It’s only been a few days into the new year but all I’ve been seeing while scrolling through my social media lately has been judgement.
With the amount of time people spend on the interwebs, it becomes easier for us to consume the data we see online and pass judgement according to what is seen.
Every day starts a new adventure of us discovering various headlines that will either leave us reeling in anger over inconsiderate actions or befuddling enough to start a discussion among peers over lunch. Admit it, not a day goes by when we’re not judging something we saw on social media.
We are a rather emotional society, whether it be offline or online. But I’ve noticed Malaysians can go from spreading great love and positivity to slamming someone with criticism in a split of a second.
And we’re quite vocal about it, especially through social media.
Recent Case Studies Of Social Media “Judgement”
A recent example would the report about 7-year-old Tan Yao Chun from Changlun who was unable to attend school due to his Malaysian father not registering his birth with the Malaysian embassy in Thailand.
The news exploded on social media with over 8,000+ citizens commenting about how unfair this treatment was and that the child deserved education despite his stateless status.
This spurred the Kedah government to announce that stateless children are now allowed to enrol into government schools just a day after the report received all that online attention.
You could argue that this was a decision long coming, but having the issue covered by various media sites and being shared over 8,000 times was probably the push the government needed.
In another case November of last year, a Malaysian couple was recorded harassing a police officer. The video spread like wildfire on social media with it being viewed about 500,000 times on Facebook and gaining over 6,000 comments, largely negative.
This prompted for action to be taken by local authorities where the couple were jailed and fined for their actions a few days after the video had been shared around. This delighted netizens, with over 5,000 liking the post and 3,000 out of the 6,000 reactions laughing at the fate of the couple.
It’s good to see the influence of social media affect daily decisions made by authorities but it could also prove to be heavily damaging as well.
An example was when Suat Ling Lim posted a photo online with Datuk Ambiga during the recent Bersih 5.0 rally and allegedly posted a status along with it about how “Malays are all RED monyet in disguise, please balik jamban”. This made her into public enemy number one overnight.
A Facebook user commented that Suat Ling deserved to die and this was one of the most popular comments left on that post with over 200 likes. Most of the people had also responded with an angry emoticon, with over 2,000 reactions out of the 5,000 reactions it got.
However, it was later revealed that the status was not Suat Ling’s original wording which was “Rallying with our champion of human rights advocate, Dato Ambiga #bersih5”. Despite her efforts to clear her name, the damage was done and multiple sites online had reported it. It took some time before the sites took down their posts about this issue.
Just a quick scan of these comments was enough proof that people easily judge without proper research. Most of the reactions left on that post that wasn’t even uploaded by her just jumped to the conclusion that she was purposely creating negative heat among the different races in Malaysia and that her offensive act deserved official punishment.
To put this into a more legal context, let’s just assume that this was taken to court. Even though she is innocent, that would not have mattered if netizens were the jury. She would have been deemed guilty and forever branded as a racist.
I’m not saying this is always the scenario but it has been something that’s quite prominent. Other examples I could say is how people reacted to the Malaysian girl who ran over the thieves that had snatched her bag.
Yes, they were at fault for theft but does it really warrant comments such as “You go girl..you should reverse and forward back to back until those 2 confirm died”?
Moving Beyond Snap Judgements
So, what can be done to reduce the bad and maintain the good?
Since online news is being consumed so easily, a measure of responsibility must be upheld by the media. From the content to the headlines and even the images used, every single thing must be done with care to make sure no misinformation is spread.
Fake news also now being recognised as a major issue, with experts even claiming the U.S elections were jeopardised because of continuous consumption of fake news.
Social media platforms are already attempting to reduce the presence of fake news by taking precautions. Facebook has detailed out their plan to combat fake news being spread around on their platform by working together with fact-checking groups to identify bogus stories and allowing users to report hoax news.
Personally, I’d like to one day go through my social media sites and not see such quick judgement being made about a piece of news that may or may not be true. I do think it’s fine to discuss viral topics among your peers but I believe measures should be taken before posting something online that could be more damaging than you’d think.
I hope that with efforts made by members of the media to reduce biased and factually incorrect articles will also be met with the attitude of our people to find out more behind the headlines and reserve judgement until the story is clear.
We don’t want another incident of people getting all emotional over a fanfiction letter about two badminton legends now do we?
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