The year 2016 has caught us by surprise.
Among recent events were the victory of Donald Trump in the recent presidential elections of the United States, the monumental 9-5 decision by the Supreme Court, and the sudden burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB). Meanwhile, social media sites remain toxic as ever, with people bashing one another here and there, lacking a sense of productive discourse and fact-based argumentation.
More than anything, Filipinos need to take a good look at their mental health. I don’t mean this in a negative way, like I’m probably thinking many Filipinos have a serious mental health disability. Mental health, in theory and practice, is applicable to everyone. It tackles every facet of our mental capability and tendencies as human beings. It can range from the most serious mental illnesses which many people suffer from, down to the immediate mental and cognitive challenges we experience every day. Hence, it’s important for each one of us to monitor our mental health constantly.
Whenever logging into Facebook, for instance, I feel as if I always have to prepare myself for what’s to come. It’s a completely revolutionary shift from the type of online environment we used to have during the emergence of sites like Friendster. Information now flows freely, and at the same time these vast amounts of information that we consume everyday tend to be chaotic. People make various reactions, and most comment sections nowadays are highly “toxic” and “cancerous.”
These vast amounts of information that get shared in social media nowadays pose a big challenge on our mental health. Some of us may have tried it ourselves – we’ve reacted, commented, and eventually argued with other people online due to having differences in opinions. In the end, there was no respect nor civility evident. Both you and the one you were arguing with call it a day, while disregarding how one another really felt about the issue.
The cycle goes on every day, and people continue to allow their firm and sometimes irrational stance on particular issues outweigh the valuable relationships they could otherwise have established online. If people become more solution-focused, rather than bashing one another and spurring out ad hominem statements, we could at least have had more productive discourses on the pertinent issues.
This is why when we talk about mental health – considering its various facets – it should also transcend down to more tangible things such as social media behavior. An example of which that we’re all aware of is how big groups of students from various schools, colleges, and universities protested against the burial of Marcos at the LNMB. The protest did not just occur in places like the People Power Monument and Luneta Park; it extended up to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, wherein students kept sharing posts condemning the burial.
Fascinatingly, a 2011 study that was done in Chile suggests that the youth uses social media as one of their main platforms for expressing opinions and activism. By looking at our posts in social media, some of us would agree that indeed, we utilize this tool in order to be able to send across our opinions on particular issues. Rather than keeping them to our individual comfort zones, we want to speak up and we want to be heard.
As mentioned in a famous quotation, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” I believe this is a good indicator of one’s mental health in social media – one that’s focused on a sensitive, factual, and critical discourse of issues.
In 2017, what would social media have in store for us? Whether it be a new technological innovation, business breakthrough, social issue, or more conflict in war-torn countries, we need to be ready and be able to discern what we encounter in social media. Within our country itself, we have been seeing news articles everyday that highlight another statement or controversial action by the president that leave us processing what he actually meant.
In the end, we always have to look into our mental health. Are our actions and expression of feelings truly aligned with how we think, and vice versa? Are we using social media to spread positive social change or social distress? Are we engaging in productive discourses or discourses that do not really amount to anything?
By looking into this, hopefully the year 2017 will be less of a surprise for us, because by then we will be ready and well-informed.