THE Internet and the rise of social media has given birth to a whole generation of people who are adept at creating content.
While this has led to misinformation, disinformation and malinformation – fake news seems to be the order of every day – it also created opportunities for ordinary folk to share knowledge and experiences.
In the past, if you visited a beach hideaway or had the most incredible nasi lemak in some lesser known part of town, you’d probably only tell close friends and family.
Today, you can post something on social media and voila! All five hundred of your followers will know about it.
It’s no wonder then that young people have turned to blogging as a pastime and even find it a viable career option.
Mohamad Shahril Fawzy, or Pojie as he is known, operates the website Pojiegraphy (pojiegraphy.com) – a travel and lifestyle blog which aims to educate and inspire travel by providing advice, photography and narratives.
Pojie, 28, has been actively blogging since 2008 and has raked up 17k followers on Instagram and 18k followers on Facebook.
He was cited in a Huffington Post 2016 listicle of South-East Asian Instagram Influencers You Should Follow.
“I started writing a blog when I was 16. I like to document my daily activities and keep memories. So, during high school, I filled up my leisure time by posting random articles. The topics I wrote about as a school kid revolved around homework and life tips.
“At that point in time, my blog was just for fun and I never thought of it as a profession. Then I started doing travel articles during my university days. I had the opportunity to travel to some places and I used my blog as a platform to share my experiences.
“Since then, I have been approached by travel-related organisations for collaboration and till today, I am still active in this industry.”
Pojie says that because he has a loyal following who trust his judgment when it comes to travel planning, he has the responsibility to give them solid advice.
The journalism graduate agrees that freedom of speech is not the freedom to lie.
“Even though it is my own platform and I have freedom to write whatever I want, I owe it to my readers to write what’s true, ” he says.
“I take pains to ensure accuracy of the information that I disseminate. I usually interview the product owners, double check with the tourism boards and read reliable sources on the Internet to make sure that my articles are accurate.”
Sadly, he says, fake news is an unhealthy culture that is common in the blogging sphere.
“We need to educate ourselves on how to identify what’s fake. Don’t simply trust what you read or received, especially when it comes from unreliable sources. The government has provided us multiple platforms to check the accuracy of news. Use them!”
Solo backpacker Mei Mei Chu, 30, published her first blog post in 2013. In her blog meimeichu.com, Chu shares intimate and honest stories of her experiences as an Asian and female solo traveller.
“I started the blog at a time when solo travelling was still new, and travel narratives and images were dominated by men. Through my stories, I wanted to inspire other young women to create their own adventures and find independence, strength and empowerment through them, ” she says.
While she has travelled to almost 20 countries, Chu has explored Malaysia quite widely, “especially our majestic rainforests and isolated islands, ” she says.
Chu, who has given talks at events including ZafigoX 2018 and Klook Travel Fest 2019, says that writing about and featuring the beauty of our country is a form of patriotism.
“I’ve written about how travelling to other countries has made me love my country and culture even more.
“One thing I avoid is comparing Malaysia to other countries. For example, I’d never use phrases like ‘this mountain in Sabah is so beautiful it doesn’t look like it’s in Malaysia.’ This implies that Malaysia is lesser than other countries. We are equally if not more beautiful.”
The 30-year-old says that fake news is a huge problem in Malaysian media in general, but not so much within the realm of travel blogging.
“The only issue I’ve seen is some bloggers would be biased in their stories. They only feature the beautiful aspects of a destination while ignoring the negative. This is a false narrative that gives people unrealistic expectations of the place they plan to visit.”
Chu says that when it comes to blogging, her policy is honesty, sincerity and respect in the photos and stories that she publishes.
“The notion of travelling and solo travelling has been overly romanticised especially in the age of Instagram. People only share the beautiful images and narrative, but travelling can get very ugly.
“I’ve been robbed, followed, sexually harassed and cheated while travelling. I’ve also witnessed how overtourism has destroyed ecosystems and can burden entire communities.
“I have a responsibility to share the reality of travel, both the good and bad, and not just pretty images for the sake of virality otherwise I’d be presenting a false image. My goal through blogging is to help people travel better and more responsibly, ” she says.
Dr Powell Roy Louis began travelling in his late 20s after completing his medical studies.
“In 2016, despite my busy work schedule, I prioritised travel so that I could have more fulfilling experiences, ” he says.
In the beginning it was just Instagram.
“I shared my travel photos and brief stories at first. But after travelling to 22 countries, I felt that just sharing photos was not enough to describe my wholesome experiences. So I started a travel blog.”
Dr Powell shares his travel stories on theroytravels (https://theroytravels.blogspot.com/), providing insights of the places that he has visited, recommendations of hotels and eateries, and how to travel in the most practical manner.
Adapting to the new norm following the Covid-19 outbreak, he realises how much he has taken our country for granted.
“To some people, travelling means going abroad. But with this pandemic, travellers like me appreciate local tourism.
“Currently, my blog is on cuti-cuti Malaysia, based on my travels in the country, from a local point of view. And I can proudly say that Malaysia has so much to offer.”
The 32-year-old, who hails from Ipoh but now lives in Kuala Lumpur, has travelled to all states in Peninsular Malaysia.
In his latest blog post which details a recent visit to Terengganu, he waxes lyrical about the tropical ambience, tasty food, and meeting people from the east coast.
Despite being relatively new at blogging, Dr Powell understands that it is every blogger’s responsibility to provide accurate and true information so that readers can plan trips accordingly and they will know what to expect on their travels.
“Readers will only support your blog on a long-term basis if you are an honest writer.
“It is also vital to respect every place I visit, regardless of differences in culture, race and religion. So I constantly remind myself that when I write my stories, I have to be careful as to not offend the sensitivities of others, ” he says.