One day during a bus trip to Orchad, I saw this young lady, appeared to be in her 20’s, sitting in the reserved seat of a packed train ride. Obviously, there were a lot of people looked at her mockingly because there was a rather-old man in his 50s, standing in front of her, who was definitely more eligible to get that seat. She shrugged off those mocking eyeballs by keeping herself busy to the iPhone on her hand, furiously browsing this website called STOMP (I happened to have a sharp eye!). Though I totally disapproved her ignorant attitude, I was more amazed by the website she browsed through. What makes her so engaged in this STOMP?
I have seen it somewhere, I have read it somewhere, but this is the first time after some time this website, named STOMP, came back to my memory. Yes! It’s that same website that has been buzzing all around during last year General Election 2011 and even the recent Train Breakdowns. When I reached back home, I spent some minutes (actually hours maybe) exploring what this website is all about and it was amazing. The extent of its contents, the number of comments, and even the variety of news it has inside can easily beat the content of several established newspaper in Singapore.
STOMP is an online citizen journalism platform where anyone can take photos and post news directly without the need of screening from editors or even linguist, the usual SOP in any normal newspaper. It is no wonder that some of the news posted are rather raunchy. You may also find some grammatical errors along the way, it’s not that difficult to spot one.
What’s interesting is that STOMP allows its users, mainly Singaporean, to connects, engages, and interacts with each other through posting comments and replies. It also claimed to have won numerous accolades to further increase its credibility. Yet, as I read through some of the older postings about General Election as well as the recent SMRT Saga, I become more and more horrified with the sarcastic and rather rude comments that users posted in response to these news.
In an entry about public transport problems in Singapore, one can find a full list of “scornful” comments calling the ex-SMRT CEO, Mdm Saw Phaik Hwa, to quit her job. Reflecting on such post: were these rude comments based on objective intentions or were they made based on angers and frustration? I would personally believe that it was the latter of the two options. Worse still, these comments went viral all around Singapore, creating a real public pressure which eventually may contribute to the official resignation of the CEO herself last December 2011. Was it wise? I would not comment on that issue here but for sure, I see the same rude comments that others posted about me online, I would feel very uneasy.
In another entry calling Singapore taxi operators to remove the ad containing Jack Neo, a prominent Singapore movie maker who recently mired in extra-marital affair scandal, we can also find similar rude comments using Chinese abusive language. Again the question I would ask would be: isn’t he the movie maker that has brought Singapore movie industry to earn many accolades in the international world? Have these users ever reflected on what this Jack Neo guy has achieved for Singapore when posted those insulting comments ? As such, would it be appropriate to judge him based on one negative incident in his life and called him in those insulting remarks? I would also wonder what Jack Neo himself will feel if he read through those comments about him (I would rather believe he actually read them all).
Using these entries in STOMP as example, it appears that the line between citizen journalism and cyber-bullying has been blurred. Would you call those scornful remarks posted as an act of citizen journalism or would you call it cyber-bullying? I personally would vote for the second option because these comments are made in deliberate, sometimes repeated, and hostile manner. It fits the definition of cyber-bullying as these postings were made using internet and other related technological platform to potentially harm their targets, whom in these case are prominent figures like Jack Neo and Mdm Saw.
In my personal opinion, it will never be morally right to curse or insult others in front of the public. Here in STOMP these “anonymous” users, called themselves Citizen Journalists, roamed around freely postings these insulting comments. We can call it freedom of speech but once our comments have the potential to hurt others’ feeling, it would constitute to bullying.
The real question here would be did those users realizes that they may commit an act of cyberbullying when they posted those remarks? And considering these postings were quite some time ago and I can still even read it up to now, has our society created a culture of acceptance to cyber-bullying, cloaked in the name of citizen journalism?