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‘Thoughts not native to my mind’

/ 12:00 AM June 25, 2017

Let my opinions be mine and yours be yours. Such was a beautiful truth realized, though probably not innovated, by the Stoics 2,000 years ago; this simple piece of wisdom must have improved not just their quality of life in general, but their quality of thought as well. When we are in agreement, then all is well. Yet when I think in one way and you in an entirely different way, why must there be a problem?

And why must we blow it even more out of proportion online?


Naturally, there are far too many variables for a single memoir to cover. Let’s cast aside bickering over universally recognized truths, such as the sun rising from the east or the Earth being round; to put it mildly, questioning the most fundamental scientific truths leads to dead ends, anyway. Let’s set our gaze on subjectivity and preferences. Do not mistake my contempt for condescension when I say that squabbling over the best artist of this generation is juvenile. This happens frequently all over the internet, and it is nigh impossible not to stumble upon these online battles.

Picture an online interaction. Perhaps Ed Sheeran may be my favorite artist, and Ariana Grande may be yours. We can swap comments about our favorite hits just fine. But the moment you take shots at me or my preference of artist in a manner that does not resemble banter whatsoever, I shall save both of us from wasting one another’s time. There are enough online donnybrooks that add nothing intelligent or informative to cyberspace. Dear stranger on the internet, let us not add a pair to that growing number.


Cyberspace would be far less toxic if more netizens only knew when to walk away.

On the subject of morality and its uncountable shades of gray, here is where things truly start to get interesting. A question not often asked is: Is the internet an appropriate venue for moral debate? We are talking about a platform where everyone, regardless of educational background, profession, age, or credibility, can chime in on hot topics posted online. When you have this diverse panel numbering in the thousands with virtually no moderator, would it still be conducive to intellectual discussion and constructive correction of one another?

Perhaps not always, but here we see the obsolescence of the question we posed earlier — it matters little whether or not the internet is indeed an appropriate venue, for it already IS a place where moral debates transpire on a daily basis. The more logical question to pose would be: What can we do about these debates and so-called “social justice wars”?

A certain senator notorious for “tagalizing” lets fly a snide remark about single mothers; the President blurts out yet another rape joke, and in the midst of the crisis in Marawi City no less. Both draw flak for their statements, and rightly so. But at what point does the reaction and backlash become unhealthy?

When your online tirades resort to cheap shots and merely repeat what others already know, rethink your post, often signified by, yet not always, all capital letters, words like “Dutertards” and “yellowtards” and otherwise criticizing anything outside of what the other person did wrong. It would be far more constructive to stick to valid arguments, and to focus on correcting what you think the other person needs to address. There’s no high horse or pretentiousness here—the crux of the matter is whether or not your post or comment is charged with purpose for the sake of the netizens reading it.

Generally, whenever we encounter anything online that we do not agree with, our thought process regarding these stimuli can be enhanced by these two simple questions:

1) Why does this piss me off? Trust me, you will be surprised how different your “knee-jerk reason” may be from your “examined reason.”


I had this friend on Facebook once, and she was rather fond of posting negative things. Her statements did not set off any “13 Reasons Why” alarms by any means, but it was clear she was venting her troubles online. From there sprang my organic, knee-jerk reason for being irked — the posts simply vexed me, not the person per se, mind you. However, upon honest examination, there was another reason I was bothered — someone was spreading all this negativity about little things online, sentiments that we clearly do not need to know. This brings us to the second question.

2) If I choose to deliberately react to this online stimulus, what good can my reactive post bring about? If the answer is none, then be on your way. You need not crap on anyone, start a so-called flame war for lack of anything better to do, or do other silly things with your keyboard. Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic, said it perfectly 2,000 years ago: “You always have the option of having no opinion.” For the love of cyberspace, that is a beautiful statement.

On the other side of the spectrum, if you can bring about good or inspire “smart conversation,” as Rappler puts it, that is the time to give a crap. Lay down your counterarguments for an article defending the practicality of “endo.” Point out the questionable sources of that YouTuber. Compliment someone. Make someone laugh today with a genuinely hilarious post. It does not matter if you are part of the 0.001 percent of the population (yes, I pulled that number out of nowhere, pardon me) that takes the time to consider all this; that 0.001 percent gets it right in an age when keyboard warriors are quick to poke but slow to sheathe their tetanus-rich steel.

So, my netizen reader, what has spurred your thoughts today from the online community?

* * *

Jim Alipio, 18, is a Grade 12 student at Lourdes School Quezon City.

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TAGS: Inquirer Opinion, Jim Alipio, online bickering, social media, Stoics, Young Blood
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