Last weekend, the passing of local actress Emily Kong triggered a big conversation on the internet.
The 29-year-old artist was killed in an accident in the middle of the night after her car crashed into a tree on Jalan Kuchai Lama on 9 March.
Besides the overwhelming messages of condolence and sadness expressed by the public and her peers, a comment left by one Kiren Raj on a news report of this incident garnered a lot of attention, possibly more than the tragedy itself.
And we don’t mean that in a good way.
This person, who turned out to be a medical student at the International Medical University of Malaysia (IMU), made some remarks that were deemed insensitive, sexist, chauvinistic and plain narrow-minded.
The Facebook comment has since been deleted but it did not stop the netizens from spreading his words like wildfire and the endless condemnation against the student.
The thing is, there was no indication on the news report that the victim was at a pub before the fatal accident happened.
Even if she was at the pub, alone as the student assumed, this does not warrant such a bigoted response in general.
To make matters worse, Kiren felt he did not say anything wrong.
After the initial uproar against his comment, he stood by what he said and made another statement that was supposed to be an apology, but basically generated more anger from people.
“I apologise to women in general and whomever else who feels offended for whatever reason. To clarify, anybody who has or is in an open relationship would understand that this is a normal happening," he said.
“We go out at night with a special person for drinking, and we drop them home safely. We send them home. We protect them. And if they invite us to their place we go and be with them. We kiss, we bond, and we have sex. Our role is to protect them. In return, they give us a good surprise.”
“I forgive those who made this viral despite me removing the comments. I forgive all the hate shown towards me or my acquaintance. I forgive all the vulgar messages I received. And because I forgive, I have not been affected by this at all.”
“Your hatred has not got to me. I also forgive those instigating by misrepresenting the comments to get more likes. This is a social media disease.”
“Let me be the bigger man here and not stoop to profanity or low level of language.”
To be honest, you don't have to "stoop to profanity" to piss people off.
The public began calling for IMU to take serious action against the student because society does not need a chauvinistic doctor like Kiren, if these are the kind of values he stands for.
After holding a disciplinary hearing to investigate the comments he made, the university’s disciplinary board came to a decision to order the student on home leave until further notice.
Nobody has heard from Kiren ever since, as it should be. But is it over yet?
We highly doubt it.
In the age of social media, people don’t seem to learn their lesson time after time.
Last December, a Honda employee
was fired over an insensitive comment she left on Facebook following news on the passing of fireman Adib Kassim.
Ironically, like what Kiren said, it is a social media disease. Maybe today’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage
was a good lesson for all of us.
Within seconds, two people with a prospective future lost their place in society, fueled by the invisibility cloak that is our mobile devices or computers that turned them into keyboard warriors.
Like it or not, the moment you say something on the internet without pausing and using your brain for a second, you’re a keyboard warrior.
Or maybe you think you said something extremely thoughtful, profound or intelligent because everyone is entitled to their own opinions, especially if you’re a medical student. Right?
Looking at Kiren Raj’s case, here are a few lessons we can and should take home about social media etiquette
#1 The internet does not forget
Words spoken cannot be taken back, especially when you put it out on social media. The ‘delete’ button will not make much of a difference with the existence of screen captures.
Just look at what happened to Kiren’s Facebook comment. Dozens of websites have already captured and shared that first remark he made and his name will forever be linked to it.
And with the countless news organisations that have reported about the incident, his words are now plastered all over and will remain archived digitally for a long, long time.
People may forget and move on in a couple of days or weeks, but the internet does not.
What if your potential employer from your dream job makes a simple Google search about you? Your silly mistakes online may follow you around like a shadow and cost you your future.
So remember: don’t ever think that you can get away with a ‘delete’ or ‘undo’ button.
#2 The consequences are bigger than you think
Besides affecting your own future, what you say on the internet could stain your family members, friends, workplace and more.
And don’t even get us started on the victims. Bouncing off the IMU student and the Honda employee, they both made insensitive statements about people who passed away.
Instead of offering condolences, they said things that don’t help the situation at all, especially when they implied that the victims themselves were the cause of the tragedies.
How would their family members feel? What would your own family members think?
We can all agree to disagree, but there is always a time and place to say or do something, which brings us to our final lesson.
#3 If you have nothing nice to say, shut up
We apologise for being too direct, but it is a useful etiquette to follow.
Just like our mothers taught us, if you don’t have anything nice, valuable or helpful to contribute to the conversation, don’t say anything.
The world is already filled with so much negativity on a daily basis. What is the point of adding more to that? Especially in this case when somebody has already lost a loved one. It doesn’t hurt to exercise a bit more kindness and compassion in real life as well as online.
Hiding behind your mobile screen or computer monitor doesn’t hide who you are. In fact, it shows your truly colours even more.
Do you really want to be labelled as a sexist, chauvinist, racist, etc over a remark that you think is harmless?
So remember: if it is not nice, keep it to yourself. If it is something nice, share it all you want!
As for Kiren, we hope you learned your lesson.