A glimpse at our participation and the culture of online shaming

A few years ago an incident in an LRT station that involved a video recording of an irate girl berating a guard went viral and was immediately devoured by ‘netizens’ with sadistic glee. It showed a relatively young woman speaking to the guard in a voice a few octaves higher than the regular conversational tone and kept at it in straight English, that resulted to her being branded by everyone who saw the video as ‘AMALAYER’. All because she kept hammering the guard with a steady barrage of ‘I’m a liar!?’ until the video was cut off.

Note that the recording started sometime during the middle of the argument and did not even continue to whatever resolution the two parties arrived at to end the conflict. It was a glaring picture of a very intense middle act that contained neither a prologue and an epilogue. Simply a piece of an incomplete picture.

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To be fair I was initially turned-off by the arrogant stance of the girl when I saw the circulating video that managed to pop in my Facebook and Twitter news feed that time. I even replied in a sarcastic way to support a commenter’s diss, hoping to fan the flames of derision to someone who had the temerity to act like that. Act like what exactly? Why, arrogant and self-righteous of course, according to some answers and discussions in the comments section of the video that time. The “matapobre” got what she deserved, and justice was done. Needless to say, it was a good week to be a fan of Schadenfreude. Not only did you indulge in the misfortune of others, you even meted out justice while you were at it. Pat ourselves in the back afterwards for evil was punished. Or was it?

Last week I found (via GRP contributor Grimwald’s article) another similar incident—both scenarios involving trains, young women, and temper tantrums—and decided to do a little online digging as to how the incident got the attention it had.

It turned out that the controversial girl drew first blood in terms of online notoriety by posting her rant about men who did not offer her a seat in the train via Facebook. Aside from her post being set as ‘public’, where the entire world and not just one’s online contacts can see whatever one posts—-she also included a snapshot of some hapless passenger she obviously did not like (even went as far as calling the guy ugly) just to prove her point. That accompanying photograph was the final nail in her coffin.

Unfortunately for her, notorious Facebook personality/page under the name ‘Senyora Santibañez’ who commands a following of more than 1M Facebook users got wind of her post and decided to share the screenshot of it to her own followers and as expected, the mob eviscerated the girl. I agree that the girl has the wrong definition of “chivalry”. I always thought it was just a bloated sense of entitlement suffered by women who think they are entitled to what men possess by virtue of their gender. That girl was obviously in that skewed understanding of the term, and I’m a firm believer of putting people in their place and showing them the error of their ways. Me and a couple of million others, as it turned out.

And again just like most people I also shared that post on my own account. Hoping to at least “enlighten” some of my own contacts that that kind of definition is not only archaic but a backward practice and has no place in a modern-thinking society. But again that better-her-than-me-serves-you-right kind of self-righteousness was in play. And now that everything is quiet again it’s time for a bit of introspection about how these impulsive actions by a mob could permanently affect or damage someone in the long run.

While I agree these young women acted out of line at the time,  the type of punishment we have summarily sentenced the hapless perpetrator seem a bit too much. Others would argue that people like the ‘chivalry girl’ had it coming. After all she was the first one who posted a photo of  another with the intent to  humiliate him in the process. I get that, and that was crass. I even supported the online lynching and posted it in my own account.

Renowned writer/filmmaker Jon Ronson gave a poignant and more in-depth talk of the same topic in TED. And in one of the highlights of that lecture about a woman who experienced online persecution, he said:

She was losing herself. She was waking up in the middle of the night, forgetting who she was. She was got because she was perceived to have misused her privilege. And of course, that’s a much better thing to get people for than the things we used to get people for, like having children out of wedlock. But the phrase “misuse of privilege” is becoming a free pass to tear apart pretty much anybody we choose to.It’s becoming a devalued term, and it’s making us lose our capacity for empathy and for distinguishing between serious and unserious transgressions.

It’s one thing to call out and insult public figures, erring politicians and notorious personalities basking in the public spectrum, but entirely another to do the same method of brutal public dissection to an ordinary private citizen. Granted that the ‘chivalry’ girl did that first by posting a man’s photograph without his permission, I’m not sure how addressing that type of error by doing the same dastardly practice can have a good outcome. Not necessarily on the person at the receiving end of the ridicule but on all who took part in it.

Times have changed in a way that the slightest, momentary lapse of judgment on online behavior could potentially turn into a lifetime of misery. Destroyed careers, social life and in more extreme cases more common than we care to admit, depression and suicide. It doesn’t matter if you suddenly had a change of heart after you posted whatever nonsense it was you thought at the time was priceless. All it takes is one enterprising individual who’ll take a screenshot of it and your life as you know it will never be the same again. Old life blown away in the blink of an eye simply because of an opinion/idea that’s not in line with the rest of the world.

What  a good talking down to and a slap in the wrist that seem to have worked before the existence of the internet has exponentially grown to monstrous proportions that can be likened to going after a housefly with a flame-thrower.

Next time something like this comes along and the urge to share and post snide remarks is too great to resist, try and step back and think things through. Then do whatever it is that you want. At least you tried.

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9 Comments on “A glimpse at our participation and the culture of online shaming”

  1. Duterte says he wants to slap Mar. Mar responds that he would like to slap Duterte if he can prove his Wharton degree is real.

    This is becoming Filipino slapstick. Like the Erap impeachment trial where Miriam pointed at somebody in the audience because she was staring at her. And somebody started dancing because of “No No No” and immaterial irrelevant. Zarzuela and telenovela. Si Lola Nidora na lang kaya ang mag-Presidente kung puwede. Baka siya pa ang mas matino at rerespetuhin ng mga Pilipino. Seen from abroad, this is ridiculous. Instead of talking real programs and issues, it is now showbiz and absurd comedy.

  2. Lessons learned from 2 different perspectives:

    To the girl: Posting something online can be like stirring the hornet’s nest. Get ready to be stung. Otherwise, either be careful about it or don’t click at all.

    To the Netizens: One of the most important things I have learned in life is that the world is smaller than most thought. So be careful who you’re attacking online. Not necessarily because he/she can be bigger and stronger but because you don’t know what that person can become to you in the future. Anybody is a potential friend, ally, boss, etc. and imagine the awkwardness of knowing, either mutually or not, that a person you are suddenly next to is the same person you once attacked online.

    I am quite sure that most people just wants to contribute to ‘disciplining’ anyone who makes a mistake especially in the internet. My only hope is that people will only use words that are necessary to get the message across.

    But of course I also acknowledge the fact that there are some people that are just simply cruel and just wants to crush anyone especially online where they feel untouchable. Well, as I’ve said the world is smaller than most of us thinks.

  3. This is why i choose what i want my fb feed to show me, i unfollow a lot of pages and people because i dont want my feed to be full of toxicity of arrogance, word war , and people bashing.

  4. Chivalry was from the past. We are in the electronic/internet age now. Giving your seat to a woman/girl is your choice.

    The ranting of the girl, showed, she may have some mental issues, that need to be cured.

    Posting the rant on the FB , really showed the woman/girl has mental issues.

  5. I do not belong to Zuckerberg generation. I use to. I hate Facebook, Twitter any social media at all. I am still old school. I am still stuck in Friendster.

    Friendster used to be the darling of social media until Filipinos monopolize it with their ignorant on-line presence, Thank Gootness. They moved on to MySpace … YourSpace … Now Facebook. Goot riddance !!!

    Stayaway from Friendster. It is only for cool kids like me.

  6. Reminds me of the “Amalayer” incident a while back. People sometimes join in because of the power dynamic. They feel powerful when they insult someone online, from behind the keyboard and not in front of someone. It makes them feel superior, as if they are on higher ground. Very quite reveals the character (or rather, the lack of such) of many Filipinos.

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