Canada English Featured News Updates Opinion Technology World News

From Philippines to Canada, “The Dark Side of Social Media”

TORONTO – In a third world country like the Philippines with so many poor people, rumour and gossip seem to be the national pastime. Texting (email) costs only one peso, a mere few cents Canadian.  Even if this is the Philippines, poverty has not stopped citizens from engaging in online chats, Facebook and Twitter. And they feel important for they all have something to say, for after all they are a part of a larger social group. 

This includes breaking news riddled with so many tags. Random people claim credit for things with one liners that they throw out freely into the internet. That one liner is the equivalent cost of one text.  Egos get puffed up when a lay person finds themselves in the same electronic circle as a high society big shot or famous celebrity.  And all it took was just a few cents for an unknown citizen to have their less than 2 minutes of fame.  “Influencer” has become a career choice.  But it is not entirely built on one’s desire for fame.  It can even be leveraged by those who have X million followers, X million contacts – something that an aspiring politician would find definitely useful in terms of shaping views and ultimately going home with that vote. There was a time the Philippines was named the text capital of the world. Just recently also in the Philippines a post of 80 million bloggers in an hour by Sparkle Spell in social media has been recorded. They always want to be included on World Guinness Record. As to just how true this is will depend on the individual concerned.

However, when internet influencers use their powers of communication to pave the way for political abuse – that has a way of taking over the original issue of concern.  Online rudeness has become commonplace.  Grandstanding not only is a desperate plea at attention-grabbing, but is actually a big distraction especially if you are left sifting through all the information in the internet in an attempt to find true facts.  Here you are, surfing the internet, and all of a sudden, you get bombarded by pop-up window claims of so-and-so being dead, and if not dead, then pregnant.  Accusations and innuendos – I give you internet pollution.  Social media is walking around with a black eye.  With all this free, unchecked talk, online ramblers are given the impression that they can say what they want, when they want and not be brought to court for libel.

Cyberbullying has become a fad; everyone seems to be doing it. Insults are thrown back and forth. Why not?  Especially if the other party has no way of really knowing who you are, nor reaching you because everyone is hiding behind an alias.  But let’s say someone really takes it to heart that it results in suicide – can the cyberbully be held accountable? Yes.  Here in Canada, there is the case of Amanda Todd who committed suicide.  Her online tormentor was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The older generation couldn’t be bothered with social media because that’s not how they grew up.  Whereas the Millennials cannot live without it, from the moment they wake up to the time they go to bed.  Little do they know that there is more to life than a smartphone.  This has affected their demeanour, as detached feelings and sheer indifference colour their mood. Social media has also paved the way for addictive behaviours, namely online gambling.  Illegal bettors are controlling everything from beauty contests, sports betting to elections.  Once it starts, it cannot stop.

This kind of control is witnessed even in the political arena.  In the most recent presidential election in the Philippines, there were claims that someone with an endless pool of cash could elicit online trolls to tip the polls to their favour and land a victory.  Do you know what happens to lies that get passed in a laundry machine over and over again?  They come out all clean, looking like the honest truth.  Some politicians get away with it.  And this does not apply solely to the Philippines. In the case of US president Donald Trump, his Twitter account even got shut down during his presidency because of certain violations.  Politics is a dirty game, but now we have the internet where all bets are off.  Debates on all issues go on and on.

For the so called “intelligent”, they could not be swayed with conspiracy theories, hearsay, malicious talk etc. What about the “lesser intelligent” folks, ie. the doubters, the ignorant, they get carried away and become arrogant believers. This deepens the social divide.
Internet influencers can continue to influence…….only if we let them. A person I interviewed recently about the ill effects of social media indicated that an utmost embarrassing moment in social media is when someone unfollows you. You have been cut out of their life forever, digitally.

To me, saying something vs. writing something are two different worlds. When you say something, normally it’s only between you and the person with whom you are talking. Your words can be taken back or explained in a different manner. Whereas in writing, it’s open season for everyone; what you write can come back to haunt you. Everyone who reads what you write will undoubtedly have a different subjective interpretation.

We are losing friends and relatives – and we have social media to thank for that.

Leave a Reply ***This project is made possible in part thanks to the financial support of Canadian Heritage;

“The content of this project represents the opinions of the authors and does not necessarily represent the policies or the views of the Department of Heritage or of the Government of Canada”