SPM question catapults British artist into M'sian social media spotlight

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 13 Nov 2019

PETALING JAYA: British artist Laura Melissa Williams had no idea she would be caught in a social media storm after her name was "linked" to an exam question in the SPM English paper, reported British broadcaster BBC.

In the exam question, a 16-year-old paraglider named "Melissa" was involved in an accident while paragliding and was tossed around like in a washing machine after hitting a storm cloud.

She was saved by villagers after landing in a village.

Students who took the exam claimed that the comprehension question was difficult and decided to look up the Internet on the off-chance to find out who this "Melissa" was.

Following their search, according to the BBC, the students found Williams who shares a similar middle name with the fictional character in the exam paper. As it transpired, she was also a paraglider.

News of the real McCoy – or in this case the "real Melissa" – who paraglides as a hobby, soon went viral, and Williams received thousands of messages from Malaysians.

Williams, who is in her 30s, told the BBC that she initially found the whole situation to be funny.

However, she noted that the comments and messages she received turned "more personal and nastier" as the day went by.

"I checked with some Malay-speaking friends as I started worrying. I got a bit concerned about any threats – they just said it was mainly immature," she said.

Several hours later, Williams said apologies came in after social media influencer Arwind Kumar remarked on the incident, stating that there was "a fine line between making a joke and being extremely rude".

"I awoke to thousands of messages of apology, from students across Malaysia – some of whom posted nasty comments originally and now regret it and some who apologised on behalf of their cohort," she said.

BBC reported that Williams has since received invitations to have dinner in Malaysia, offers of gifts, and apologies from school teachers, influencers, as well as a female Malaysian paraglider who asked if they could fly together.

"For me, that's the most amazing thing about this – that the tide turned.

"You hear stuff in the media about celebrities being bullied, and that's the immediate thing that comes to your head, that it's a bunch of 17-year-olds who got carried away, but that's the problem – it's group behaviour, people don't stop and think," she said.

Despite the invitations, Williams told the BBC that she does not have plans to visit Malaysia at the moment.

She is now considering creating an art exhibition based on her experience.

Hello to all SPM students in Malaysia. I woke up 2 days ago to find out I’d become very popular in Malaysia and was receiving thousands of messages, memes and comments on Instagram and Twitter. I was linked to a case study in the SPM English exam paper about a 16 year old paraglider called Melissa that had an accident while flying, that every 17 year old in your country had to answer. As you’ve probably realised by now, the Melissa in your exam paper has nothing to do with me - I simply happen to be a female paraglider - who loves the sport - and whose middle name is Melissa. Since all this started 48 hours ago I’ve had over 150,000 comments, likes and tweets - which - to be honest - is totally surreal... and quite overwhelming too. A lot of your messages have been beautiful and kind and I’ve been encouraged by their positivity - thank you. I’ve visited Malaysia before and love your country and I’m glad that so many of you are interested in trying paragliding. It’s a great sport However, some of the messages I’ve received haven’t been so nice: nasty messages like these are hurtful and can cause mental health issues. As a 30-something woman, I am old enough to see through this but if I was, in fact, a 16 year old girl, it's very likely this would be a different story - those who posted these comments should think before they act in future. C’mon, please #haveaheart - we’re all just humans after all Coincidentally, I’m an artist who works on projects that focus on the fusion of technology and human behaviour and how it impacts on our bodies, hearts and minds. You have given me the most amazing source material for behaviours on social media and an insight into what it feels like to be someone who’s encountered cyber bullying. As I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m not going to be posting on here over the next few days while this calms down. In the meantime, I wish you all the best of luck with the rest of your exams! Bye for now x #haveaheart #heart #theheartmatters #cyberbullying #malaysia #spm19 #art #artist #british #uk #paragliding #flylikeabird #thiswomancan @fly_sussex_paragliding #choosekindness #stopcyberbullying @ditchthelabel Luis Parsons

A post shared by Laura Melissa (@lauramelissawilliams) on Nov 8, 2019 at 2:37am PST

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