Dealing with social media realities

BAR NONE - The Freeman

The 22nd Cebu Press Freedom Week was a tremendous success by any measure. The various meetings, forums and other events last week served to strengthen the Cebu press in terms of camaraderie and their commitment to a responsible and free press.

Congratulations to the Cebu working press, especially to this year's lead convenor The Freeman and Banat News, for having this annual celebration, the only one of its kind in the country.

I also would like to congratulate the Cebu Association of Communication Educators (CACE), led by USJ-R professor Nestor Ramirez, for the successful holding of the first National Journalism and Communication Research Conference last Friday, September 23 at the Benedicto College campus. Events like this help the schools in Cebu improve their communication and journalism programs through industry linkages and sharing of knowledge among the schools. The Embassy of Canada, as always, supported CACE in organizing the conference.


I am done with the trolls in social media, declared one journalist and probably countless other journalists who are used to the ways of the "old communication order." They have decided to ignore or ditch altogether the comments section of the online version of their respective newspapers.

It does not surprise me. Going online to engage in some meaningful interaction with readers almost always turns into a vicious brawl of words. Trolls - defined as persons who make deliberately offensive or provocative online postings - hijack the conversation.

But not all those who unleash verbal toxins online are trolls. Besides, what may be poison to a journalist may just be a bitter pill that an irritated reader wants an egotistical journalist to swallow. Who can tell one from the other?

For sure, the emerging "information and communication order" is still unfamiliar territory for most journalists. Dealing with the challenges of technological advances has been a recurring theme these past few celebrations of Cebu press freedom week.

Indeed, the press has yet to come to terms with the full impact of social media and other tools of information technology. The prevailing mindset seems to be that the online platform is merely a new place to migrate traditional content.

It is no wonder therefore that the various reactions of their online audience still catch many digital-immigrant journalists off guard. The gatekeeper is suddenly in a place where there is no gate. Yet he or she vehemently insists on guarding a non-existent gate, longing for the old days of decent discourse.

Oh how he wishes to go back to the good old days of skilled mass communicators, of calibrated language and decent diatribes; where the resource rich and the verbally crafty dominate the market of truth and deception.

Before you launch into a rant about losing our civilization to trolls and amateur commentators, I invite you to pause and take stock. Have we? What have the trolls and commentators done aside from pricking your ego? Have they caused a world war? Or at the very least an offline brawl or riot?

It's time to come to terms with the realities of new technology. No matter how you want to try to strike a balance with how people should behave in the online world, the wide avenues and deluge of information online, bogus or not, will only frustrate your efforts or cause you to invite censorship by the establishment.

What is more important I believe is that with or without trolls, the real and consequential conversations come from conscientious voices and rational, inquiring minds. That is where we should focus our attention to and where we should contribute our piece.

Remember the saying, "Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions." And may I add, "by people who know how to engage in rational conversations." Never mind the trolls, they're here to stay.

[email protected].

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