Minding our own business

AWHILE back, I noted an acquaintance who shared a photo of a car without a disabled sticker parked in a disabled parking spot on social media, along with expletives and condemnation. The comments can only be described as a witch-hunt. I privately messaged him, telling him that sometimes I park in a disabled parking spot because the guards would tell me to, because I push my mum around in a wheelchair.

His response was that my situation was different and that the person who parked in the parking spot was obviously not disabled. My question then was how he had that knowledge, considering he merely had shared someone else’s post.

When we look at things on social media, or any kind of media, how fast do we pass judgment? Do we take a step back and reflect? What other information don’t we know? Should we even be bothered? Why are we so emotional or reactive?

When the Web 2.0 burst on the scene in around 2005, many people became “citizen journalists”, providing an outlet for new voices and perspectives, aside from traditional news outlets. Now, with the advent of social media, everyone is a citizen journalist and every grievance is posted online for all to view and judge.

My thoughts were on this when the viral video hit the news of a woman who threw her slippers at another woman’s car in Langkawi. The video made netizens unhappy because the woman’s behaviour was pretty disturbing, considering she even flipped the bird to the other “victim”.

For those not in the know, the incident apparently took place because a woman and her friends had apparently been looking for a parking spot at a Ramadan bazaar in Langkawi. Her claim was that the car behind her quickly parked in a parking spot which was obviously hers. Following that, the wife of the driver who had taken the parking spot had showed her an obscene gesture and threw slippers at her car.

Lots of condemnation took place within a day, and in a sense the woman deserved it, because she carried on with her tirade, notwithstanding knowing that she was being recorded. And for what, other than for sharing on social media!

Two days later, the driver who took the parking spot came forward and apologised on behalf of his wife. His side of the story was that the car in front of him overshot the parking spot, so he just parked. In addition, he claimed that the aggrieved driver had insisted the parking spot was hers and “hurled expletives” which had angered his wife, who consequently had thrown her slippers and displayed the obscene gesture.

I’m not excusing the driver’s wife for her actions, but I honestly wonder whether if I were in the other driver’s situation, and if those things really had happened, how would I react? I mean, I know I have been driving around looking for parking behind a car who then decides to suddenly reverse into a parking spot. Colour me annoyed!

And I observe my friends and myself when we discuss this or similar issues posted on social media, and I notice how angry everyone gets. We get angry about something that didn’t happen to us, and usually after hearing only one side of the story from a person we don’t even know. Soon, things spiral into communal prejudice or even racism. Because , you know that everyone has to add some spice to the story!

Would it be too much to take a step back and just ask: do I know the whole story? Was I even there? Was this reported with journalistic integrity? And then make a judgment, if necessary. Because if you think about it, most often these stories don’t even deserve our judgment. They are usually private matters that don’t necessarily involve us or our opinions.

Daniel freelances in writing and fitness training, and has a deep passion for health, fitness, sleep and travel. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com