Malaysia is 2nd in Asia when it comes to cyberbullying and online harassment.
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Despite the phrase, “budi bahasa budaya kita” which roughly translates to “manners is our culture”, Malaysians are recognised as some of the meanest people on the internet.
In 2020, our online community placed 2nd in Asia for cyberbullying and online harassment. Most incidences of online harassment involve people posting up hateful and derogatory comments on social media.
According to the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) cyber-violence often happens in private and most cases often go unreported.
Online harassment victims may suffer alienation, discrimination, exclusion, embarrassment or even threats that can affect their lives and mental state, and in the worst of cases, commit suicide as a result.
Malaysian policymakers have also considered enacting specific anti-cyberbullying laws in order to curb such obscene behaviours from continuing unpunished in our society.
In an effort to understand why people are being hurtful to others on the internet and bringing awareness about online safety, TikTok, one of the worlds most popular social media platforms, brings together a panel of experts to discuss how Malaysians can #CreateKindness online and try to turn those internet meanies into goodies.
So why are Malaysians mean online?
According to Henry Teh from the Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation (MHF), online harassment is more prevalent in youths compared to adults and stems from the need for individuals to have instant gratification.
Online ‘trolls’, as they’re often called, are observed to be influenced by their exposure to content from traditional media over the years, such as watching those witty and sarcastic sitcoms and movies.
This trolling behaviour is then channelled and amplified by exposure to other modern media platforms like social media to the detriment of others.
“Indirectly and directly, it affects how we think, who we are, our status and how our influences are positively or negatively, and how we absorb information and our priorities,” he said, explaining concerns of cyberbullying being a cause for low self-esteem issues and suicides in our society.
Henry also explained that Malaysia’s fact-paced environment where people have no time to stop and smell the roses, as well as the socioeconomic circumstances that some people face to be reasons why they lash out online.
To them, they may think that they are showing their strength and individuality, but in actuality, they may be showing the wrong side of themselves to the world.Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation (MHF) Executive Director Henry Teh
Meanwhile, Psychiatrist Dr Stephen Jambunathan from The Mind Faculty said that we have seen a steep increase in cases of anxiety, depression as well as suicides in Malaysia with the advent of social media as well as the recent Covid-19 crisis.
He believes that the internet’s anonymity and its lack of interpersonal filters force people to just let their emotions out online.
Sometimes the recipients might not be the actual targets, but it’s just because somebody wants to vent.The Mind Faculty Phsyciatrist Dr Stephen Jambunathan
The doctor explained that people’s representation of their own self-worth has become more and more tied to the media and what others do or say.
He said that we as a society must learn to both adapt and counter the problem by showing empathy and “understand that it may not be directed to us, and understand the state of mind of that person and what they are going through”.
So how do we deal with cyberbullies?
Though it’s hard to ignore hurtful and trolling comments pointed in our direction, it is better for us to react in a manner that gives ourselves peace of mind, so says local TikTok influencer Ceddy Ang on his experiences with dealing with online harassment.
As a content creator, Ceddy describes his familiarity with being someones’ punching bag and the target of mean comments.
“I’m okay when people love to make jokes or they want to digress, that’s fine. But sometimes people go straight for your insecurities,” said the celebrity, revealing that he regularly goes to therapy in order to overcome and live with the issues he’s facing.
He also pointed out the advanced safety and censoring features available on TikTok that helps protect creators like himself from nasty people on the internet.
Ceddy advocates for Malaysians to not be afraid to seek others for help when confronted with cyberbullies and try and respond to negative comments thrown your way with kindness and understanding whenever you can, and ignore unconstructed criticism.
One of my focuses is to help normalise conversations about mental health in the Malaysian digital space, to help inspire people to be kinder to themselves and those around them. I’ve received messages from fans who have said that my content has moved them to take better care of their own emotional wellbeing, and that makes everything I do worthwhile. When in doubt, be kind!TikTok influencer Ceddy Ang
The same note was shared by Henry who believes that people mature through kindness and it takes effort to understand where other people are coming from. Only through understanding each other can we stop online harassment from continuing in our society.
Kindness is like sports, we need to practice it and train for it like a marathon. The more we think of how to make it better, the better we become.Malaysian Humanitarian Foundation (MHF) Executive Director Henry Teh
While Dr Stephen says that hate is a word that shouldn’t be in the English dictionary and that kindness starts from the home and a persons upbringing.
He said that parents play a crucial role in influencing an individuals behaviour and that everyone should simply endeavour to be nice.
Kindness above all starts with yourself, it starts from home because what is initially indoctrinated and inculcated from young will help us be more compassionate, more discerning and more resilient in dealing with the unnecessary comments we often see on social media today.The Mind Faculty Phsyciatrist Dr Stephen Jambunathan
CreateKindness: Putting the “Kind” in Humankind
Follow TikTok in their global effort to promote positive vibes with the #CreateKindness campaign and join your favourite creators to combat bullying and harassment and encourage
cybercitizens to behave responsibly online.
Search for the #CreateKindness hashtag on TikTok to view inspiring content made by creators from around the world or add your own dose of kindness to the mix.
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