The Great Amplifier: The Power and Responsibility In Social Media

by Noel Angelo S. Sarrosa, Class 2020

In today’s modernized and tech-savvy world, we are given the power, and ultimately the responsibility, to make connections near instantaneously, ignoring distance and time to allow us to talk and exchange ideas with people. Social media further enhances this experience, bringing convenience when it comes to sharing pictures, posting ideas, and generally giving our society a place to thrive even without face-to-face interaction. With the rapid expansion of internet access, even in a developing country like the Philippines, social media has become a new platform to socialize, with its own sets of pros and cons.

On one hand, social media has been a great way to advertise and reach out to bigger audiences. Small and medium scale businesses can easily make Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, as well as post pictures on Instagram for a bigger viewership across the country, and maybe even go international. Independent and rising artists, such as talented singers and filmmakers, are given the opportunity to showcase their craft for the world to see. It gives opportunities which were not possible a mere few years ago, when an internet connection was a luxury used only by some fortunate enough to afford it.

However, this power to allow small voices to be amplified a hundredfold has also brought major negative effects. A prime example of this are ‘viral’ posts. While most of these are humorous and witty, there are also posts that bring about dangerous ideas to society. One that particularly hits close to home are posts about ‘irresponsible/abusive’ health personnel. While hospitals are trying to take steps to protect their own employees, the amount of online backlash regarding perceived ‘irresponsibility’ can be so overwhelming, it is akin to burning a witch on the stake! This kind of attitude is further amplified by our tendency to believe stories told by only one side, as well as the amount of influence emotion has on our decision making. While not exclusive to us Filipinos, it is strikingly apparent in our culture where chismis has become a social constant.

The amount of people we reach over one post on social media assures us that at least a few thousand out of a million Filipinos who share our ideas get to read our post, where they can comment or show their approval through ‘likes’, and this is what ultimately makes social media dangerous. This allows certain beliefs to proliferate, which people accept unwaveringly, finding no fault in a man-made concept, simply because a lot of people believe in it too. This mob mentality solidifies the idea, creating a wave few can hope to stop. It becomes a “it’s either you’re with us or against us” scenario where, if you don’t agree in the slightest, you’ll be singled out. Particularly, for Filipinos, our sense of pakikisama, or being united with the group, as well as our fervent nature to fight for what we believe in, brings a lot of friction against opposing mobs.

Whether you’re simply defending your favorite love team or noontime show, or you’re fighting for your political beliefs, it is clear that social media is one of the easier places to do it. The anonymity you possess, as well as removing physical interaction, embolden even those who wouldn’t be confrontational in the first place. You, a part of this unstoppable mob-wave, are not to be trifled with. And so, you take to the forums and call out ‘wrong’ beliefs, you comment on the posts of people preaching ‘misleading’ ideas, all for a cause you deem worthy because a lot of you believe in it. In a way, you become part of a cult; absentmindedly being led by an idea so blurred out by different takes on it, it becomes oversimplified to accommodate for everyone else’s belief.

So, should social media use be limited due to this rampant abuse that has seen not only positive movements rise, but archaic, outdated, and downright evil movements ride along with it back into society’s mind? I believe that this will not only fan the flames of those with nefarious agendas, but also becomes an acknowledgement of how man has a hard time of owning up to our creation’s flaws, deciding instead to sweep them under the rug and start anew. No, we should learn how to properly wield its power with proper responsibility. We should learn to live in the social media world as we do in real life, knowing proper etiquette, and never forgetting that we are humans interacting with each other, not machines interfacing data over cables and satellites. Through our learning, we must also never forget to teach others to learn as we do; to properly converse with us about differing beliefs, and to know how to be civil in doing so.

We, as Filipinos, do not like to be taught what to do. It is inherent in our blood, a nation long-oppressed by many. We do not take kindly to being given a lesson on what to do, sometimes to the point of arrogance. It is this fighting spirit that has made us survive for so long, yet it may ultimately be our downfall. We are given the platform online to fight for what we believe in, so much so that we forget that we do so for the unity of our country. And so, as a Filipino with access to social media, it is our inherent responsibility to be a guiding force for the power we are given, and in so doing advance the unity of our country. Will you take up the mantle? For the sake of our future, I hope we all do.

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