Back in the university, I always thought, what is the point of studying those so-called theories when in fact they could hardly be applied to our media in Malaysia? One of the rare theories that I personally think is important and useful in preparing myself for the media world was the “Social Responsible Theory”. It is basically a theory that serves as a guiding principal for the mass media. One of the topics includes how media personnel judge their contents before sharing them with the public. Or many called it – censorship.
Throughout my few humble years in the media, certainly there was some information that I think the media did right to not share it with the public. Although many might disagree with me on this, but yes, there is certain information that should not be shared with the public. Argue with me with all the “freedom of speech” points you can find, but trust me, you do not want a picture of a gory dead body to be the front page of a newspaper. Not to mention the racist quotes from some influential people that could stir and disrupt public harmony.
Do not be mistaken, I’m all out for freedom of speech, but I’m just hoping while keeping the “freedom” in our pocket, we will not neglect our social responsibility as well.
In recent years, with the growing of Internet usage, the impacts and influences of the social media are no less powerful than those by the media in the old ages. While the Social Responsibility Theory was applicable only to mass media many years ago, today this theory could be applied to almost everyone who uses the social media.
The question is, do netizens understand and are fully aware that their postings could bring harm to certain people in the society?
Earlier this year, a report done by a British think tank said that more than 10,000 racists and derogatory tweets were tweeted daily. That is about seven negative messages every minute! Everyone can type and share what they want via social media because – it is their freedom of speech, right? But at the same time, do these people also realise that they should not abuse this ‘freedom of speech’ by sharing something which could create discomfort among other users? What are these keyboard warriors trying to prove by posting a racist statement?
Lately, I was shocked by the pictures posted by one of my friends on Facebook. The pictures showed the whole process of a mother giving birth in an operation room. As a woman myself, I find these pictures highly inappropriate for the public space. I do not quite understand the purpose of having these pictures to be shared for the whole world to see. What is the creator of this post trying to tell us via these bloody pictures? Even IF some may say that there is nothing wrong with sharing the beauty of childbirth because it is a natural biological process; still, is it really suitable to show these pictures to users of social media consisting of people of all ages?
Another incident recently involves a Malaysian woman who became famous for her “Peugeot-Steering Lock” road rage. Shortly after the fiasco, her personal identity with her full name, address, mobile number and work place address were all made public in a blog and shared among the social media. While I understand the society is angry on her shameless act, but who are we to judge her to this extend? What if some bad people are planning revenge against her? If something were to happen to her because of those leaked information, who will take up the responsibility? No one.
I have to agree that although social media does push our government and the media to be more transparent in information-sharing, which is a good sign in achieving free press in Malaysia. However, netizens should not abuse the usage of social media as well. A self-regulation should be practiced by everyone before posting anything on the social media. Think of the consequences, and put yourself in the recipients’ shoes. Be a responsible user. Remember, your words, videos or pictures could mean the whole world to someone.