Online life after the coup is characterised by paranoia and political sensitivity, as opposing viewpoints clash and burn. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter represent a virtual battleground of ideas, often among friends and family members. Life asks several people how they’ve managed their online expression —from unfriending and unfollowing to the caution and prudence that must be used when launching their thoughts into cyberspace
Illustration by Gettyimages/Thinkstock
▶ PRATCHAYA CHAICHANA
▶ PRATCHAYA CHAICHANA
Facebook is a free world. I also have my own political views and they should be respected. Unfortunately, not all people on Facebook are nice to you. Sometimes their words irritate you and you can’t change them. The only thing you have control over is yourself. I avoid — though sometimes I can’t — speaking about politics online because, to me, Thai people aren’t truly ready to accept such differences. I don’t get involved in illiterate political discussions. And trying to tell someone that who they are supporting is bad is like convincing someone to change the religion they have been faithful to for their whole life.
I don’t care if my friends or my sister-in-law or someone I know will hate me or think I’m stupid because of what I think. I’m sure I am educated and I’m not blind. I can distinguish what’s good and bad. This is the attitude they should also have towards other people. So when I share a news article or like a politician’s fan page, I do it out of a cultivated mind. If something is too biased, I don’t get involved with it. If I find something really valuable, I like it. Then I may share it. If I care too much about others I would never be able to stand for what I believe is right.
Social media is extremely important in this kind of situation. You get all the instant news from friends, news reporters or the government itself. Hearing from all sides is always better than absorbing all your information from a single prejudiced source.
▶ SARINEE ACHAVANANTAKUL
Co-founder of ThaiPublica news website
I have to be prudent with using social media. I use various social network channels such as Twitter, and blog instead of relying solely on Facebook. Not many people know that Facebook is not a secure platform and not very reliable. I usually use Twitter, since the company has a policy to protect users from surveillance and censorship.
My Facebook has become a battleground after I posted anti-coup messages. There are over 800 posts from friends and followers who debate or dispute my stance. Despite many comments attacking me, I never block or delete comments and haven’t unfriended anyone.
[After last week’s Facebook’s controversial shutdown], I think the junta’s policy shows that they cannot get over the Cold War mentality of the 60s. But censorship will produce a costly backlash. People will not be able to tolerate it, especially the younger generation who has never experienced a coup d’etat and censorship. For them, blocking social media is tantamount to amputating their limbs.
▶ ARUNEE SRISUK
I have friends who are very “red”, and I have no problem with that and we still communicate in life and online. But I can’t accept some distant friends who try too hard to be political and those who don’t know much but get emotional over everything. That I find annoying and psychologically polluting. I’ve hidden and blocked these people since before the coup — around a dozen. Too bad, because we could otherwise talk about something else.
Now when I post something, the first thing I’m cautious about is not to spread hate. I say what I think, but I don’t think we should fan the flames. There are articles, photos and other things that people keep sharing or spreading just for the sake of satisfaction, but I believe most of it doesn’t help our situation at all.
Social media has allowed people who have no voice to have one, people who’ll never appear in the news and whose opinion may not be valued. Sometimes it can be too much, but if we know how to use it properly and constructively, it’s very important.
▶ TAKERNG PATTANOPAS
Even if I did not watch my posts, I believe they must have been watched since 2010. Mind you, as an artist who exhibits internationally, I have my own groupies, stalkers even. They are certainly not confined only to Thailand. For some reason, since 2010, some of my former Facebook “friends” unfriended me because they imagined in their own convoluted heads that I have an unfathomably bad taste for some particular hot Pantones.
I don’t call online scuffles arguments. When people attack my ideas on social media, I just act like Mother Teresa. I am sure that has bored them to death. That is possibly the reason why hardly anyone attacks me online or in real life.
It is banal to say that social media speeds up the dissemination of ideas, but it is true. What is more specific to the political discourse here is that the turmoil generated by Thaksin and the networks of his opponents act as the catalysts that peel off all social etiquette, educational backgrounds and social strata of each individual. At the end of the day, there are two distinct tribes in this country. The tribe that values the lives of others and the tribe that could not care less
The world is too complex to be presented accurately through information shared on social media because it has been selected, edited, spiced up and framed. Even the seemingly reliable international media can distort truths simply by choosing to present or not to present certain pieces or sets of information. Fact checks can be limited to general social media users, but it helps to some extent. At the end of the day, I guess you just have to use your gut instinct to guide you. As I said earlier, which tribe are you in?
▶ TEERAPAT BOONYAKIAT
I’m not trying to manage anything on my Facebook, even during this political crisis. I’m not going to “unfriend” anybody just because of politics. It’s ridiculous to end your relationship with other people just because of that. In terms of my emotions, I am always angry when I see anything opposed to my ideas, but that’s normal when you place yourself in a certain position. That’s why I’m trying to draw myself out of it and try to place myself in various other perspectives. But I’ll admit that one thing I can’t stand — and will fight resolutely for — is if my freedom of expression is tampered with.
These days, when I post something online, I’m more concerned about the lese majeste law and the Computer Crime Act than about offending my friends and relatives. And now we also have to live under martial law. Take the “Johnny Maew Suphalak” Facebook page, for example. It’s a page with photos of cute kitties with funny captions and the page admin’s house was searched recently by soldiers just because they dressed the cat up in a military uniform with a funny caption.
In a time like this, social media is an intellectual oasis. A lot of people with the same ideology can drive their issue or cause. It’s driving our world to reality — just think of the Arab Spring as to how powerful social media can be. That’s why all dictators are so afraid of it, and Thailand is no different. The brief Facebook shutdown the other day shows how they are so scared of social media. Pressure from society shows how the people value their freedom of expression. Freedom is blossoming and we can see that social media plays such a significant role.
▶ UTHIS HAEMAMOOL
I’m new to Facebook, so I was clumsy about how to manage it. But since the coup, I’ve unfriended a few people — those who expressed ill-will, malice and even wished death on those with opposite views. I also can’t accept those who support the coup because it broke the rules on how a country should be governed.
I speak my mind, so now when I post something on Facebook, I have to be careful. I don’t want to censor myself, so I have to limit those who can access my online writing. I always listen to opposite viewpoints and I like to get into an argument, but these days there are people who get shocked easily and who knows, they might report me.
Social media is very important at this point because the mainstream media has been tightened by the rules. Online news is where we get other information besides the official reports.
▶ PHAKJIRA KANRATTANASOOD
After the coup, my news feed is filled with people sharing their opinions. They either go left or just totally go right about it. They are just opinions, so I didn’t block them or anything.
Nowadays I have to take precautions before I post something online, even if it’s only for my parents to see, because they have different opinions on politics. My father supports the yellow shirts, but my mother is with the red shirts. So I have to be careful not to offend either of them.
Social media is good for updating what’s going on around me so I can keep up with current affairs, both local and international. Without social media, it would be no different from if we closed off our country. It’s like being a frog in a well. We only get told and brainwashed by what the higher people want us to know.
▶ YINGLUG RATTANAKOM
I blocked one person who was my friend back in college. She supports the Yingluck government and it’s so over the top. She really doesn’t feel that what they did was wrong at all.
I don’t feel the need to take any additional measures or precautions due to the current situation. My friends and I share the same views anyway. One change I made was my privacy setting on Facebook. Some of things I shared before were for the public eye. Now I’ve changed it so that only my friends can see what I post.
Social media is very important. Some news, I think, can’t really be followed on television or print media. Without social media, I would probably lose my mind. On the day Facebook was down last week, I have to say my heart was almost torn apart.
▶ VIENG-VAHIRA BUASON
I’ve already unfriended and blocked around 15 people on Facebook — those who post impolite remarks or hate speech on their page. I don’t delete or unfriend those with different opinions, only people who are rude. I usually send them a private message to warn them that I need to unfriend or block them and provide my reason. I even tell these people that we can be friends again if there are signs of improvement.
The coup has made me think twice before writing anything. I think it is in the back of everyone’s mind that we should not write anything that will annoy the military.