Social media: Space for empty rants?

Maria Reylan M. Garcia

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'It is time to bring back the more apt and productive debate arena where the Filipino rants less and argues more'

Apart from conveniently reading news items online, I have developed a certain fondness for skimming the comments section. Social media users confidently take turns lambasting one government agency after the other.

Whether or not the news is intended to praise or criticize the agency is apparently immaterial. Others go the extra mile by generating memes, defacing elected political leaders. And the most popular of these are the virtual catfights of the self-righteous.

Admittedly, the sad attempts at argumentation through anti-logic and anti-grammar are entertaining. However, this brand of opinion forms the bulk of social media, and to me, it is alarming.

These virtually published statements are (mostly) not illegal, and are even concrete proof how freedom of expression triumphantly works in our democracy. But, what do these statements purport of the Filipino opinion? It is beyond being skeptical or cynical.  It is turning out to be an emerging gusto for mockery.  

Online mockery 

Take the recent headlines on rescue operations for Typhoon Ruby. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas fell from a motorcycle en route to fulfill his duties to supervise disaster response. Instead of considering how he attempted to make up for his previously criticized mismanagement of the Yolanda tragedy, he was jeered at.

This is not even about Mar being a public official anymore. This is about a man who fell off the motorcycle and his fellowmen are laughing at his misfortune, adding unnecessary insult to injury. Mar wasn’t criticized; he was mocked.

I yearn for the renaissance of substance and wit in Filipino opinion. The brand of opinion that would cultivate ideas rather than foster animosity; that would point out wrong rather than call out contempt. The brand of opinion that produced thought leaders rather than bred trash talkers.    

But why has Filipino opinion changed track? I am plunging in to take the boldest of hypotheses and blame the profitability of ridicule and the disinterest to know substance.

The comedians who can summon a full house for a night club aren’t the slapstick artists. They are those who have the best command of sarcasm and those who have the keenest eye to the cleft-lip or the morbidly obese. The politicians who can lure the most number of Twitter followers aren’t those who are only well-educated or widely-experienced but are, at the same time, well-researched with the most creatively contemptuous descriptions of and banters with their fellow solons.

Less rant

While I equally enjoy novelty as do my fellow men, I see the danger of its ease and convenience. The movie line-up of our major film festivals range from never-ending horror sequels to unexciting and predictable romantic comedies, that the more plot-centered independent films take a dimmer spotlight.   

The more we prefer novelty, the more we take things straightforward. Chances are we shy away from intellectual exercises that would have shaped provoking thoughts and stronger convictions. It is then not surprising that majority of comments was made without having clicked “read full article.”

Online media is beginning to be occupied with a flurry of empty outbursts. It is a pity that such a medium, being an infinite source of information, would be the venue of a cacophony of banat (attack) and frustrations. Yes, absolute concession to a single idea can never be achieved, not with bias and preconceptions. But the human mind, rational as it is, must have at least a space for refutation.

It is time to bring back the more apt and productive debate arena where the Filipino rants less and argues more. And what better way to argue than with the best brand of thought-provoking opinions. – 

Maria Reylan M. Garcia is a 23-year-old registered nurse and a second year Juris Doctor (law) student at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City.

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