An emoji for Ninoy
By my estimate, half of the Filipino population lives in the real world, and the rest in the internet. I say this because I am one of the latter. Social media has become a country within a country where we source almost everything from our news to our dinner, to our dinner date. It has become our greatest oasis, the newest addition to the human body, almost essential for it to function in the Digital Age. If you disagree with me, I challenge you to live for a week without your smartphone and the internet.
We live in a distracted age. So distracted that one can be drinking coffee, having eight conversations, doing research work, reading the news, watching “Game of Thrones,” listening to acoustic music, and still be chilling. Multitasking is the new normal. Busy is the new chill.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us in a space when it is harder to write a paragraph because we are so used to 140 characters or less. It leaves us wanting to shortcut everything. It leaves us so easily bored, that we stop mid-sentence to check five other apps. It leaves us craving Instagram-worthy photos instead of actual spontaneous good time with our folks. Selfies are the new currency, and it doesn’t matter if it takes eternity to get the perfect angle.
Distraction leads us to a time when dinners start with a photo and not a prayer, or when the coffee flavor has become a more interesting topic than the other person. Distraction leads us to think less before reacting spontaneously with an emoji.
It leaves us buffering when asked for an opinion. It leaves us restless and feeling stuck in a comfort zone of likes and semi-anonymous opinion. Distraction makes the not so okay seem fine — just like a thumbs-up in a group chat that has gone for days and we are too lazy to read up. An acknowledgement with no reason to judge or compelling reason to act.
The platform has become so overwhelming, and so powerful, it can make presidents, and unmake them just as easily. It can make celebrities out of nobodies. On the sunny side, it can send timely weather updates and relevant information, and raise funds for a good cause.
Perhaps social media and its prevalence are something that we cannot control. It is an idea whose time has come and it will be here to stay. The goal now is to not let it drown us. As much as fake news and propaganda exist, so do unique and sincere voices that would otherwise be unheard.
Bad online journalism cannot kill the truth. It challenges it to become stronger. The stage doesn’t kill the playwright. It beckons him or her to write.
As history reminds us, oppression inspired Rizal to write the “Noli” and “Fili.” While I doubt that there would be as many who would read his novels nowadays, I do not doubt the need for truth.
And the need for Rizals who would write the modern-day “Noli” and “Fili.” Though today’s “Noli” probably has to be animated. It has to be current, colorful and downloadable in different gadgets. Some would probably just see the movie, and skip the book. Some would read a condensed version even. Some would pretend to have read it. A tiny few would understand.
When you think about it, nationalism can be the ultimate hugot. If we weren’t too distracted, we probably would be doing spoken word every day. If we weren’t too tired from the stress called Edsa, we would probably have more time to think about what matters. Distractions keep us busy with making sand castles, not knowing that the tidal wave is just about to hit.
But forget nationalism. When you hear about random 17-year-olds getting killed by law enforcers in the middle of the night, it brings your values to your screen. And as in love and broken hearts, if it resonates enough, if it hurts enough, it will lead to action. Maybe, even a rejuvenation.
There are stories that you scroll on quickly and there are those that make you pause. Perhaps no one wanted an innocent person to die. Maybe it was an isolated case. Perhaps some people were just following orders. Maybe it was a mistake. Perhaps they were just too distracted.
Perhaps, we all are.
When orders become more important than the outcome, it means we are distracted. In our hurry for immediate results, we sometimes forget to see the world according to our values.
If Ninoy Aquino were alive today, I wonder what emoji he would send our nation’s group chat. Will there be Rizals to launch #Pilipinas? Will there be other heroes to echo their strengths?
There is a beginner app for love of country. I believe it’s called responsible citizenship. :)
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Jason DC. Gavina, 29, manages the Corporate Social Responsibility program of an energy company.
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