TL;DR – Don’t anyhowly jump to conclusions leh.
A few days ago, there was a horrific accident along Pioneer Road North. In the accident, a private bus crashed through a road divider and killed Mdm Wong Lai Cheng. Mdm Wong was cycling home from work that day. The horrific accident was captured in this video:
The video was posted by Facebook user Chong YiQing. Her father was the driver of the car that captured the video. As expected, the video drew much criticism. If you have time, the comments are quite worth reading as they show how differently people may interpret from watching the same video. It’s almost like a quick way to count the ways people can differ.
If you’re a hurry, then read Ms Chong’s comment and her responses to the people who responded to her comment.
For example, a Facebook user said that Ms Chong’s father is wrong because, “Someone is badly hurt, the least he could do is call the emergency services.”
And then there were some Facebook users who appeared to be experts in helping accident victims. This was the sagely advice from a Facebook user:
“Chong YiQing… So if it was you on the road… how?
There was so much which could have been done. Like stop beside the bus, to make sure traffic is not obstructed. To see how to divert traffic away from the person, cos the fallen tree was blocking the view. Could have made sure the Ambulance was called. Could have stayed to provide statement to the police on the spot. Could have stopped cars to ask for a doctor. Could have run to the nearest clinic to get a doctor.”
To these criticisms, poor Ms Chong did a very earnest job in remaining calm in her response. For example, this was Ms Chong’s response to the above ‘sagely’ advice:
“Wow i really didnt know theres (sic) so much to be done! You must be a really nice person.. like sacrificing your precious time to educate me over facebook. Really thankful.. but im really busy right now so… please help to change this world into the better place by commenting on social media. We need more people like you. Peace!”
So much talk about eye power. Is keyboard power any better?
Yes. We do at times lament that Singaporeans tend to offer “eye power” rather than provide actual assistance. That said, in situations like this accident, we are hesitant to say what exactly should or shouldn’t be done. We weren’t there. We don’t know exactly how chaotic the situation was. For instance, was there a good place to stop the vehicle that wouldn’t have caused even more congestion on the road?
Also, it’s easy to comment after the fact, in the calm comfort of our homes, or office, or wherever. But in the heat of the moment, when you just saw something that horrific happen, knowing that that could have been you if traffic moved a little faster, would you still be able to think rationally and calmly? After all, we aren’t exactly trained or acclimatised to these sort of events.
A friend pointed out how this is one of those ‘teachable moments’ on social media. Whether you are a politician or just an ordinary citizen, see how people can just be reckless in their comments about you without care or regard. For many people, it is easy-peasy to be ruthless and thoughtless when they leave comments from behind their computer screens.
So, does it mean we shouldn’t comment and respond to comments?
See how Ms Chong was fighting each comment? Is it necessary to fight the comments one by one? Is it right for people to judge and assume they would do something else? Is it right to post the footage? So many questions, and probably just as many answers.
We’re not saying that we shouldn’t comment. It’s alright to exhort people to be more proactive in providing help and not just use “eye power”. But we think it’s not right to be all holier than thou. And we are definitely against making things personal and wishing ill on others. We think that that’s being very reckless with their comments, without giving due care or regard to the people they are commenting on.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of these comments in social media. That’s why it’s important to be careful when reading things on social media. Look for facts by cross-checking from multiple sources first, then form opinions, rather than form opinions first then look for facts to support our (most likely biased) opinions.
In fact, we shouldn’t restrict such a practice to reading things on social media. We should have a healthy skepticism when we read anything. Even if it’s something we read from the news. Especially if the source of the news is from tabloids that are known to sensationalize headlines, and especially if from dubious sites known to churn out fake news or articles that are not verified.
Take this accident for example. Shin Min Daily reported that the victim of the accident, Mdm Wong was battling cancer. That’s utter rubbish. This is from the daughter of Mdm Wong:
“My mother was not battling any form of cancer. She was a normal healthy individual, simply making her way home to have dinner with her family. Realising that this false news has been virulently spread and receiving well-wishes of my mother’s suffering being minimised is hurtful, especially to my father.
Ever despite calling up Shin Min Daily News to correct this, they are negligent to the additional sorrow my family is going through. My father in particular has had to deal with many friends and relatives inquiring about my mother’s supposed cancer. This has caused him much unnecessary added unhappiness which really saddens me terribly.”
Will Shin Min apologise? Even if they do, they have already caused additionally emotional strain on Mdm Wong’s family. Will Shin Min do any more to make up for the hurt their sloppy journalistic standards caused? We aren’t holding our breaths.
This whole accident reveals a whole lot about Singaporeans. It has many lessons for us. We hope that we will learn these lessons and be better consumers of media, and also maintain a healthy sense of skepticism.