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Are we overreacting to everything we see online?

Everyone seems to be angry about something online nowadays.

When was the last time you logged on to social media and did not see at least one post that was intended to cause outrage? In some cases, a full blown battle between keyboard warriors ensues.

Outrage culture is an ongoing epidemic in the world, and Singapore has not been spared.

This trend of getting angry at everything only makes the world a sadder place, and here are three reasons why.

1. The bandwagon effect fuels cyber bullying

Outrage on the internet thrives on the bandwagon effect: one person says something; the next person is quick to agree; and soon everyone is leaving angry comments and tweets - like an echo chamber.

After the recent bullying incident at Toa Payoh Lorong 8, netizens investigated the couple who scolded and shoved an old man.

Without any fact checking, United Overseas Bank (UOB) wrongly came under fire because people wrongly identified the couple as UOB employees.

There were endless comments calling for a boycott against UOB and for action to be taken against the couple, alongside personal attacks and cyber hate directed at the couple.

Such hate only hurts people, and even if directed at the right people, does not solve the problem at all.

Not only is spreading personal information a form of harassment, it is also cyber bullying.

2. We think we are heroes, but are merely bystanders

When did we become a generation that takes videos instead of taking action? By shaming people online, we remain merely passive bystanders, no matter how "righteous" we feel.

When passengers start fighting on the MRT, people are more likely to film it on their smartphones and post them on social media, rather than stepping in to intervene.

There is no doubt a 4-minute footage of an assault will go some way in helping authorities identify the culprits and serve as evidence, but posting a video of the incident does not change things. It just allows people online to bully the culprit, and the vicious circle will continue to repeat itself.

Remember the lady who assaulted the staff at Tiong Bahru's Owndays outlet? Netizens posted hundreds of comments condemning her actions, going as far as sending death threats and calling her racist – while insulting her race at the same time.

Why are we exhibiting the same racist behaviour we claim to despise?

3. Sensitive topics are now close to taboo

Anything you say now about gender, race, religion or sexuality can get extreme and negative reactions. People are so easily offended, it is almost impossible to have civil conversations about these issues.

Just last week, there was an uproar about the upcoming The Voice singing competition in Singapore and Malaysia only accepting participants fluent in Mandarin.

Although the show was only licensed to be produced in Mandarin and was thus a business decision, many people were still angry, deeming it racial discrimination.

Race is not a pre-requisite to have an opinion.

Why have we become so easily triggered, Singapore? We are so busy looking for ways to be offended, it has driven us apart.

Cyber wars have become too commonplace.

Even as I write this article, I cannot help but fear the hateful remarks I might receive for touching this topic.

But if we avoid talking about the important things, the deep rooted misunderstandings that people have about each other will only continue to snowball.

We have to be open to engaging in perspective-changing conversation. It is the only way we can truly achieve progress.

Let's try to think twice before making a harsh comment - how you make others feel says a lot about you.


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