Choose to love

By: Ryan Macasero February 18,2017 - 09:25 PM



If we cannot love each other yet, let us not hate each other too much.” This was the message delivered at the State of the Nation Address 2016.

Last Valentine’s Day, I remembered these words and reflected if our nation had taken heed of this advice from our president himself.

Love is often the favorite topic of Filipinos, especially on social media. It’s also a concept difficult to describe with words.

The dictionary definitions will tell you that love is “an intense feeling of deep affection” or a “deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.”

These terms are not wrong, but they lack in capturing the feeling of what love is.

If we talk about love in the romantic sense, love is both a noun and verb. It is a feeling and it is action.

But in the sense that it was used in the State of the Nation, I believe that this was referring to simply how we treat one another.

I’ve always believed that at the core of our humanity is empathy and kindness. And I’ve been lucky enough to know so many people who exemplify the best of humanity.

However, many of the conversations that have taken place on the internet displays the darker side of humanity.

For simply disagreeing with someone else’s opinion, bullying, insults, personal attacks have become more frequent and an accepted norm.

The issues our nation — and the world — faces today are inevitably divisive and emotional. So it is only expected that in a world where society is mirrored online, those emotions will be poured out in virtual conversations.

No longer is bullying an obstacle limited to children in schoolyards. The internet has also become a breeding ground for a new kind of bullying, that young teens to even older adults partake in.

Many of my friends and colleagues, regardless of their personal beliefs, values and convictions, have been targeted for something they said or speaking up for what they believe in online.

I also get messages in my inbox from those who are not fans of this column like “Moron!” “Idiot! “Stupid!” And these messages are just some among the milder insults.

I’ve learned to shrug these things off with a sigh. But out of curiosity, I do click the profiles to try to understand what kind of a person would send messages like these.

Rather than allowing myself to be provoked into an equally emotional response to these comments, I do my best to try to understand the root of the anger.

You’d be surprised with the profiles of these people.

Among the accounts that looked real, the person often had pictures with young kids or with their grandparents. On the surface they looked kind, come from good families, are educated and some even had Bible verses posted as statuses. In short, these are people who could be my neighbors, colleagues or people who go to my church.

So where is the hate coming from? This is a question I am still trying to answer.

American journalist James Michael Surowiecki in his 2004 book “The Wisdom of the Crowds” argued that collective wisdom is better than any single expert opinion.

This is a concept many social media evangelists have applied to Facebook and Twitter.

And crowd wisdom has delivered results in some instances. One example is netizen participation in responding to the humanitarian crisis that followed Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. In the days following the deadly typhoon, netizens were empowered to act and offer their own resources, time and expertise in helping victims of the typhoon that left nearly a million families displaced and about 7,000 dead.

While the wisdom of the crowd has worked in some events, there are others where the crowd can get it wrong.

Former internet evangelist and startup founder turned digital contrarian Andrew Keen said in his book “The Internet is Not the Answer” argued this point. He said that rather than inspiring wisdom of the crowds, the internet has empowered “the rule of the mob.” Keen explained, “Rather than encouraging tolerance, it’s unleashed such a distasteful war on women that many no longer feel welcome on the network … Rather than making us happy, it’s compounding our rage.”

This line should be an eye-opener for digital evangelists and netizens alike. How often is our rage triggered by a Facebook post or a comment rather than something that actually calls for rage? How often have we stopped and asked ourselves with honesty ‘Why am I so angry?’ Why am I directing my anger toward this individual?

We are in an age where we live our lives in two worlds: a physical and virtual one. Is who we are offline the same person we are online?

Perhaps it is too naive to expect social media to turn into one big love fest, so the words delivered at the Sona might be the most realistic advice for our online lives that we all should take seriously.

But if you really think about it, it’s actually quite simple: love and hate are choices we make. So which do you choose?

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TAGS: Choose, Filipinos, humanity, love, Opinion, social media, Valentines Day
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