - heaven forbid - for just being single. She described accepting the “shame and toxic opinions” as part of the job in an unpublished Instagram post.

What tipped her to suicide undoubtedly goes beyond unpleasant headlines, but I was interested to read this week that a hair salon in Barrhead has decided to stop stocking gossip magazines in response to the 40-year-old’s death.

Marnie Gallagher, owner of Lots of Locks by Marnie, criticised the “pages and pages of negativity, fat-shaming, shaming celebs with no makeup” and said they will instead stock more positive publications focused topics such as health and wellbeing.

READ MORE: Here's what we must learn from Caroline Flack's death

But it is worth asking - two decades on from Heat - why we even want to read or click on stories that revel in stars’ personal and physical failures, especially women’s. Perhaps we enjoy feeling that their lives aren’t so glamorous or perfect afterall?

For a generation of girls who have grown up knowing nothing different, it arguably normalises mockery and bullying, instead of - word of the week - kindness.

More of the latter would go a long way.