NOTES FROM THE EDITOR - Singkit (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2018 - 12:00am

Social media, like all things – and I guess all people, too – has both a good side and a bad side. You can find long lost friends and relatives through Facebook, the most popular social media platform with over two billion users. You can make people inggit with photos on FB and IG of your designer wardrobe and accessories and your new swanky condo unit, but also attract the keen eye of the taxman and the ill-gotten wealth investigator. You can post photos of your family’s grand holiday, but also alert the akyat bahay and budol-budol gangs that you’re not at home (this is a particularly apt warning this week).

A woman was arrested and charged with the murder of her friend after a photo she had posted on FB a day before the crime was committed showed her wearing the belt that was used to strangle her friend.

Now comes the FB-Cambridge Analytica brouhaha, where data of millions of FB users in the US – plus their FB network of friends – were “harvested” and turned over to this data analytics firm which then mined the information to “influence” the 2016 US elections, even bragging that this made the difference that won the electoral college votes, though not the popular vote.

From the many layers of the dark web that house arms dealers and child molesters to casual groups of online friends sharing sports news and recipes, social media is now how many people connect with each other. In the interest of full disclosure let me say that I do have an FB account – in fact, I think I have two, created by two well-meaning friends – but I don’t know when I last opened (is this the right term?) it or, come to think of it, how to even open my account.

So, like my fellow neanderthals, this data harvesting, psychometric targeting or whatever other new term applies to this breach, is hardly a personal threat to me. But the idea that innocuous data can be harvested and used to such a degree is rather frightening. One analyst even boasted that if he can just see 300 of an FB user’s “likes” he will be able to “know that person better than his or her spouse.”

The irony though is that while many people put practically all the gory details of their lives out on social media, these same people can hardly connect with other folks in the real, flesh-and-blood world. They say it’s easier to be “friends” in the cyber world, but what’s the fun in that? You may LOL and put a hundred laughter emojis on your tablet or computer, but nothing beats laughing with a friend face-to-face – knee-slapping, tears-in-your-eyes laughing hanggang masakit na ang tiyan mo (until your tummy hurts) or, as my friend describes it, naglulupasay sa corridor sa katatawa (rolling in the corridor with laughter).

Perhaps this week of reflection is a good time to turn that smartphone and tablet and laptop off and connect, really connect – with God, with your family, with your friends, with the world around you, and rediscover what life is really all about. 

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