Have you read this commentary of popular TV personality Bianca Gonzalez? Allegedly, “nababahala siya sa mga mahihilig magmura sa social media (She is becoming increasingly irritated by the growing number of social media users who are accustomed to using profanities)”. She mentioned on her Twitter page that derogatory words like Bobo (moron), Tanga (stupid), Gago (foolish) are becoming prevalent in social media comments.
Bianca opined that, surprisingly, some of her posts would be dissed by social media users who are already parents or who profess to be devout by including Bible verses in their profile pages. Well, we expect folks who are religious or who are already parents to have a sense of accountability, decency, and restraint.
Just a side note: Would you believe I once tried to make a deviating comment on a tweet by a young Catholic priest with thousands of followers? By the way I am a Catholic too. Anyway, in my opinion, my comment was well-considered and courteous in tone. One of his supporters gave me a thrashing, and the priest blocked me without hesitation. As you can see, social standing has nothing to do with social graces.
The other day, a friend of mine called me and expressed the same sentiment throughout our talk. I guess, this topic has hit home so I am doing a blog/vlog on this.
End the cycle with magnanimity
We may claim that social media platforms have now exposed the lowest of lows in terms of social behavior. And it is true that failing to confront this “trend” of hateful comments risks perpetuating a destructive cycle that will harm us as a nation.
Consider what might happen if Filipinos become accustomed to such inappropriate behavior, such as cussing, whether online or offline. Normalizing such behaviors may develop antagonism among us, limit critical thinking faculties, and obstruct possibilities for active listening and learning from a diverse variety of viewpoints.
Rudeness is toxic, but come to think of it, we all come from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Our upbringings are different, and we don’t share the same core values. What is appropriate for you may not be appropriate for others, and vice-versa.
There are occasions when “rude” remarks or cussing/cursing are not intended. As a result, another person’s unpleasant comments or their use of “colourful” expressions should not define who they are (Okay, there are exemptions to the rule), nor should their comments define how they see you.
Consider nasty words to be like a rock….when a person is cornered or faced with a compromising or threatening situation, their natural instinct may be to smash the opponent with a rock. On social media, you can’t do this contextually. Your word is your rock; the harsher the word, the larger the rock. However, that only tells us how the person handles a problem and does not sum up their character as being entirely tripe. As they say, “Attribute the negative behavior to the situation rather than the person.”
Though, this should not be used to justify incivility, it can help you, as the observer or at the receiving end of expletives to avoid reacting too quickly or taking negative comments personally. Do not absorb it, as toxicity will begin to eat you up on the inside as well.
At best, lead by example, not by assuming the moral high ground, but by demonstrating empathy while directing the conversation in a more respectful, behavior-appropriate direction. Repudiate indecorum or vileness with magnanimity.
I just discovered this term, “Magnanimity”. It is a beautiful virtue that encompasses greatness of mind and spirit, and kindness, humility and generosity towards someone who is unkind or treats you unfairly.
Magnanimity, in common parlance, is taken to be a certain generosity in ignoring petty annoyances, as also in forgetting and forgiving, not taking advantage of your enemy when you have him in your power. – XI. Magnanimity and Humility, University of Notre Dame.
Detoxifying social media threads
Here are some ideas for shifting the tone of the comment thread from snarky to thoughtful.
- Acknowledge the good, leave out the bad – Be the first to break this chain of rudeness by acknowledging the good and leaving out the bad. If someone makes a harsh statement, you can respond with “I hear you” or “some of your points are taken.”
- Inspire healthy engagement– In order to encourage healthy participation, if someone responds with harsh remarks or even four-letter insults, respond with “Why do you feel that way about my post…?” or “could you explain to the other commenters why you feel this way about my point of view on the subject?” You demonstrate empathy while also being the bigger person.
- State your boundaries – What is the best way to do this on social media? Some users, I’ve noticed, use the hashtag #respect or specifically say, “Respect my post”. And I can see how efficient it is. When cues are explicitly expressed, people tend to obey them.
- The “Talo-Asar “ tactic – yup, it’s the Pinoy’s subtle way of getting even. If it worked in text messaging, it might work on social networking sites as well. When someone makes a harsh comment, re-“quote” it to them as a means to call them out on their behavior. To put it another way, make them taste their own medicine.
- Refrain from retorting—if you feel the need to respond to their unpleasant statements, the tables are turned on you! Do not succumb to this temptation. Pause for a moment and consider why the comment bothered you in the first place. If you feel the need to respond, simply say something like, “every opinion is valuable; however, please help to maintain this thread free of toxicity so that you can be heard.” You don’t have to lecture them on proper behavior, which I’m sure will make them defensive.
- Examine your post – You should be able to tell if your post will elicit conflicting perspectives. As a result, you should be prepared for severe reactions.
- Disengage – block them or unfollow them
I’d like to view online profanities as merely a different way by some people to respond to what they read or see or hear online. Profanities, after all, are part of an ever evolving language – a means to communicate and express thoughts and feelings. It may help to believe that people are decent by default. Filipinos are a compassionate, decent, and understanding people by default. The current health and socio-economic and political distress that we are experiencing and have gone through even in the previous decades have had a varying effects on us. These situations may have brought forth our worst instincts, but returning to civility is not impossible.
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