By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Recently, a war of words on a social networking site has turned into a murder. It seems unbelievable, but is actually an inevitable result of excessive abuse of online freedom.
Social networking sites have changed the world. Many young people stay at home everyday, not to read books or newspaper, but just to serve the Internet. They can stay on the virtual world for a very long time to chat with someone who they might not know.
The freedom yardstick of young people might be immense. Their frivolities, arrogance, paranoia and passion could be found everywhere on the Internet. Elders might think their arguments excessive, but young people enjoy it.
However, wars of words online would sometimes trigger anger and some netizens would even do something unreasonable in anger.
A few months ago, a Chinese medical practitioner from Johor Bahru angered some netizens after posting an inappropriate comment on a social networking site. He was heckled, condemned and humiliated. His identity and address were exposed and a young netizen even rang his doorbell to demand an apology. The old man was frightened and eventually, he obediently knelt to apologise and beg for forgiveness. The drama only ended after the video clip was uploaded to Youtube.
Of course, it is an extreme example. However, when netizens walk out from the virtual world to the reality and threaten human lives, we should then seriously consider the negative effects and consequences of the misuse of social networking sites.
It is undeniable that the worldview of young people, including their moral values, has become increasingly distant from the old generation, due to the rise of social networking sites. I do not reject any new media and have always seen young people's behaviours online leniently as I used to be young and innocent, too. However, more and more online comments and articles which were taken out of context could be found and more and more netizens are keen on classifying people, and spread malicious pictures and comments to attack those classified as "dissidents". Isn't such an approach similar to the act of parading dissidents during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s?
Some young netizens are indeed very creative. Those vivid images and interesting texts have caught my eyes. Unfortunately, some people have gone too far to the extend of violating privacy and causing great harm to their dignity. Such a phenomenon has caused uneasiness and even fear.
Freedom and democracy is precious. I very much recognise the courage and ideal of young people in the pursuit of freedom and democracy. However, please allow me to say that, there is nothing wrong with democracy, there is nothing wrong with freedom, and there is nothing wrong with the Internet, and the problem actually lies on the word "misuse". It is even worse if we blindly indulge in the democratic ideal, but strangle the democratic spirit of tolerance!