Most toxic year ever | Inquirer Opinion

Most toxic year ever

/ 05:14 AM December 21, 2018

We are a few days shy of bidding 2018 goodbye, and it seems like it took some sort of divine benevolence for us to finally reach this point.

All years have their torrential storms. But if 2018 had been especially unkind, don’t feel isolated. If there’s anything we can glean from social media the past 12 months, it’s the commonality of our sufferings: from annoying people to exasperating inconveniences, unmet expectations and unwelcome realities, mysterious beginnings and harsh endings. And, oh, the breakups! Why must they be so plentiful this year?


It is no surprise, therefore, that the Oxford Dictionaries chose “toxic” as its Word of the Year for 2018. According to Oxford, the Word of the Year reflects the “ethos of the passing year” and has become a “term of cultural significance.”

“Toxic,” which we usually ascribed to chemicals and poison, was used in a variety of contexts in 2018. Alas, we are walking out of 2018 with a new use for it — toxic now meaning anything negative or harmful.


“Toxic masculinity,” for instance, was a hot topic. Masculinity, according to Oxford, was the second most frequent collocate to toxic, right after “chemical.”

The rise of the #MeToo movement and the spotlight on sexual abuse and gender inequality pushed the phrase to the fore, earning almost 100,000 news articles on Google search as of this writing. The phrase is used not to antagonize masculinity, but to describe the actions committed by men who fear the loss of it.

“Toxic environment” has also gained traction. A washed-up sperm whale in Indonesia last month was found to have some 13 pounds of plastic in its stomach. That’s almost a thousand pieces of plastic!

But toxic environment is more attributable to — where else? — the workplace. Recent companies under fire for toxic workplace environments include Berkshire Bank, L’Oreal and, surprisingly, the National Basketball Association. Kevin Durant thinks the working environment with LeBron James is “toxic.” Not that he has anything against LeBron. It’s just that the media buzz has refashioned their jobs to go beyond merely playing professional basketball.

Speaking of toxic environments, nothing can perhaps be more universal and yet also starkly specific as “toxic Filipino culture,” the social media trend that unabashedly exposed the ugly truths of our conditioned prejudices. From handling LGBT causes to managing mental health problems, criticizing local politics and dealing with family life, a strain of toxic Filipino culture seems to have attached itself to such issues.

But if there’s really anything toxic that many of us have personally dealt with, it would have to be “toxic relationships.” We’ve all been there, and there seems to be no definite guide on knowing when you’re in one, and how to handle it. You’ll know what it feels like, particularly when keeping a certain person around seems more detrimental than letting him or her go.

For many, these relationships are a thing of the past year and the next step is to move on. But for plenty others, they would walk into the new year still holding on to such baggage. Because a part of us will always hope, won’t we? Or isn’t this expectation precisely the toxic thing we impose on ourselves?


Gone are the days when chemicals were the only thing we deemed toxic, and we sang the word as a pop song. This year proved that some things cannot be taken too lightly — and some others, on the other hand, we might be taking too seriously. Some things are toxic by nature, while some become toxic because of the amount of dosage. Next year, may we learn to manage the difference between the two.

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