The evolution of social media
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

If you asked us 10 years ago what the world would look like today, we probably would have had no idea. We may not have the flying cars and self-drying jackets like Back to the Future predicted, but there are certainly so many things in our world today that would have seemed incomprehensible to our younger selves. Indeed, the world has changed a lot and while there have been so many changes in the past decades I would have to say social media is the probably one of the biggest game changers of them all.

Social media began innocently enough. Email and chat programs like AOL and ICQ. It was a way for friends to stay in touch in a way that was much faster and more reliable than letters and email. Finally you could have a conversation with a loved one that lived in a different time zone in real time without paying astronomical phone bills. It seemed like a miracle. I remember my daughter in particular appreciated it because she got to keep in touch with friends and family abroad with relative ease for the first time in years.

Then social media began to evolve further – from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook. It seems like it happened over night but it did take a few years. At first it was just the kids who were on the networks like my, at-the-time 25-year-old daughter and her friends. Then, the next thing you know a few years pass and Friendster evolves into Facebook and soon generations before and after Gen X start signing up too – my wife and her friends and family, the millennials, and just about everyone.

It was a snowball that became an avalanche and hardly anyone saw it coming. These days, everyone is on Facebook or Instagram or some form of social media network. My daughter and wife are often glued to their phones for extended periods of time just typing away. It’s a nice way to keep in touch with loved ones and to store your memories – photos, correspondences, etc – I can’t deny that, but as always, with the good inevitably comes the bad.

Social media has evolved from a simple way to stay in touch with friends into a hydra that has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. These days we know what everyone is doing every minute of the day. We see what everyone is eating, what they are wearing, who they are with. And while that may seem like fun at first, after awhile it gets taxing and quite frankly exhausting. What’s more, social media has amplified everyone’s voice and given him or her the permission to comment on every single thing even if it doesn’t involve them.

I believe that social media is a useful tool. We have seen how quickly it can be utilized in times of crisis but at the same time it is insidious too. These days social media has given birth to fake news sites, scams, hacking, and trolls. Millions of people saying whatever they want whenever they want will definitely cause problems and the worst part is those who are choosing to spread fallacies and lies and panic are emboldened online because they feel they can do whatever they want without getting caught. Just the other night my wife told me that she read that Imelda Marcos had died. It turned out the news wasn’t true of course but it must have fooled so many netizens.

Personally I think it has reached critical mass. I have never been a fan of social media. I have barely ever used it. It’s probably my age, but I have never been a fan of what’s popular or in vogue. I don’t need a smartphone so I can check Facebook every minute of the day but at the same time I understand why others do. It’s become an intricate part of our lives and our work.

That is why I believe there should be some accountability online. While people rebelled at the thought of Internet “censorship” it is important to set boundaries too. Journalists like myself are always careful what we say or what we write because we are held to a higher standard. We know we can’t just shoot off every thought because we’d have to deal with libel cases or worse. That is why everything is carefully researched and thought out before going to print. Online just does not have those safeguards. People say and do whatever they want and we have all seen how dangerous that can be.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this twisted web we’ve all weaved for ourselves, but I do know that the further down the rabbit hole we go the harder it will be to dig ourselves out again. Personally I miss the time we lived a world that was more “authentic”. I just worry that social media and the online community have destroyed real truth by allowing everyone the freedom to spread lies with just as much ease. Hopefully, we aren’t all too far gone.

*     *     *

Though it has been the topic of much debate I am glad they will be fully re-implementing the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA) this July. I understand why it had to be suspended considering all the confusion when it was first implemented in May but I don’t think that it should have been scrapped all together. The Act needed clearer Implementing Rules and Regulations and now with the IRR in place implementation is set to begin again in the first week of July.

I truly believe that phones should not be in the hands of drivers behind the wheel. Far too many accidents have been caused by mobile phone usage – especially among the youth who – as mentioned above – are quite addicted to their social media and don’t seem to want to miss out on a moment, even if their hands should be on the wheel.

However, I do feel the initial penalty costs are a bit high. Maybe given time they can be increased but to charge P5,000 for the first offense when the ADDA is just about to be implemented again seems a bit steep. I believe that even a lower cash penalty at this point would serve the purpose of teaching drivers and discourage them from using their devices.

Now if only we could find a way to address traffic and clear the streets the real problem would probably be solved. If people weren’t stuck in their vehicles for hours on end just trying to get somewhere they would probably be less tempted to pass the time on their phones.

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