On May 2, 2017, a man jumped to his death from the 17th floor of a building at Tanjung Bungah in George Town, Penang. The police chalked it up to stress related to his studies. Interviews with friends of Teh Wen Chun, 20, “revealed that he was having trouble keeping up with his course”, according to a police chief.
However, a post on a Facebook “confessions page” begged to differ. Submitted anonymously by someone claiming to be Teh’s friend, the post said the engineering student’s death was driven by vicious harassment through an article posted online and numerous social media posts.
“He was good at hiding it,” said his friends of his depression, adding that they had not noticed anything was amiss, until one day he announced that he planned to kill himself. They tried to talk him out of it, but failed.
His father, Beng Hock, echoed his friends’ sentiments. He said his son was mild-mannered and did well in university, but had been badly affected by other students harassing him online, who named him publicly in their social media posts. “He kept telling us he was fine,” said Beng Hock.
Killed by words, dead by venom dripped from afar. Not the first death of its kind, nor the last.
Were these verbal attacks just innocent online opinions, or were his nameless critics guilty of a much more heinous crime by way of virtual reality? Is it not possible for us to just walk away? Sticks and stones may break your bones…but online posts will probably hurt forever.
Social media and cyberbullying: Endless in its creativity, boundless in its ignorance
Wen Chun was a Generation Z’er, the demographic group after the millennials. Generation Z is the first generation to be steeped from birth in the world of the Internet and social media. Most of their social interactions are online, with cyberbullying evolving into a disturbing norm in today’s society, exacerbated by the tendency of the average Internet user towards stupid, mindless venom.
And what a variety of venom the Internet engenders! It is a microcosm of the human mind: endless in its creativity, boundless in its ignorance.
Malaysia is, apparently, a particularly venomous swamp. Last year, the country ranked sixth worst in a survey measuring cyberbullying among 28 countries – 23% of Malaysian parents said in the poll by tech compare and reviews site comparitech.com that they believed their children had been victims of cyberbullying at least once in 2018. Malaysia ranked the second worst in Asia, better than India (37%) but worse than Saudi Arabia (19%), China (17%), South Korea (13%), and Japan.
For the truly dedicated online denizen, the “Best of the Worst” award goes to forums and message boards like 4chan and Reddit, the mainstays of pasty-faced neckbeards everywhere.
For the past decade, websites like these have been regarded as the cesspools of the Internet, barely regulated spaces where people are given room to be their worst selves.
This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s November 2019 issue from the article CYBERBULLY: A BIGGER PLAYGROUND