Whenever some juicy controversial topic explodes in the media, sites like Twitter and Facebook are naturally lit like Christmas lights with a sudden flurry of activity. Status updates and tweets have enabled the ordinary person to post his/her thoughts on platforms with a captive audience (Facebook friends and Twitter followers) not readily available to an amateur blog. And these days, social networks are mined by mainstream media in order to get a ‘pulse’ of the public sentiment regarding a certain issue. So it’s not uncommon to see headlines with that newfangled term ‘netizen’ appended to them. Suddenly, the audience had a more active participation in the news.
And that’s where the cacophony starts.
A long time ago, when the term ‘net’ was still associated with fishing activities instead of cyberspace, the most an average citizen can do as far as being involved with the news and issues is to write to their respective media organizations. And that in itself was a minor gamble because not all correspondence are guaranteed to be published. These days, EVERYONE’s opinions are guaranteed their five minutes of notoriety. And as such, produce a lot of noise that buries substantial information and insight underneath the weight of banality and moronic attempts to draw attention to oneself.
Just click on some popular trending topic or hashtag in Twitter and see that for every one compelling thought or significant information, ten others are simply rants or blatant spams with nothing substantial to offer to the discussion. It seems the cons in the ‘democratization’ of the web outweighed the pros in more ways than what was originally anticipated. Even established media organizations oftentimes resort to lazy journalistic practices by simply getting sample tweets pertaining to a controversial topic and pass it off as ‘news’ with the popular generic ‘Netizens react to…’ tagline on the title.
There are a few gems amid all that muck. Some tweets/updates from civilians in the actual location of an event does prove how these platforms can be beneficial. Not only in terms of news reporting, but in averting potential disasters as well by way of real time updates from the people directly affected.
Only a week ago the media exploded with Manny Pacquiao-related news about his stance on same-sex marriage. As expected, Facebook and Twitter timelines were flooded with both pro, anti, and everything else related to the issue. But amid all the noise people seem to have conveniently forgotten that the Sarangani representative was asked about his position. Looking at the ‘Netizens react’-type of ‘reports’, one can clearly see that people were reacting as expected. And that, despite the seeming concern and involvement to current issues, the real majority sentiment is garden-variety grandstanding.
It’s not really that hard to arrive at that observation. Suddenly known contacts who can’t be bothered to comment about events outside the bubble of their asinine pop culture pursuits and narcissistic preoccupations in social media developed a civic awareness and are now posting lengthy status messages either denouncing or lauding the congressman for what he did. The very same characters who can’t be bothered to share or even comment on issues that directly affect them as taxpayers are now very involved. Zealously, at that. This is of course not meant to trivialize the issue about the LGBT rights that has been the steady topic these past days, but one wonders how things would be had these people showed the same amount of enthusiasm to equally important issues that are not attached to any celebrity.
So much for social media ‘engagement’. It’s off to one juicy issue after another to practice the well-rehearsed pretense and opportunity for grandstanding and attention-whoring with no actual empathy for the topic at hand.