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opinion / Editorial

It’s not funny

opinion / Editorial
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Editorial

It’s not funny

/ 05:30 AM July 14, 2017

On Facebook, the group calls itself “Pastor Hokage Bible Study.” But far from edifying images or inspiring words that one would expect of religious cliques, the secret group posts salacious photographs of females, some of them minors, which fellow members then approve of with a resounding “Amen!”

To become a member, netizens must contribute or make an offering (“ambag”) of similar suggestive photos that, as it turns out, are posted without the knowledge and consent of the subjects. In worst cases, names, contact numbers and other sensitive information are posted as well, with the subject described in demeaning terms in what could be described as revenge porn—payback for a woman’s rebuff of a man’s attention. One woman—whose doctored photo was submitted to the group—found herself the subject of unwanted calls and indecent proposals from strangers.

But such deplorable behavior is nothing new. The anonymity of the Net has emboldened otherwise prudent people to let loose their dark side, knowing that they can evade accountability with a false name and persona on social media. It also shields them from the emotions that could be generated by an actual face-to-face encounter.

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And so fake news flourishes, as do trolls who delight in baiting others with provocative, bullying, and cruel posts that have sometimes led to suicide. Or, in this country’s postelection scenario, to juicy government positions for bloggers and paid trolls whose posts have shored up support for incumbent officials while maligning their rivals.

With presumably mature men—fathers, husbands, bosses and community leaders, as shown by their FB pages—flaunting such boorish manners and criminal behavior online in the Pastor Hokage pages, and bloggers getting recognized for their reckless posts, is it any wonder that young netizens crave the same attention using the same means?
In a world where “likes,” shares, and retweets are acceptable currency and a way to validate and
uplift one’s social media status, the young look to their elders for role modelling. And being older, they should know better, right?

Sadly, social media has trumped logic, age-old wisdom and civility. In a report, the Associated Press contends that social media “has created a vast new venue for incivility to be expressed, witnessed and shared.” Such behavior has been affecting social interactions in real life, it said.

“Over time, the attitudes and behaviors we are concerned with in social media will bleed out into the physical world,” AP said, quoting a psychologist. “By [reading about or] watching [the incivility], we vicariously feel it, and our own attitudes and behaviors change as a result.”

That might explain why people no longer cringe, express outrage at, or protest the use of cuss words, sexist and racist jokes, lying, and public bullying online and even in official functions. Social media and its culture of sharing has normalized otherwise unacceptable behavior, especially by celebrities and high-profile politicians who parlay such notoriety into reality shows and popular votes.

Social media, being “devoid of the social cues that mitigate behavior in real life,” worsens such misconduct, the AP report said, quoting an expert. When violating social norms in person, there’s immediate feedback from others through body language and tone of voice. No such indicators exist online, and retweets can feel like validation, it said.

Cruel and humiliating posts often become “an instant hit online,” and one of the quickest ways to become popular. When posts become viral, mainstream media pay attention, thus “spreading digital nastiness into everyday conversation.”

Added AP: By not expressly rejecting cruel or hateful online behavior, “we are creating a bystander culture where people think this is funny… When we tolerate leaders behaving in this way, we are creating a very dangerous petri dish for massive cultural change.”

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With children getting mixed messages—from bad behavior getting positive rewards—the AP report challenges us to question why we are participating in this “mob of reactivity,” and to reflect on the character traits we want our
children to emulate.

Now that’s a post worth “liking” and sharing.

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TAGS: facebook, netizens, Pastor Hokage Bible Study, salacious photographs of females
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