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I Hate Filipino Culture -Society/Politics

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Internet Virality

If you’ve driven a car long enough, you probably have been exposed to the predatory beasts that prowl our streets, dressed in green, yellow or sometimes blue. Maybe you’ve been stopped by one of them and maybe you have given in to the temptation of slipping a bill or two. I will not judge you. I don’t have the figures but I strongly believe that you are the majority. Maybe, even I have done it. I used the word “maybe” because sentences sometimes have to be made ambiguous in this very quick-to-judge, social media-savvy society. Really officer? You saw me not wearing a seatbelt from 30ft away in the middle of the night in a tinted car? Well I was wearing a seatbelt. It was my passenger who wasn’t. So you stopped me first and then looked for violations later in the hopes that maybe you’ll get kotong? I’m gonna raise my voice at you and if anyone thinks that I’m a douche for doing so…. I’ll just hope that they don’t have a camera with them. Because I don’t wanna go viral that way. And no, you’re not getting kotong.

The problem with criticizing people through the lens of the internet is that you don’t see your own face until you turn off your monitor and see your reflection on the empty black screen. And then you realize that you have pimples and acne scars just like everyone else. Maybe in the past, you were having a bad day and a security guard said something that irked you off.  Maybe you said “Amalayer? Amalayer?” Maybe you had a heated argument with an MMDA officer -I hope you didn’t punch him in the face like this Maserati driver did just last week. Maybe you did something stupid like drive through a flooded street that resembled a small lake and then blamed the government for your misfortune, just like Christopher Lao. Just be thankful that a TV crew wasn’t conveniently waiting around when it happened.

There’s no question that what the Maserati driver did was WRONG but If the Maseratti driver punched another driver in a Ferrari, the headline would’ve been “two rich men having a spirited and expected altercation”. Instead, it was about an arrogant rich man abusing the poor, in this case a poor and therefore saintly MMDA officer. We’d probably laugh about the former headline but I doubt if there’d be as much hate especially from the masses. One may argue that an MMDA officer is a person of authority and should be respected but you tend to not respect authority very much when you regularly see it being abused.

We tend to see ourselves in groups. The rich, the poor, the abusers, the oppressed. The poor see the rich as evil, some of the rich may see the poor as undesirable. Members within our group are saintly and those outside our group are three headed demons. We demonize those whom we don’t understand, those who are not “us”. I think that’s why in all of these stories, the parties involved usually come from different social classes.

It’s understandable to laugh or ridicule the people involved in some of these viral videos/stories for a brief time. But the seething hate and the bullying that goes on for several weeks to several months, I think is a symptom of something I would like to call “internet induced self-righteousness”. Because everyone’s life or morals appear better on facebook. We see ourselves as better men or women when the truth is we just haven’t been filmed having a meltdown or paying an “unofficial fee” to avoid a queue. Pick an evil. If you’re over 30, I’m sure you’ve done more than a few things that you are ashamed of –things that could be subject to public ridicule

The internet is the ultimate democratizer in that it gives everyone who has access to it a voice to challenge anyone, including those who are much higher up. But when the same power is used against normal people who just had the misfortune of being at the wrong place, with the wrong mental disposition at the wrong time, it just seems like overkill. Facebook becomes a courtroom of a million jurors and instant verdicts. Destroying someone’s life becomes as easy as waiting for him or her to make a mistake and then pressing the record button. It’s all fun and games until you stop to think that it can happen to everyone, including yourself. And then you ask yourself, What skeletons do I have in my closet.