New Straits Times - - Letters -

AVIDEO that went vi­ral re­cently showed a man driv­ing a white Toy­ota Camry honk­ing con­tin­u­ously be­cause his ve­hi­cle was blocked by other cars parked out­side a mosque.

A group later con­fronted the driver, hit­ting and kick­ing his ve­hi­cle. One per­son was re­peat­edly hit­ting the driver with a red traf­fic cone while oth­ers called for calm. The in­ci­dent was shock­ing and ev­i­dent of so­ci­ety’s low level of tol­er­ance.

This is­sue has been de­bated on so­cial me­dia and con­tin­ues to garner nu­mer­ous com­ments from Ne­ti­zens who ques­tioned the con­cept of unity and con­demned politi­cians.

This is not the first time such an in­ci­dent has hap­pened and gone vi­ral. Some in­ci­dents were mis­in­ter­preted by so­ci­ety in the ab­sence of val­i­da­tion and clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

Two im­por­tant fac­tors play a sig­nif­i­cant role in this is­sue: first, the man­ner in which news or­gan­i­sa­tions opt to de­liver their sto­ries and, sec­ond, when the news is en­hanced with the use of so­cial me­dia, the im­pact is higher to pro­mote ha­tred against politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties, while also pos­ing a threat to race and re­li­gion.

This case clearly shows the power of so­cial me­dia to con­vey, dis­sem­i­nate and al­low an is­sue to go “vi­ral”. So­ci­ety should be me­dia-lit­er­ate. Me­dia lit­er­acy refers to the abil­ity to ac­cess, un­der­stand, an­a­lyse and as­sess the con­tent of a mes­sage or in­for­ma­tion. It is also closely con­nected to ma­tu­rity in han­dling var­i­ous me­dia plat­forms. Ma­tu­rity is needed in each in­di­vid­ual to sieve through the in­for­ma­tion to gauge its ac­cu­racy.

Be­fore we take in any news item or is­sue, it is highly rec­om­mended that we track the sources of the in­for­ma­tion as well as the agenda be­hind it. A good level of me­dia lit­er­acy can as­sist so­ci­ety in com­par­ing news items and is­sues by re­fer­ring to valid sources be­fore mak­ing as­sump­tions or be­ing judg­men­tal, es­pe­cially on sen­si­tive and po­lit­i­cal mat­ters.

There is no doubt that the me­dia and in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy move quickly along­side a va­ri­ety of so­cial me­dia plat­forms, which also al­low for the avail­abil­ity of very dis­tinct con­tents to be shared among Ne­ti­zens.

How­ever, the com­plex­ity of the con­tem­po­rary me­dia en­vi­ron­ment is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to as­sess due to the free­dom of ex­pres­sion through so­cial me­dia. So­cial me­dia is also an in­stru­ment to de­ceive the peo­ple, for in­stance, a hand­ful of peo­ple who thought that they had be­come “poor ” due to ris­ing prices of cook­ing oil, as seen in the re­cent is­sue that went vi­ral and hit us by storm on so­cial me­dia. Peo­ple no longer solely rely on main­stream me­dia but favour so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram.

We can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the fact that the rev­o­lu­tion or the rise of Arab Spring in the Mid­dle Eastern coun­tries are mainly due to the ris­ing wave and in­flu­ence of so­cial me­dia. The speed with which in­for­ma­tion is ob­tained on so­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing its “sen­sa­tion­al­ism”, is hard to re­sist and needs to be ad­dressed ac­cord­ingly.

So­cial me­dia is ben­e­fi­cial if used wisely. This is where me­dia lit­er­acy plays a role so that peo­ple will have the knowl­edge to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween good and bad in­for­ma­tion.

The need to iden­tify whether it is pri­mary, sec­ondary or ter­tiary source should as­sist peo­ple in han­dling so­cial me­dia. This abil­ity to track down the sources of in­for­ma­tion could pre­vent peo­ple from blindly be­liev­ing a piece of news, and worse, shar­ing it.


Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst/so­cial me­dia scholar, UiTM Shah Alam, Se­lan­gor

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