Filipinos love social media. Back in February, a study by the London-based group We Are Social made rounds in the news when they reported that, with an average of roughly 4 hours a day, we top the charts when it comes to global social media usage. To the average young adult, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram eat up a significant portion of time. With relative anonymity, a platform from which you can be heard, and the ability to integrate into more selective, specific communities, the appeal of interacting online is apparent.
The DLSU Freedom Wall exemplifies these traits, in one way or another, where anyone can post whatever they want while remaining completely anonymous, a format that is also popular in other universities, such as in UST and Ateneo de Manila, with the ADMU Freedom Wall serving as the inspiration for its DLSU counterpart.
Following a brief period of time on November 21, a couple of months into its life, the DLSU freedom wall was taken offline for roughly a day, amidst posts of a political, inflammatory, or otherwise controversial nature. The page, with what was a following of 15 thousand as of the time of writing, has become a haven for members of the DLSU community to express themselves, especially in light of the recent election season.
The Freedom Wall is a microcosm of Lasallian culture, where anyone can voice their opinions under the veil of anonymity, with the only stipulation being that harassment is not allowed, although even that has been disputed by those who post and comment on the page. Submissions were initially sent via a Google Survey form, although the admins have since moved on to using CrushNinja to manage the submissions due to the sheer amount of messages people wanted to post.
To quote directly, it’s a place where you can “Share your opinions, frustrations, troubles , issues, and woes in life. Mental Health Issues, Hugot, Love Life, Problems, Crushes, Henry Escalators, Classes, Facilities, anything DLSU goes!”
In a particularly timely example, the Freedom Wall helps students vent about politics, one of the most sensitive topics in the public sphere, in light of the current political climate both here and abroad. Posts arise about the discontent towards particular political parties, certain candidates, and political scandal, free from the restraints of being attached to an offline identity.
A sea of voices and a flood of likes
A cursory look at the page shows what people within the community find engaging. From topics as benign as crush confessions and freshman hate, to purposefully inflammatory posts laced with prejudice, whatever is put out has no ties to the original poster. However, before the page got taken down, a wealth of posts were put up that contained the personal information of various people within the Lasallian community, with things ranging from being as mild as petty drama to being as serious as corruption allegations, all put on a platform that rewards emotionally charged content, with moderation on the page being extremely lax due to the amount of posts that used go through within a week.
The anonymity that the DLSU Freedom Wall provides helps give people the space they need to address things that may be too taboo to mention otherwise. Common topics that pop up with a cursory glance include confessing to one’s crush (usually mentioning them completely by name), complaints about the faculty or the subjects, sexual content/hugot, and opinions that, whether sincere or not, are usually seen as rude or uncouth, due to the inherent anonymity of the Freedom Wall. Posts selected by the invisible hand of the community eventually go viral. Lightning bottled up to flash away in an instant.
Out of this community, a nebulous but definite zeitgeist emerges. One facet of this is the Meets to Pick Menu, a Google Spreadsheet that essentially serves as an anonymous online dating service that has, as of the time of writing, logged almost 700 entries. What has once started as something completely anonymous has gone full circle, helping people connect, whether for memes, for intimacy, or for a common solidarity founded on the anxieties of Lasallian life.
At the end of it all, however, the DLSU Freedom Wall is in large part still an extension of Lasallian culture, created by and for Lasallians as a way for them to express themselves online without any fear of being held responsible for it offline, a largely anonymous, online community that reacts to and shapes the offline happenings in DLSU.
In posts targeting one’s entity of choice, whether that be a person, a group, or the university as a whole, like-minded individuals and vocal critics of the post’s stance spark engagement, either through comment threads and shares, or through tacit reactions. Provocative content thus tends to build a feedback loop wherein the support of the few who catch a post right out of the gate give it a boost, helping it stand out from the others drowned in the noise. That boost then gives it a wider audience who then react to it as they may, continuing the cycle. Certain posts circulate so much that they take on a life of their own, which can be evident when a few of them became so controversial that it forced the original page to be taken down.