Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Amalayer, Anonymity, Accessibility, And Our Actions

So the Miss Amalayer video goes viral, and the netizens are at it again. She became the target of comments, jokes, spoofs, and personal tirades against her. But thanks also to our experiences with Lao and Carabuena, some netizens quickly expressed outrage or concern over the cyber-ganging up on her. Some mocked those who mocked her so-called faux-American accent, calling them hypocritical.

The Philippines may not be the most wired country in the world, but many of its citizens are fairly email- and Facebook-savvy. And the number of connected citizens will increase as the technology becomes more widespread. So it’s good that this early, there is already a growing concern about how people behave online.

Proper behavior is agreed upon by a society and is passed on to the next generation. Generally, we know how to behave properly in public. We don’t just squat in the middle of the sidewalk and take a dump. We are taught that we should cover our mouth when we sneeze in public. And sex should be done in the privacy of a room.

As the internet becomes more and more accessible, we should learn how to behave online as well. Particular online sites, such as chat rooms, have moderators who can impose some form of discipline in their forums. But with Facebook, Twitter, and other public sites with no moderators, the participants ought to learn how to self-moderate. Admitted, this will take time. But it’s good that people are already speaking out. The process of check-and-balance has started.

An enemy of proper behavior is anonymity. Mobs form and become an unstoppable force when individuals lose their identity in a crowd. Anonymity emboldens them to behave unruly because it’s difficult to pinpoint responsibility.

Our sense of anonymity these days are affected by two important technological advances, the rise of the internet and the availability of video-recording devices in cellphones. Thanks to technology, everyone is now a mobile CCTV. Before that, when someone behaved badly in public, the only witnesses are the ones in the immediate vicinity. Now millions can view an incident and instantly weigh in on it.

The internet allows anonymous postings. Some people rant on their Facebook or Twitter pages without fear because they hide behind handles and pseudonyms. But even those who use their real names online do mouth off too. They do that because: [1] they feel that they have some level of anonymity because aren’t really well-known (unlike celebrities with millions of followers); and/or [2] they are exercising their right to free speech by sharing videos/photos and stating their opinions on their personal site.

My personal stand on the matter is this: I think people should be allowed to say whatever they want. For me, freedom of speech goes both ways: people may speak up against you, but you too have the right to speak up and defend your actions.

(On a side note: Can verbal bullying be defended under freedom of speech? I believe in certain exceptions, particularly the underage who are not yet emotionally mature. Students should be protected from verbal or physical abuse.)

But what about mature adults being “verbally bullied” by supposedly fellow mature adults? If people are free to throw below-the-belt insults at you, you also are free to hurl right back at them--or you can keep silent. I am for people learning how not to be too sensitive and affected by what others say. Whenever I hear “victims” of cyberbullying whine about how they suffered so much stress, I want to tell them, “Toughen up, wimp. Be the adult that you are. If you commit suicide because you were bullied, then it’s your loss.”

Thanks to video and the internet, the cyberbullied becomes an instant celebrity. So perhaps we ought to look at how celebrities handle a situation wherein they become targets of public ridicule. When Hugh Grant was caught hooking up with a prostitute, what did he do? When Eddie Murphy picked up a streetwalker who turned out to be a chick-with-a-dick, what did he do? Yes, they have a whole team working on their public image. But there must be a lesson or two which us non-celebrities can pick up from them. First, admit to yourself that you are responsible for your actions, and certain public acts have very public consequences. Toughen up. If the stress is getting to you, seek help. Don’t answer each and every criticism; in fact, learn how to tune out the noise. Weather it through. People eventually move on and forget.

Like it or not, technology can make instant celebrities of us all, whether in a good way (look at Kevjumba, Happy Slip, and all those cute kitten videos) or not. That should be a warning to us all. Austin Powers got it right: Online or off, “Oh, behave!”


rudeboy said...

Mobs will be mobs.

Also, relevant:

joelmcvie said...

@RUDEBOY: Interesting points that article raises.

One important distinction: your Facebook may be considered "personal," but unless it's set to "private viewing," then it's a PUBLIC site. Thus, your posts can be scrutinised and judged by the public.

Opinions are opinions, and most people can understand differences in opinion. (It is another matter, though, if they can state their different opinions in a sober manner.) Sense of humor, though, is trickier. What is funny to some can be offensive to others, and here is where most people's intolerance are revealed.

Yes, mobs will be mobs, because there is no thought guiding a mob once it becomes one. So it is prudent to not to give someone a reason to start a mob.

What complicates Lindsey Stone's predicament is the fact that her trip to the cemetery was paid for by her employer; thus, the company was forcibly dragged into the mess. Had her trip been paid out of her own pocket, the company will find it easier to distance itself from her acts as a private citizen.

But this is Lindsey's 15 minutes of infamy. After that, people will forget, new employers won't recognise her at all, and life goes on.

Unknown said...

This is one of the trending topic now a days.Amalayer video is taken by the person who saw the conversation between the amalayer girl and the lady guard in LRT.