With vitriol, angst and bile worming their way around the comment boxes of many websites like an unstoppable virus, it was heartwarming then that a single story was able to rouse a chorus of positivity and support from Singapore netizens.
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About a kind and generous lady who ran a free food service for Singapore’s poor and homeless, this story, published on inSing.com, spoke of how this lady was driven to quit her charitable undertaking by mean-spirited netizens attacking her on her Facebook wall.
Within half a day of being posted on inSing.com, this story received a flood of comments and shares, and shot up to the third-most read story on the website at that point in time (it’s now the most read article) — a position that normally takes a few days of circulation to achieve. Readers commenting on the piece leapt to this lady’s defence, lambasted those who had attacked her and encouraged her to continue her good work.
After seeing so much ugly behaviour on the Internet, reading these wonderful words of support for a person trying to help was like a breath of fresh air.
And it’s not just in this instance that we are seeing less tolerance for sh***y, useless comments online.
Any antagonistic comment was once viewed as the brave speaking out in controlled Singapore, but as the volume of comments grew and the level of the conversation nosedived into senseless rants, that perception quickly became more discerning.
Now increasingly, responsible netizens — readers, bloggers, writers, tweeters and social networkers alike — are voicing their desire to see more decorum and civility in cyberspace. After all, when comments are trash, everyone looks bad; the commenter, the website they’re on and by extension the whole online community.
No one is saying that views should be self-censored or the party line must be toed for the sake of it, but as rudeness and below-the-belt comments begin to draw contempt; there is more pressure on netizens to behave or risk losing the respect of their counterparts.
We are a far cry from a state of perfection, where only informed, engaging and intelligent comments are posted, and that state may not even be possible on the public soapbox that the Internet is — but the worm may be starting to turn.
With Mr Yaacob Ibrahim, minister of the newly formed Ministry for Communications and Information, again raising the spectre of an Internet code of conduct by appointing a Media Literacy Council, this potential new curve is timely.
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A code of conduct, if passed, could have far-reaching ramifications that go beyond slapping unruly netizens on the wrist and extend to groups in society for which the Internet is their key platforms. Groups like non-governmental organisations, political parties, charities, community-driven groups and activist groups all risk a stifling blanket thrown over them if this code is passed.
Hopefully with more incidences like netizens standing up for a good person in society, Mr Yaacob will have less reason to want this code of conduct. And the online crowd will evolve, at least somewhat, from a mob into a more respectable audience.
(Elaine Ee writes about Singapore, the city she lives in, covering the arts, events, personalities and social issues. her stories have appeared in Time out Singapore, Tatler Homes, Food & Travel and Jetstar Asia. She’s also an editor at publichouse.sg, a Singapore community-driven website run by socially conscious denizens.)
(The views and opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of inSing.com and SingTel Digital Media Ptd Ltd.)