this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on July 3, 2016.

On the scenario of scrolling-clicking-reading-sharing that now happens every day of our lives, we swear responsibility and accountability through our fingerprints. And if it messes up, it will spread like a virus—to what effect? Something worse than flu, something like cancer. 

Everything that pops up on the social media sites, particularly Facebook, draws attention not just in a single city but in the whole wide world. Good or bad, it earns both sides of the coin: Millions of people post negative and positive reviews and comments. And if it could just pay the bills and taxes, we would have financed the replacement of our country’s aging airports and decrepit railways with brand-new types. 

Leisure has been given a new meaning with Facebook becoming much more active than before. The ritual of reading government announcements, newspaper pages, campaign materials, and even show biz rants dominates our hours of rest—and, more often than not, causes mental exhaustion. 

We have built a culture of finger-pointing and fault-finding, and we have carried it all the way to the rise of the high-technology era. Instead of intelligent debates and thoughtful exchanges of remarks in the comment boxes on Facebook posts, Filipinos have been monstrous narrators of what they feel about a controversy. Of course, some statements are sensible. But an equal number, or more, have to be investigated to find the sensibility in them, if any. 

In social media, civil wars are being waged almost every hour, if you haven’t noticed. You will wonder what these commenters and posters are doing for a living when all they do is criticize one another’s viewpoint endlessly online. We are brothers and sisters who will also become the benefactors of the innovations we are debating about, but we are too stubborn to even listen to each other. We only want to be on top of the charts, but in the course of our climbing, we tend to step on others’ ladders—and toes. We do not want to make peace between ourselves and others, but we criticize our government’s way of bringing about peace on the island of Mindanao. We do not embrace the possibility of change because we think what’s laid is already laid, and what we can do is only to improve on it. But I tell you, a total overhaul is the best possible solution to problems, to bring about great things in the future. 

Remember that what you type and post is not just a reflection of the person you are but also a reflection of the leader in you. Take this, for instance: Think of yourself as the president who will read your commentaries. Will they make you ponder? If not, you will have to try harder. Talk better. Let us promote good communication in our own little ways. 

We can influence people in a morally acceptable manner if we will just be sensitive enough to the things we are doing. We can conduct healthy conversations and inform others of the best way, the right way. However, we are becoming dictators of our interest. We are slowly growing to be part of a culture that doesn’t honor traditional Filipino values. We have been taught to be responsible both in words and in actions. But what are we now? 

Today, we are asked to fight using methods that will make us victorious no matter what. At times, it’s not just, and it’s not right. We should depend on facts, on factual circumstances. 

The societal cancer mutates and multiplies. Now, we also have the social media cancer, and it has grown bigger than any cure we may have for it. Do we even try to heal ourselves? Or do we want to “cure” others because we lack the acceptance that we, too, have gone wrong? Our duty to inform and to hear others’ points of view has been bypassed and wasted. What we have now is the burning desire to parade our opinions and demolish everyone else along the way. We may be entitled to our own points of view on various controversies, but we are not entitled to make fun of people we do not like, or who do not agree with us. Social media memes are irresponsible forms of mediocre thinking. We must stop the practice even if it means bashing and smart-shaming. This behavior is not a Filipino trait. It is not a leader’s trait. 

We are persons of different capabilities, and we can use these differences to build a nation of good governance. The genius is always in the variety. We can think and act in the cleverest way, but we choose to stoop low. Let us become the persons, readers, citizens and leaders we want for our country, the leaders we deserve. Let us help spread the truth, and not merely the gossip. 

Read and digest the news and posts in social media but don’t internalize them too much. Remember that social media now provides easy access to barbaric black propaganda, as much as it provides easy access to pieces of factuality. Let us become our own soldier and get the real facts over the fun facts. Let our viewpoints become the antidote for the cancer that we are fighting now, so that we wouldn’t have to waste our time fighting it for the next years to come. 

Let us become critics of substance and not purveyors of meaningless comments. When the time comes, we will gain the good fruits of this goodness we have done.

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