‘Think be­fore you post com­ments’

Ed­u­ca­tion­ist: There are too many cases of rude post­ings dis­rupt­ing peo­ples’ lives

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - Re­ports by MEI MEI CHU, SAND­HYA MENON, LEE CHONG HUI and FARIK ZOLKEPLI

PE­TAL­ING JAYA: All it took was one vi­ral Face­book post for Fiona’s (not her real name) life to turn up­side down.

It started with a house­mate com­plain­ing about Fiona – who is in her 20s – hoarding rub­bish in her room.

The post, which re­vealed Fiona’s name and phone num­ber, quickly went vi­ral.

“I read all the com­ments on Face­book, fo­rum, on­line news and even What­sApp mes­sages. Some even wrote that this would prob­a­bly end with my sui­cide,” she said.

Fiona, who was di­ag­nosed with ex­treme de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and stress, has be­come a vic­tim of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, even de­vel­op­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts.

She showed The Star the hun­dreds of What­sApp mes­sages ha­rass­ing her and the missed calls left by strangers – many made at 2am or 3am – on her hand­phone. Her pho­tos were also cir­cu­lated on­line.

Fiona’s case is just one of many Malaysians whose lives were up­ended due to so­cial me­dia be­hav­iour.

In the first two weeks of Jan­uary alone, four Malaysians re­port­edly lost their jobs due to back­lash on so­cial me­dia over al­legedly of­fen­sive com­ments posted on the re­cent ab­di­ca­tion of the King.

Three of them are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for sedi­tion after be­ing ar­rested and re­leased on bail.

Ed­u­ca­tion­ist Datuk N. Siva Sub­ra­ma­niam de­scribed the re­cent ar­rests and the sack­ing of a car com­pany em­ployee over her com­ments on fire­man Muham­mad Adib Mohd Kas­sim’s death as an “eye opener”.

“Some­thing must be done (at the ed­u­ca­tion level).

“What is the point of scor­ing A’s and dis­tinc­tions but we lack cit­i­zens with good eti­quette?

“These things should be part and par­cel of our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,” he said.

He is among aca­demi­cians and ed­u­ca­tion groups who are say­ing that it is high time that so­cial me­dia eti­quette is taught to chil­dren in schools on how to be­have re­spon­si­bly on­line.

So­cial me­dia an­a­lyst As­soc Prof Dr Sara Chin­nasamy said Malaysians’ in­con­sid­er­ate on­line en­gage­ment was a sign of a wider lack of me­dia lit­er­acy.

“Malaysians are not aware of the le­gal and so­cial con­se­quences of their so­cial me­dia post­ings.

“They’re com­ment­ing based on their per­sonal thoughts rather than think­ing about the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of race and re­li­gion.

“We are still left be­hind in ar­gu­ing mat­ters in a healthy and con­struc­tive man­ner,” said the Univer­siti Te­knologi Mara lec­turer, adding that most peo­ple wanted to be a “hero” on so­cial me­dia.

“There is an at­ti­tude of ‘who posts first on Face­book’ which has led to peo­ple shar­ing or post­ing in­for­ma­tion with­out much thought,” she added.

As a re­sult, the Malaysian so­cial me­dia land­scape was rife with dis­in­for­ma­tion, fake news, po­lit­i­cal ha­tred and defama­tion, said Sara.

“In Tai­wan, pri­mary school stu­dents are al­ready ex­posed to the me­dia lit­er­acy syl­labus,” she added.

In 2017, Time.com re­ported that Tai­wan was rolling out a new school cur­ricu­lum for chil­dren on how to iden­tify and com­bat fake news while that same year in Brazil, me­dia anal­y­sis stud­ies have be­come com­pul­sory.

For­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral Datuk Ah­mad Ta­judin Jab said me­dia lit­er­acy was an im­por­tant skill to have in the 21st cen­tury.

“Me­dia lit­er­acy cov­ers a wide range of ar­eas such as the types of me­dia and their ap­pli­ca­tions and the usage of me­dia in teach­ing and learn­ing.

“It can be ex­panded to other as­pects such as not mis­us­ing me­dia (plat­forms), which will have bad reper­cus­sions and im­pact on peo­ple and the coun­try.”

Ah­mad Ta­judin said it did not have to be a sub­ject on its own, adding that it could just as well be taught as part of the civics com­po­nents in sub­jects like Moral Stud­ies.

Malaysians Against Rape, As­sault and Snatch Theft founder Dave Avran said so­cial me­dia eti­quette should be taught as a sub­ject in schools and col­leges to en­sure that the younger gen­er­a­tion used the on­line plat­form re­spon­si­bly.

“As Malaysians, we are brought up to re­spect our el­ders and hon­our lo­cal tra­di­tions and laws.

“This in­cludes be­ing re­spect­ful to our roy­alty,” he said.

In to­day’s dig­i­tal age, em­ploy­ees, he re­minded, were seen as brand am­bas­sadors of com­pa­nies.

“Brands are held more ac­count­able for the be­hav­iour of their staff. Ne­ti­zens are quick to crit­i­cise com­pa­nies, even call­ing for proof that they have in­deed fired the of­fend­ing em­ployee.

“In re­turn, com­pa­nies are quick to dis­tance them­selves and claim that the re­marks were made in the em­ployee’s per­sonal ca­pac­ity,” he said.

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