It’s quite the thing, social media and the internet.
On the one hand, it’s one of the most wonderful ways to remain in touch with friends, as well as keep up with news coming from anywhere in the world. From the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States to the incredible efforts of front-liners fighting Covid-19 in emergency rooms and ICUs everywhere, let us be thankful for the brave journalists reporting what’s going on, often at great personal risk.
But on the other hand, it can be a toxic and terrible place to be.
I have no idea what happened, if I’m being honest. Many of us are shaking our heads wondering what started this movement of toxicity. There are talks of trolls allegedly paid to spread misinformation masquerading as truth, which then continues to spread among folks that may or may not know any better.
It can be frightening to think about it, and we all wonder what we can do.
We start to suspect reputable news sources for either their supposed bias toward one political side or the other, or for the basis of their facts. There is so much noise … so much figurative screaming. Threats of all kinds are rife on every social media platform, and online bullying is prevalent. There are teenagers who are followed by their bullies on their social media handles, that enough of them have decided to end their lives. (There are news articles to substantiate this.)
No, I have no solutions, and I won’t pretend to know everything. And no, I am not immune to or untouched by any of the poison being cavalierly and liberally flailed around.
However, all I can do as someone tasked to write for a newspaper is this: to conduct myself with as much honesty and integrity as possible, for I don’t only represent myself with these articles (as well as anything else I write, for that matter), but I also represent this newspaper. And to a greater extent, because of how far these articles can reach, thanks to the internet, I also represent my country.
If I happen to interview people, instead of assuming their meaning when faced with a quote I don’t understand, I will ask them, via email, phone or text, exactly what they meant by what they said, as dictated by the rules of common courtesy.
I’d rather ask than assume, in order to avoid making a spectacle of myself. If I write about something, I need to do a fact-check, consult my editor and ask the questions I need to ask. Sure, this is the Entertainment section, but it’s still serious business. And I take the task of putting my hands on a keyboard to write very seriously.
I’ve used my words on various platforms to express happiness and gratitude, as well as to share frustration and pain. I’ve been misinterpreted over the years (despite how careful I try to be), so it’s part of the territory.
Remarks have been taken out of context so often that I’ve learned to dismiss it. “It is what it is,” I tell myself. Ganoon lang talaga kung minsan, kahit galit na galit na ako. It’s no wonder I have some anxiety before facing the press, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
My brother Gerard once aspired to be a journalist, inspired by the late newspaper publisher Maximo Soliven. Uncle Max had an unparalleled command of language, knowing full well its power, influence and reach.
Words can be used to comfort, strengthen and inspire, bolster an army and rally the fandoms. But words can also be weaponized to cause harm and instill fear.
So, how are you going to use the power of your words? To be a force for good or a minion of evil? To deal out destruction or encourage creation? To spread love or sow hate? The choice is yours. I’ve already made mine.
May you choose wisely and well.
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