Taking a stand against hate speech

Malaysians should take the principles of Rukunegara to heart. — Filepic

FOR a country in which one of the Rukunegara principles is “Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan” (courtesy and good manners), it is disappointing to see how social media has become a minefield of hate.

From personal attacks against public figures to outright racist and sexist comments, some Malaysians seem to have abandoned decency when interacting online.

It is even more disappointing when these views are espoused by your own “friends”.

A few weeks ago, I had come home after a long day at work and wanting to relax, opened my Facebook to see what my friends were up to.

Instead, I was shocked to see disturbing posts being shared by some Facebook friends while making comments using inappropriate and at times downright vulgar language.

I wondered how I ever became friends with people who espoused such views in their social media posts.

However, that was not the first time the same group of people had made such posts. I had closed an eye then, not wanting to get involved.

But that night, my tolerance for their racist and sexist comments ended.

I decided to disassociate myself from these people then and there by “unfriending” them.

I paused for a moment at each profile, and tried to recall if the person had made any posts that I was not comfortable with.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge proponent of free speech.

I believe that everyone has a right to voice their opinion, even though I may not necessarily agree with them.

I apply this principle in my job too, and as far as possible, give all parties their right to respond.

But I also think that free speech is a right that must be exercised responsibly.

As a journalist, I know that there are always different sides to a story and that every issue is a lot more nuanced than one side would like to admit.

But I have had it when these so-called friends voiced their opinions --- no matter how uninformed --- with a terrifying lack of self-awareness as to the consequences.

Despite having paper qualifications and positions of responsibility in their professions, they had no qualms about tearing others down or spewing hatred online.

By removing these people from my social media accounts, I hope to be spared the negativity that they spread.

There was a time when I would let it pass but no more, I need to surround myself with people who will uplift me and others.

I refuse to read posts that see only the bad in others.

I am looking out for my mental health when I cut these people out of my life, online and offline.

By disassociating myself from such people, I am also taking a stand against hate speech.

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