An Open Letter to The Keyboard Warriors in Singapore
Written by: #Not A Keyboard Warrior
Dear Keyboard Warriors in Singapore,
Some of you discriminate against foreigner workers in Singapore, stereotyping them as being uncivilized, uncouth, violent , heartless or rude. The truth is, we are not much better than the labels we give them. In a Microsoft survey conducted in 2012, Singapore was ranked second globally for cyber bullying. China was ranked first and India was third.
You may think engaging in online hate speech cannot be compared to physical acts like assaulting someone physically, but it is not as harmless as you think it is. Just take a look at our cyberspace, a platform that serves to connect and unite people has, in many ways, now morphed into a medium filled with so much hate and aggression because of your daily rants.
It disgusts us to read the comments you have about women on forums and Facebook, labeling them with misogynistic comments like slut, bitch and bimbo. What gives you the right to rate her appearance and to objectify her? Even if you truly do think that your victim is fat or ugly, how does that concern you in any way? What has she ever done to you to make you want to hurt her so much?
All these comments you type online without much thought and careful consideration can hurt people and lower their self-esteem.
How would you feel to wake up one morning to find a thread dedicated to hurling insults at you by people who don’t even know you in person but are just making assumptions about who you are? Does hiding behind your computer screens, and using your mere fingers to hurl insults at other people online make you a stronger person? Does having online anonymity necessitate that you are on a higher moral ground than someone who has been selected as the target of online ridicule?
You are not the police on cyberspace and the rest of us refuse to play by your rules that go along the lines of: “Don’t want to get called fat and ugly, don’t post your photos lah!” or “Don’t want to be flamed and attacked, don’t blog lah.”
Sharing one’s views in a civil manner on Facebook and on our personal blogs surely do not warrant being flamed and criticised online. There is definitely nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone online, but why can’t we all do it with grace and respect, and embrace diversity in opinions? No two person think exactly alike, let’s agree to disagree, shall we?
However, it is sad to see the way most of you disagree – by returning an eye for an eye. This trend is getting increasingly prevalent. On endless occasions, when someone posts something that does not conform to your moral standards or something that differs from your opinion… and the rest joins in to cyber-lynch him or her – truly a “pack behaviour” mentioned by PM Lee Hsien Loong in his recent speech about social media. “Do not lower ourselves to that same level to behave in a way which really makes us all so ashamed of ourselves," he said, and we could not agree more.
Yes, you may disagree with Stephanie Koh’s views but does disagreeing warrant personal attacks, making fun of her looks, insulting her family or laughing at her misfortune? Who are you to impose your standards and views on her? Sure, calling people out and talking down to them can help you look morally and intellectually superior in front of your friends. But ultimately, what good does that do? We teach our children about graciousness and forgiveness. We look up to leaders like Martin Luther King and Gandhi but look within yourselves and ask yourself honestly: “Can you show the same open heart and forgiveness when those around us make mistakes?”
We urge you Keyboard Warriors to talk less and read more. Don’t choose reacting aggressively with unexamined emotions and thoughts. There are several alternative news websites around for you to gain a better understanding about social issues. Many focus on the issues at hand with bloggers and writers who contribute to public discourse.
If you are unhappy with someone online, think about it before launching into a self-righteous debate about how morally superior you are compared to them. Most of the time, it is driven by jealousy of their looks, popularity or success of your victim. Sometimes you may rationalise your own behaviour by attributing it to external factors such as the poor appearance or weak moral character of the victim. In turn, you may compulsively engage in hate reading to find things to feel superior in comparison and leaving nasty messages on their Facebook or blogs. What good does this do for you?
While you think spreading rumours and malicious comments on Facebook about them would hurt them, it actually hurts you more. Your employers – both current and prospective – have access to your comments on a public domain, and they are likely to see it when they do a social media background check on you. Yes, your prospective employer may have a bad impression of you without having even met you!
If you want a better life for yourself or want to see a better Singapore online, get away from your keyboard and throw off those “armour”. It is a lot more alluring to be civil and courteous online when you are confronted with differing views from your own.
We hope that after reading this letter, more of you will feel inspired to act courteously online and take a strong stance against uncivil behavior.
#Not A Keyboard Warrior is a campaign initiated by four girls from the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. The objective of this campaign is to encourage cyber civility among youths in Singapore. Support them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NotAKeyboardWarrior