How did you first get into the social media scene?
I grew up in Kuala Belait and went to college in Kuala Lumpur. I then did my undergraduate studies and worked for a number of years in Adelaide, Australia. I started my social media journey while living in Australia – I used social media to stay connected with life in Brunei. It was not enough to read news articles. I wanted to rediscover Brunei through the stories of everyday people. This was possible through social media.
What are the objectives for ProjekBrunei?
I started ProjekBrunei.com in 2010 to help people discover and rediscover Brunei through the stories, music, photography, art and creativity of the people living in Brunei. Today, that objective is still the same. Everyone has a story and reading the stories of different people helps us see life in Brunei through different lenses – it gives perspective and allows for a more balanced understanding.
Tell us more about its evolution.
When I started blogging, I was overseas. I was not able to visit places, meet people or attend events that were happening in Brunei in person. However, I was able to communicate and connect with people via email and social media. I decided to focus on human-interest stories, specifically through question-and-answer formats (much like this one!). As of today, I have interviewed over 50 people from students, professionals, artists, charities, etc. But I took a break from blogging from September 2014 to December 2015.
Awesome story. Care to share your feelings on why you took a break?
I was still active on Twitter and Instagram but made a conscious decision to take a break from blogging due to a couple of reasons: to spend less time online and to gain perspective about Brunei for myself. I wanted to rediscover Brunei for myself, not just vicariously through the stories of other people. Plus, I found myself spending too much time on social media – I was spending too much time with my head looking down at my smart device instead of looking up and connecting with people in real life.
The break was a conscious effort to rebalance my approach when it comes to connection. With the extra time I had in 2014 and 2015, I attended many community events and met more people in real life. I have come to the conclusion that we need to balance both – our lives and time online and time offline. There really is not much of a difference anymore.
What are the most memorable interviews from your blog?
There are so many! The interviews with Brunei’s first female Olympian Maziah Mahusin, Liyana Yus from Yasmine, the movie, Sharon Koh from Cleo Malaysia, Adam Hague the photographer…but here are a few honourable mentions.
- The very first feature on Izam Ryan. Izam was my first follower on Twitter, and when I started my blog, I immediately took the opportunity to share his inspiring story first. Who knows, had he not followed and interacted with me first on Twitter – others may not have followed, and BruneiTweet may not be what it is today!
- The feature on Wirdy Hamidy. She is a digital artist and I first discovered her on Trend Hunter in February 2010. In fact, it was then that the thought of starting a website to feature people first crossed my mind. Getting to know Wirdy’s story inspired me to search for other talents in Brunei.
- One of the newest blog posts about Shinny Chia from the Collective Art Events. That interview with Shinny marked my return to ProjekBrunei. I attended many of the events she organised in 2014 and 2015, which helped me gain my own perspective about life and community in Brunei. This in turn has inspired me to start blogging again – to keep telling the stories about people in Brunei.
Who are the Top 5 people you’ve met (face to face)? And why?
I have met Dato A Samad Said, Sheila Majid, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benjamin Yong and Simon Fraser to name a few. Of course, it is inspiring to meet with celebrities, but it should be said that these were one-off encounters. I am inspired by the people who are frequently around me on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis more than I am by people who I have met (and most likely, will only ever meet) once in my life. Special mentions to my wife Gillian, my big brother Dexter, my buddy and head coach at GetFit CrossFit Gavin Sekhon, and my best mates Cornelius and Alvin are among the real ‘Top 5’ people I still do life with regularly.