What would you do if you had an unhappy encounter in public?
For some, they might opt to take to social media to name-and-shame those who have earned their ire.
And on Dec 17, one Singaporean netizen did just that.
After a “humiliating” experience with a bus driver, a passenger took to his personal Facebook page to lambast said driver.
The passenger wrote: “I told him that we would call [his superiors] and [file a complaint] but he told us that he would tell his superior about this incident. So I would rather post it here to let everyone know how SBS employees deal with such situations.”
The passenger probably expected to garner sympathy and support from other netizens with his Facebook post.
Instead, his rant did the exact opposite.
Many defended the bus driver, commenting that there was nothing wrong in what the driver did. Soon enough, netizens began criticising the passenger’s actions instead.
“Stop posting pictures. It’s a very immoral thing to do,” commented one netizen.
“Look at yourself before blaming others,” wrote another.
Faced with a wave of online criticism, the passenger deleted his post.
Name-and-shame posts hurt, so why do it?
It goes without saying that name-and-shame posts can cause long-term damage to their victims.
Punishment is meted out by the court of public opinion – which seldom cares for mitigating factors, and doesn’t take into consideration that one might have simply been caught up in a moment of anger.
The ones in the wrong are then ‘cancelled’ – boycotted, ostracised or fired.
The bus passenger was not the first person to have a name-and-shame post backfire. In July 2019, a taxi driver lost his job after filming and shaming a drunk passenger who didn’t pay her fare. And, as the bus passenger and the taxi driver experienced first-hand – no-one wants to be on the receiving end of online vitriol.
But, as these posts are often put up in the heat of the moment, the posters usually do not think about the potential consequences they might face by airing their grievances online.
Furthermore, an effective name-and-shame post might even involve some extent of doxxing, which will soon be made illegal.
Do also remember that one’s social media posts can live online forever. So, even if one eventually comes to regret their rash act – especially after they have cooled down and are able to take a more objective view of the situation – the damage is already done, and likely irreversible.
Just take a look at the case of Amy Cheong, who, seven years ago, published a racially insensitive online post about weddings held at HDB void decks on her personal Facebook page.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Cheong, who has since left Singapore, said she sincerely regrets putting up that Facebook post, and also admitted to living with a deep sense of shame.
Despite her contrition, some Singaporeans have refused to forgive her.
“People never let me forget,” she said. Cheong added that it has been a painful and humbling journey with no end in sight.
Like Cheong, a person exposed to online ire will typically have to bear the shame for a very long time.
But why should one continue to be punished years after, especially after one has learnt their lesson and changed their stance on certain issues?
Explore kinder and more gracious alternatives
The truth of the matter is, such name-and-shame posts are not the answer to addressing one’s grievances. There are better and kinder ways to resolving any disagreements or injustice you might have faced.
Commenting on the bus passenger’s post, one Facebook user echoed this exact sentiment. “There are so many ways to solve this problem, and yet he took the most inhumane way, trying to humiliate the driver by posting it to try and shame him, as well as the company,” the user wrote.
In this case, the passenger could have swallowed his pride and asked his fellow passengers to spare some change – most Singaporeans, I’m sure, would have gladly given him the 40 cents, and would not have judged or thought worse of him for it.
Alternatively, if he felt bad to ask for money, he could have tried to exchange his S$50 note for smaller cash denominations with the other passengers. Or, he could have used a cashless payment method to pay them back the 40 cents.
Ultimately, there was absolutely no need for one to kick up a huge fuss over such a small issue, and worse, name and shame his perpetrator.
As the saying goes, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So, think twice before you decide to name and shame someone online in future. Because, as this example shows, being at the receiving end of online vitriol is unpleasant, to say the least.
Instead, let’s practice patience, empathy and graciousness whenever we face difficult situations. Because that’s how we can build a kinder society in Singapore.
That’s how we can all Be Greater.