Netizens fight haze with humour

Memes about the yearly occurrence flood social media, as do tributes to late president

It's that time of the year again. On Friday morning, Singaporeans woke up to a familiar and unmistakable acrid smell.

The haze is back.

Singaporeans took to Twitter with a vengeance, and contributed more than 11,000 tweets from 6am to 4pm, when the 24-hour PSI reading crossed into the unhealthy range.

At its peak, there were more than 40 messages a minute about the haze on the social media platform, a Twitter spokesman said.

And in typically pragmatic yet sarcastic fashion, the memes started flowing in.

The hashtag #SGhaze - used by the National Environment Agency to inform the public about the PSI readings - was also used to unite those expressing a nation's collective disdain.

Twitter user Faris Abkory (@farisabkory) sent out a photo of himself with a vacuum cleaner pointed outside his window.


"The haze is back. Everyone play your part," he said.

On the humour site SGAG, a follower contributed a picture of a Koffing attacking the ArtScience Museum with toxic gases. PHOTO: SGAG/Twitter

The use of a vacuum cleaner to "suck up" the haze has been a gag in recent years. It is certainly as absurd as it is pointless, but it provides some comic relief.

Humour site SGAG (@SGAG_SG) posted a picture submitted by one of its followers depicting Singaporeans' other current obsession: Pokemon Go.


  • ICE-CREAM SANDWICH: Buzzfeed recently included in its list of 21 Absolute Worst Sandwiches the ice-cream sandwich, a sight familiar to many in South-east Asia. The outrage was so strong it forced the media outlet to retract its entry. In a note below, the author said: "I'm sure it's delicious! Sorry for the mistake in including it."

    JOSEPH SCHOOLING ON BOARD SQ67: A Straits Times video of Joseph Schooling on his flight back to Singapore was the top-performing (non-music) local video on YouTube last week, according to Google. It has since garnered more than 315,000 views.

    RYAN LOCHTE: The swimmer not only lied about getting robbed at gunpoint in Brazil, he also reportedly vandalised a petrol station toilet. For his antics, he was dropped by several sponsors including Speedo, and is facing charges.

In one, a Koffing, a purple spherical monster which fights with toxic gases, attacks the ArtScience Museum.

"It's super effective!" the caption reads.

In another tweet, a Charizard - a fire-breathing dragon - is seen feeding the forest fires in Sumatra.

Twitter user Tone (@C64Tone) posted two drastically different photos taken from the same location, one obscured by haze and the other one clear.

"Two days in Singapore. One from yesterday, one from today showing the smoke haze blowing from Indonesia," he wrote.

But not all netizens used the social media platform for a chuckle.

Plenty of Twitter users, for example, were sharing information on where haze kits could be bought, and which places had run out of stock.

The return of the haze also marked the return of a website which pokes fun at the comments made by Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

In March last year, Mr Kalla had rapped neighbouring countries for complaining about the haze.

He had said: "For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset."

A message on the website thankyouindoforthecleanair.com that circulated on social media reads: "Hey Juju, relak ah, dun sad ok, we are all uniting to show our appreciation for the months of fresh air!"

Readers click on a red button in return for fake funny quips from a cut-out of Mr Kalla.

Aside from the jibes, the site was also set up for a good cause. One of the links it leads to is a crowdfunding effort called I Will Be Your Shelter on Indiegogo.

The goal is to raise money to buy air filters for old folks' homes.

The last update to the page was posted about a year ago.

But the unpredictability of the winds and haze could mean efforts such as these might need to kick into high gear again.


By all accounts, the late former president lived a full life.

Mr S R Nathan's funeral procession on Friday saw people from all walks of life lining the streets to pay their final respects.

Those who could not make it for the procession, held on a workday afternoon amid hazy conditions, offered their condolences on social media instead.

There have been more than 90,000 tweets about Mr Nathan, said the social media giant.

One poignant one, by Twitter user Yongsin (@YoungSinzZ), said: "Losing Mr Lee Kuan Yew last year and Mr S R Nathan this year makes me feel like we've lost a part of Singapore."


It was retweeted more than 4,200 times.

Twitter user Puvanash (@AWPGhostProX) posted a photo of the 92-year-old, and said: "I belong in the time where this photo was framed up in my school hall, you will be missed, sir. #RIPSRNathan"


On The Straits Times Facebook page, among the photos and videos of the state procession and eulogies posted on Friday, two stood out.

One is of the Tamil song Mr Nathan liked, about a dollmaker who collected material from different parts of India to make a doll.

"Mr Nathan saw the song as a metaphor of how the various races and heritage that came to our shores were combined to create a Singapore we know," said Mr Peter Ong, head of the civil service.

The other is a 13-minute video documenting the final proceedings as a lone bugler from the Singapore Armed Forces Military Band sounded the Last Post, which traditionally marks the end of the day's labour and the onset of the night's rest.

A Facebook user who commented on the video summed it up best.

"A life well lived. Simple and beautiful to the end," she said.


If you are an avid WhatsApp user, you might have encountered a strange alert recently.

The alert says the messaging platform, owned by Facebook, is updating its terms and services.

By agreeing, WhatsApp would be given the go-ahead to "explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you".

It will also work with its parent company and track basic metrics and how often you are using your account, particularly if your mobile phone number is associated with your Facebook account.

This means it can possibly target advertisements tailored for you, or make better "Friend" suggestions on Facebook.

Needless to say, there has been a strong backlash.

Tech news site Gizmodo said: "The sentiment that WhatsApp is an app that protects and cares for your privacy is no longer a reality.

"It was nice while it lasted."

If you feel strongly about this loss of privacy, there are ways to opt out.

For both iPhone and Android users, you can just uncheck the box in Account, which is in Settings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'Netizens fight haze with humour'. Subscribe