Not another social media reminder

IF THERE’S one thing that we’ve learned from social media after this year’s presidential elections, it’s that our lives offline are more intertwined with our lives online–no matter how deep or shallow interactions are.

Many users forget this and use platforms like Facebook and Twitter with less care, putting themselves in trouble without them realizing it until they start facing consequences.

Recall the Twitter user who wished that vice president Leni Robredo was the one who perished in a plane crash instead of her husband Jesse. That tweet received so much attention and concern from security personnel that it actually brought the user to the police station for investigation.

In another instance, a Twitter user was requested to be tracked down by the National Bureau of Investigation following a complaint by action star Robin Padilla on allegations of violating election law.

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The countless arguments, discussions and debates  -  which ranged from healthy and informative, to cringeworthy and crass – in social media on the elections has also had people literally fight each other in the real world. Many have wound up losing friends and severing business relationships because of revealed differences in political stances.

The silly antics online also brought us some laughter like the extremely random Suntukan sa Ace Hardware, which paved the way for other silly events to be shared and organized throughout Facebook.

Then there’s Alma Moreno, who excruciatingly endured bullying from users after her ANC interview. What started out as comedy turned into ridicule–she wasn’t spared from real life ripples of social media attacks and banters. She shared that her family and children have been receiving much of the blows from users.

It is also important to remember the overly passionate supporters of Duterte and the way they viciously attacked and threatened other (non-Duterte supporters) users online. The same can be said for supporters of other candidates but none surpasses the amount of passion and fury brought by the “Dutertards.”

The Commission on Human Rights has admitted to finding difficulty in catching and prosecuting social media users whose offensive and crass posts are treading along crime and human rights violations. The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group are tasked to look into this, but with less success in imposing sanctions, thanks to the growing number of trolls and anonymous accounts that are deliberately made to be fake for purposes of attacking other users.

“Every social media user’s behavior online is greatly affected by the nature of social media itself,” said Doyle Felix Abrio who teaches media subjects in the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

“Among these qualities is the power to conceal a person’s identity. A user can always hide behind a fake account and it automatically encourages the user to say what he/she wants without risking their reputation,” he said.

Apart from the overwhelming commentary of users on current events (perhaps a good sign of involvement in social issues?), the online world has also become a place for dirty propaganda and mudslinging, fueled by hyper-empowered users who feel that they can get away with whatever it is that they say to others.

Should we be alarmed that some users feel all too powerful mashing their keyboards and dishing out attacks with impunity? Should we, as users, also find the need to hold back, lest we face consequences of our online bravery in the real world?

The most foolproof answer to this is for users to interact with others online the way they do with people offline.

“I have this notion that the best way to handle social media is to treat interaction as you would in real life,” said University of the Philippines Mindanao communication and media professor Antonino Salvador De Veyra. “The best way to avoid [conflict] is to practice social media hygiene.”

Social media and internet specialist Janette Toral reminded users to take it easy.

She said that for every post that users make on social media, there will always be people who won’t respect your word and there will also be those who will resonate with you.

“Social media use during the elections has opened our eyes and taught us that we need to be respecful of the opinion of others and to accept the differences and the diversity of voices online,” she said.

She added that many tend to forget to listen and to appreciate and immediately take things (like arguments and debates) personally. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean he/she is already bullying you, she said.

“It’s okay to have a strong opinion as long as you can take backlash,” she said.

Adults, who are relatively new to social media–otherwise referred to as late adopters who only signed up for a Facebook account for three years or less–and often wind up in awkward arguments online, need to understand that age doesn’t matter in the platform.

“It’s an ageless segment,” she said, referring to interactions that have little to no regard of age or superiority. In social media, everyone is equal.

“Another characteristic of social media is its lack of structured hierarchy or superiority as compared to real-life communication. People tend to be more restricted in sharing their views in real-life situations knowing that someone is ‘better’ than them. In social media, users feel more comfortable because they feel thatbwe are all of the same status,” Abrio said.

“I think those who use social media now and before will come to realize that the millennials have taken social media,” she said. She added that at least 86 percent of Facebook users below 40 years old.

Equality and the idea that many Internet users are savages are pointers to be remembered when using social media. The golden rule still applies online. “If you’re strong and combative, that’s what you’re going to get and how you’re going to be treated,” Toral said. She reminded people to balance reading and writing posts online. Toral said that these two should be balanced because this makes users learn more from each other.

She added that it’s okay to argue open, but if you’re getting too much of it, take a break.

Blogger Tricia Gosingtian has had her share of bashers and critics online, but she has found that the best way to deal with them is to ignore them.

“Engaging haters is exactly what they want from you. They want acknowledgement. And that’s something that you shouldn’t give to them,” she said.

Many people use social media as an extension of their work and profession but it’s unfair to assume that you use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to please everybody, Toral said.

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