"Pasikatin natin 'yan." Three simple words that may seem like nothing, but can be the start of someone's worst nightmare when put together. You won't miss it on Twitter or Facebook—these three words are often the triggers that signal a person's desire to unleash hate towards another on social media. That's the Filipino "mob culture," and, a lot of us (whether we admit it or not) are guilty of joining the bandwagon.
We aren't in the 15th century anymore—carrying pitchforks and burning torches, surveying houses as if going on a witch hunt isn't a thing anymore; but herd mentality is still very much alive in the 21st century, only we use our fingers and our smart phones to constitute this, typing harsh words faster than our conscience can get to us.
These days, not many would remember that there was actually a time in Philippine history when our freedom of speech was a privilege that not everybody enjoyed. But, as they say, when something becomes accessible, that's when it's most often abused. Social media gave us the voice many Filipinos weren't able to enjoy before. We were given a platform to express our opinions—about politics, the government, and the people around us. We updated our social media accounts and told everyone on our friends list everything: what we ate for breakfast, what we did last Friday night, even when we finished taking a shower! Soon enough, many of us have built an aquarium around our lives without even realizing it. We gave people the permission to peek through our lives, to know everything there was to know about us.
We are living proof that our obsession with social media is one of the most defining and life-changing innovations in the past years—and just one of the downsides to the freedom that these platforms provide us is the misuse and abuse of the medium. While it's been fun and easy sharing our lives with others, so has promoting hate within ourselves. Oh, how we spew an alarming amount of hatred, how we abide with the Hammurabi code whenever people do us wrong. (An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, right?) But are the people we are targeting really deserving of this abuse? Don't we realize that what we're trying to do to them is worse than what they have done to us?
What have we become? How did we become humans without our humanity? Why is it so easy for us to point fingers? Don't we realize that in doing so, our own hands are pointing back to ourselves and that we are also to blame?
"Pasisikatin kita," it used to mean that something bright is ahead of you. Now, it's more of a threat than a promise. "Pasisikatin kita." These words are often followed by a photo or video of a person or a series of screenshots showing that the other person is at fault, making them look less of a person than you are. Petty fights turn gladiator-like, with strangers as spectators chanting for a blood bath.
The one who tattles first isn't always the right one. You see, life isn't a store with a first come first, first serve policy—yet, we treat it like it is so. Taking sides without knowing the facts, forming opinions without hearing the other version of the truth. When will we learn that life isn't always about emotion and fact isn't always about who gets our attention first?
Nothing really gets settled online. And it seems that social media only serves to make people age backwards—too immature to talk in person, compromise, settle, forgive and forget, and admit their faults. Like kids fighting for a new toy, nobody stops until they get what they want. Or until everyone believes one and hates the other. Adults are forgetting rationality more and more these days. We are all becoming two-dimensional, and people are losing their depth.
When did society become so freaking judgmental? Seeing hateful messages every single day, even if it's not directed at you, is still hurtful. Do they think they become a hero when they post things like that? Or have they forgotten that there is a real person behind the screen—and whatever they say to that person may have a lasting and traumatic effect on him?
Free speech and bullying are two different things. Every one of us should stand up for ourselves using our freedom to express and speak—but there are limits. Your freedom of speech ends where the rights of others begin. People use free speech as an excuse to be a bully and they mask it as standing up for themselves.
When are we going to realize that free speech has its costs? If we abuse it—it may cost us a life or two, even more, and a ton weight on our conscience.
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Banner photograph from Beauty and the Beast/Walt Disney Pictures.