Friday, August 2, 2013

Verify & Vilify

Unedited draft

For THE STAR METRO

DIFFERENT SPIN
02nd August, 2013

Did you know that according to a research done on Socialnomics, social media has taken over pornography as the Number 1 activity on the web and if Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest and twice the size of the United States!

I seem to always fallback writing on social media; probably because I have this love-hate relationship with it. As much as it keeps me entertained and connected with netizens from all parts of the world, I loathe it at the same time for bringing out the worst in some people.
Last week, SK Seri Pristana Sg Buloh, found itself in the middle of a social media storm after a parent’s photos of students eating in the makeshift canteen, which is next to a toilet, went viral. This was the latest story that generated a (crazy) emotional outcry from the ‘keyboard warriors’. A week before that, it was the  Selamat Berbuka Puasa greetings by Malaysian sex bloggers, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee (Alvivi).

As it’s becoming the norm, news like these, spread via our social networks before being reported in news bulletins on our radio, television and/or papers. The news spread faster too thanks to the tiny buttons available on these platforms - all you have to do is RT, Share or Repost it.
That’s why it is such a powerful marketing tool. We saw how social media was (ab)used during the recent General Election because it’s a perfect way to be in touch with a large number of voters quickly, constantly and at a low cost - but I digress.

Social media allows everyone to have a voice, but as mentioned by social media activist, Joseph Lee, “ it is no pre-requisite for intelligence”.

L-O-L!

With the emergence of these virtual communities and networks, there is also the surfacing of armchair critics who some, have given a new term for them -  “keyboard warriors”.

According to urbandictionary.com, a keyboard warrior is someone who is generally identified by unnecessary rage in his or her written communications, and are regarded as 'losers' by other virtual identities on the internet.

 Mutual friends on my timeline have been on war with the recent makeshift canteen fiasco, accusing one another of ‘not getting their facts right’. It started out as a civil discourse but slowly it became a wee bit nasty (this happened during the General Election too, but again, I digress).
Have my mutual friends on cyberspace become keyboard warriors?

“I think the problem with some people who comment on these “news updates” and then update their status, is that they vilify and not verify the news first,” says TV Anchor Nazrudin Rahman.

I agree with him. By vilifying first, accusations escalate and the situation gets out of hand faster.

There have been times when admittedly, I too get a bit emotional reading posts shared on my wall. But I have learnt to be careful on what I RT/share with my friends and followers.  I’m trying to make it a habit to not post things that might aggravate matters, no matter how good the initial intention was.
I posted a picture of my family and I at a restaurant during lunchtime during the fasting month. We attended a close relative’s registration of marriage. Someone commented “aren’t you fasting?” which led to some back lashing from other followers on my instagram page.

I’ve learnt to shrug off unsolicited remarks like this but admittedly, emotions were running high on that day and my defense wall was up. So I started to explain myself on the comment page, but was stopped by my “managing husband”.

“We know the truth and above all, God knows. Just block the dude”.

I deleted the whole post. Why?

Some social media experts echoed that negativity often wins out on the Internet landscape and I’ve noticed this happening on my posts too. Anything that was deemed provocative or dissimilar, would garner some off-putting comments.  

So, I was not in the mood to keep reading the disapproving comments that were flooding my notification timeline, especially on a day of celebration.

A research led by Marcel Salathe, an Assistant Professor at Penn State University, found that a high volume of negative tweets seemed to encourage people to tweet more negatively.

So, are keyboard warriors really angry folks lashing out their temper on cyber world, or are they too, being sucked into the pessimistic tunnel of gloom?

According to the findings of the Graciousness Index study commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (amazing they actually have this movement!), people think they have to be nice to each other when having face-to-face interaction, “but when hiding behind veils of anonymity, they think they can be ungracious to each other.”

Maybe it’s high time we learn some social etiquette on social media.

Do not lash out on social media because it can land you into trouble or jail. Be sensitive. What may be harmless fun to you, maybe tasteless and rude to others. (Think Alvivi)


Know what you are sharing. Do your research before you hit the Share button. If I’m unsure but would like to know the truth to the news, I always write it as a question, and not a statement. And finally, ask yourself, “do I really need to post this up for everyone to know or see?”

Sigh. I’m sort of taking out the thrill of impromptu microblogging, aren’t I?

If only there is a setting on social media that can block off negative comments automatically or block unkind remarks? Would that make life on cyberspace more peaceful?

Perhaps everyone should just stick to this motto: If you have nothing nice to write, write nothing at all.

The writer feels, especially during this Holy Month of Ramadan, that we can find some room in our hearts to forgive those who have made mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance - jail time for insensitive FB festive posts or hurling death threats and a demand for a teacher’s resignation over choosing a bad eating location is a tad bit too harsh.


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