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A time to share and a time to reflect

Thoughtful posts give meaning to others; thoughtless ones cause pain and rouse anger

SUPPORT AND SOLACE AMID PAIN

One woman's courageous battle against cancer has been inspiring many others online.

Over a series of 72 candid photographs, Facebook user Priscilla Jennifer Teh told the story of how she was admitted to Singapore General Hospital last year due to an intense pain in her abdomen.

The doctors managed to remove a 4.5kg cyst from her abdomen, but she was diagnosed with third-stage Germ Cell Tumour.

Her photos documented her battle scars - a long incision across her abdomen and a head shorn of hair as she underwent chemotherapy.

It also focused on her loved ones - her boyfriend who supported her and her sister and mother who cut their hair short in solidarity.

She eventually recovered.


A three-minute video produced by Familiar Strangers shares creatively told stories of low-wage migrant workers and captures the reactions of the workers when they come across reckless comments about them.  PHOTO: FACEBOOK/FAMILIAR STRANGERS

"Finally have time to compile the pictures and share it," she said in her post last Wednesday, "Not to gain sympathy but to share the possibilities of getting struck with such misfortune, fighting the battle and winning the war with love and support from close ones."

Her post has so far garnered more than 44,000 likes and over 35,000 shares.

Many users also shared their stories. "I lost an ovary when I was 16 and my friends and family were with me all the way. I thank God for my life," said one.

"I'm currently undergoing chemotherapy now for another type of cancer. You are an inspiration," said another.

Needless to say, Ms Teh was taken aback by the amount of online support she has received.

"I'm happy that my story is able to create awareness and inspire others about cancer and survival. I definitely couldn't have gone through it alone," she later said.


Ms Priscilla Jennifer Teh touched others with photos of her battle scars - an incision across her abdomen and hair loss.  PHOTO: FACEBOOK/PRISCILLA JENN LI

This isn't the first time going public with a struggle against a disease has taken a life of its own online. Last year, Facebook user Chan See Ting took to the social media platform to share her experience with alopecia areata, an auto-immune disease that attacks the body's hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Thousands of people shared her story, and it later led to a first-of-its-kind support group meeting for those who suffered from the condition.

WATCH WHAT YOU SAY

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • #NATIONALHUGDAY/#NATIONALHUGGINGDAY: These were the top trends last Thursday as people were '"encouraged to openly express themselves through hugging". Embracing another living thing reportedly fills the body with oxytocin and will help ease blood flow and alleviate stress.


    #JUSTINBIEBER: Unwanted attention for pop star Justin Bieber as terrorist group ISIS hijacked his hashtag in a bid to reach out to the young people who follow him. The group used this hashtag, as well as #ISIS and #ISIL in their latest graphic execution video.


    #TWITTERDOWN: The social media platform was down for at least an hour last week. Users, who tweeted hours after the disruption, poked fun at the situation. "Twitter was down earlier so I spent some time with my family, they seem like nice people," said one user.

How do you think migrant workers feel when they come across reckless comments about them?

This was the theme of a three-minute video that was released last week.

It was produced by Familiar Strangers, a movement founded on National Day last year by university students, to share creatively told stories of low-wage migrant workers.

Many of the comments, said without any thought of consequences, are cringe-worthy. You can easily spot a sampling of this on your Facebook or Twitter feeds, typically reacting to news about a crime committed by a foreigner.

"They are smelly and they always stare at me. I do not feel safe at all," Bangladeshi Barman Shemal Candra reads one out, a pained expression flitting across his face.

His reply? "When some Singaporeans see my face, they get scared. But I feel… people here are good."

However, it's not all doom and gloom. The video also highlights positive comments.

"I want to say thank you to foreign workers for helping to build Singapore."

Watch the video at str.sg/ZVCY

THE FREEDOM TO TWEET

His Tweets were "insulting" and "homophobic", but ultimately did not translate to criminal harassment. After a lengthy trial, Canadian Gregory Alan Elliott, a graphic designer, was acquitted of the charges filed against him by two women.

The case is believed to be the first example of Canadian courts weighing in on issues of harassment on the social media platform.

Mr Elliot was embroiled in a Twitter war of words with feminist activists Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly dating back to 2012.

He had initially approached Ms Guthrie, offering her his services for her activist work.

But their Twitter interactions eventually turned hostile as their working relationship soured.

Over the course of many months, the women alleged that Mr Elliot was a "creep" and a paedophile and said that they wanted to "teach him a lesson".

He retaliated, using vulgarities and calling them "nut jobs".

The judge, in his ruling, said Twitter users in Canada have a right to freedom of expression.

He added that hashtags were not considered communications covered by laws against harassment.

"Once someone creates a hashtag, anyone can use it. Everyone has to be able to use it freely; anything less will limit the operation of Twitter in a way that is not consistent with freedom of expression," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'A time to share and a time to reflect'. Print Edition | Subscribe