Social media has, by and large, become an amazing platform for self-expression where freedoms are nearly unbridled.
This free environment makes for a truly democratic space that connects the world and renders the borders that continue to divide nations and peoples obsolete, at least insofar as the platform is concerned. And unless you live in, say, China.
While Facebook has done a mighty awesome job in connecting people, our online behavior and how we manage the freedoms we are afforded have also caused unnecessary but expected division and discord.
I distinctly remember when Sandy Chiongbian-Gonzales encouraged me to join Facebook nearly a decade ago. She was calling me from Manila and that was her only agenda. I was at the stoop of Ayala’s Active Zone (it was still called Entertainment Center, if my memory serves me right), right outside what used to be Bo’s Coffee Club.
“I don’t think that’s for me, ’te Sands. I’m good with Friendster. Contrary to people’s perceptions, I’m actually a very private person and don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information on the internet like that.”
Yeah, right. I caved. I opened a Facebook account on November 2008, and my online existence has since opened doors to many opportunities. It has also gotten me into trouble not a few times.
Meanwhile, close to a decade has passed since I yielded to the pressure and finally joined Facebook. Friendster is no more. Facebook has transformed into a monster platform devouring anything in the way.
Now there’s the share button, reactions, live videos, Messenger, video calls, followers, filters, stories, and so many other features — all these when all I wanted then was no limits to the number of characters for the status update field.
Anyhow, while we’ve never been this up to speed with developments in the lives of our friends, family, and celebrities we wished were our friends or family, the voyeuristic culture social media has inadvertently developed has paved the way for people minding more of other people’s business.
And because other people’s business is also freely posted online for public scrutiny and consumption, the “minding” is done with more entitlement than ever before. “Why did you post it if you didn’t want people to react?”
A bunch of listicles have come out the past few years proffering advice on ideal online behavior, enumerating dos and don’ts when on Facebook.
Personally, I can’t bring myself to follow most of what these lists suggest, especially the recommendation to cease and desist from posting politically themed posts. I believe we’re way past that.
It might take a while before we’ve more mature dialogue online, but we’ve also made considerable headway (like never before) in elevating the level of public discourse through this medium.
That being said, I’ve come up with my own social media policy to guide my online behavior and presence.
My rule of thumb is to follow basic manners and common courtesy, but it’s really easier said than done.
Here’s a quick rundown of my FB non-negotiables:
1) Follow Facebook’s Community Standards (the site’s standards are actually pretty conservative and cover a great deal so it’s a good place to start).
2) Never be the first to block, unfriend, or unfollow friends, despite divergent political views. IQ AND EQ.
3) Unless you are close, never comment on other people’s posts to antagonize them for their political opinion. If you have to raise a valid counter argument, send your comments privately. Personal posts and jokes are fair game.
4) Of course you can delete comments, especially if these come from people who aren’t in your network and if they fail to observe proper decorum. It’s your timeline, and your timeline is like your home — you don’t let anyone leave a mess.
5) Never attack friends or anyone in your Facebook network. Only government officials/politicians, erring and unrepentant mainstream media, and other public personalities deserve to be called out. If you’ve complaints about private companies, pick up the phone and call the owner if you know them or lodge a complaint using the proper channels.
6) Never be baited into engaging in a fight online. Whether they attack you in your timeline or tag you in theirs, don’t ever allow yourself to get sucked into fighting in public. You’re better than that. When they attack and showcase troll behavior, your best course of action is to remain above it and keep quiet. Ignore.
The one time I violated rule 5, I truly regretted it. I felt ashamed of myself.
I called out prize-winning author Miguel Syjuco for using a fake post to criticize Mocha Uson on fake news.
Mocha’s personal account is also on my Facebook friends list. Anyway, I should’ve known better.
I could have easily messaged Miguel privately to point out the error instead of attacking him publicly. We’re all human; we all make mistakes, and I should’ve been more considerate.
My emotions got the better of me and my angry post quickly gained traction and became viral.
I have since apologized to Miguel privately, and he was gracious and magnanimous enough to accept my apology.
I’m reiterating my apology here for all the world to see.
I told Miguel that even if we have completely disparate political views, true to my personal policy, I have not unfollowed him and continue to read his posts and columns because I appreciate the way he writes. But that’s that. Lesson learned.
The aforementioned rules are my Facebook non-negotiables and I’ve tried to live up to those rules as best as I can, except for that one time. They are mine, not imposing them on you.
So if you’ve come up with your own (which I encourage you to do if you still haven’t), I’d appreciate it if you don’t impose them on me too.