Opinion(Misman)age of social media
(Misman)age of social media
October 4, 2015
October 4, 2015

Social media opens doors to a plethora of information in an instant with just a few clicks. For a lot of us, this has become so convenient that it’s almost become second nature to believe almost anything we see online. I won’t deny that I’ve been led to believe most of what I see shared on my Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline. For example, it doesn’t take a lot for me to believe the stories of people falling victim to different modi operandi I come across on the Internet. I find that taxi stories are the most frequent ones I see being shared on Facebook. Reading upon a lot of these stories has made me afraid to ride a taxi by myself, but, more importantly, more vigilant of my surroundings.

However, last month, Joel Lapira, a GrabTaxi cab operator was suspended for a week because of an allegation made against him — posted on Facebook by a passenger that the driver had picked up. The driver reportedly used the “taxi spray modus” on the passenger. Of course, after the post made rounds on Facebook, it was quickly brought to the attention of GrabTaxi. This is largely due to the fact that these types of posts are a huge hit among netizens, and with websites like When In Manila broadcasting the incident to their online following, the post immediately became viral. The taxi driver was suspended, and as a result, was unable to work for the duration of the suspension.

After an investigation conducted by the company, which involved having both the complainant and the driver tested at the hospital for toxicology exams and drug testing, respectively, it was found that the driver was not guilty of the charges made against him. A week after the complaint reached GrabTaxi, the cab company, again through its Facebook page, posted an announcement that the case was closed. Attached was a statement from the driver, who stated that the post made against him online has been the cause of having no work for a week and even his kid being bullied by other kids because his father was part of the “taxi spray gang.”

Ultimately, it’s just sad how the story ended for the taxi driver. Now I’m not sure what the ‘victim’s’ intents for posting the status were, and I’d like to think it was done in good faith (i.e., to warn other people of the danger), but I can’t wrap my head around what the driver (as well as his family) had to face because of a single post made on Facebook, one that appeared to be very misleading.

Another example I’d like to illustrate concerns the recent conundrum surrounding the balikbayan box issue concerning the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). A lot of Filipinos — including OFWs, relatives of OFWs, and people who just threw themselves into the fray — turned to social media to express their feelings regarding this issue, mostly those of anger and annoyance. While this example doesn’t involve a certain modus operandi warning people of crimes rampant in the Metro, it did surprise me how the Internet was again used as a tool against someone, in all the wrong ways.

An account bearing the name “Roussel Tan” surfaced on Facebook at the height of the issue. Tan is an employee of the BOC, and this account easily became the subject of a lot of hate online, largely due in part to the statuses posted by the account. The posts on the profile were tasteless and just plain rude, with statuses lambasting OFWs and calling them brainless, cheap, and followers of crab mentality.

But the real Roussel Tan was interviewed on national television, where she faced news reporters, crying, fearing for her life and her children’s,
as a result of the death threats she said she’d been receiving after the fake account circulated online. Denying that the account was hers, she claimed that her name and pictures were used to create the account. She also said she refused to report to work in the aftermath of the cyberbullying that happened.

This, in particular, dismayed me when I first heard of it. I saw screenshots of this controversial Facebook page a while back. I didn’t exactly believe its authenticity, but a lot of people did. It saddens me that some people will go great lengths to bring others down, and I feel for Tan who bore the brunt of a lot of online hate.

There’s something to be said about people who feel like the posts they make online have no repercussions. It may seem so easy to just post whatever we want, whenever we want, online because it’s as if there are no consequences, as if real people wouldn’t be harmed. But this wasn’t the case for Joel and Roussel. This wasn’t the case for their families. With a single post online, their lives were changed. I just wish that we bear this in mind whenever we post something online. But it also goes without saying that we shouldn’t believe everything we come across online.

Althea Gonzales - After-hours afterthoughts