PGTW: On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 3 October 2013, Thursday

On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog

There’s an old cartoon that shows a dog at a computer. Another dog looks up at him. The caption says, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

The image is a commentary on the nature of the Internet as an accessible open forum that allows a free range of expression. Any one may post any material they wish -  statements, opinions, comments, images, and the like – under their own persona or cloaked under an assumed identity.

This has both pros and cons. On the positive side, it is a medium for documentation of oppressions and disasters that cry out for intervention and change. It allows a genuine sharing of ideas and connection with others without fear of reprisal or punishment, as in the case of repressed societies or groups.

For instance, much of the restructuring of how we think and behave towards marginalized communities such as the LGBT and the like happens on the Internet. The Million People March in Luneta against the pork barrel, which advocates social change, was organized on the Internet, as were the various “Arab Spring” protests.

However, the dual nature of phenomena allows the Internet a dark side – it is also a place where hatred and negativity can fester and spread.

Take the case of Megan Young, who recently brought home the Miss World crown, making the Philippines the first country to win five international beauty pageants – the Big Four (Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss World, Miss Earth) and Miss Supranational.

A “Devina DeDiva” on Facebook attacked her, saying, among other things, “Miss Philippines is Miss World? What a joke! I did not know those maids had anything else in them hahaha.”

Filipino netizens erupted, posting comments in defense of Megan. An FB Page, “Haters of Devina DeDiva” was created to provide a venue for rants. On her own page, the Singapore-based “Devina” eagerly responded to comments, refusing to retract the insults she continued to spew, at one point saying “who r u to stop my words when the world is democratic in freedom of speech!” She seemed to relish the attention.

One issue here is how the rest of the world perceives Filipinos. We won’t go into that now for lack of space. Let’s talk about the Internet phenomenon of “haters and trolls.”

Writer Alex Alcasid, 21, who has had extensive experience as a forum administrator of several Facebook and other Internet groups, says:

“The anonymity of the Internet gives people a confidence boost. It makes them feel that they can do anything, say anything about another person because they are hidden on the other side of the screen, behind a forum icon or profile picture that does not show their true face.

“‘Haters’ are people that, well, hate.  They harbor a strong dislike for someone, usually a celebrity, or a group of people. They tend to be vocal, airing opinions they would not be able to say to the face of their targets.

“‘Trolls’ derive joy from making people angry. They try to incite a reaction. Once on an FB group, I got mad at this guy for an offensive comment and all he said was “omg you guys are so mad lol.”

“The danger of trolls is that they can seem no different from people who give their honest critique hoping for change with no animosity. But then some guys just want a laugh out of others’ frustration. The response to trolls should be to ignore them and their bait.”

“Devina” (the name seems fake to me – a play on “divine diva”, come on) is a troll. She enjoys the drama and conflict she’s stirring up and the attention she’s receiving – she’s getting off on all that. I’m sure psychologists have a term for what she is.

Why even dignify her and other trolls with any attention at all? Save your energy for battles that have real meaning, like the Napoles-DAP-pork issue and the RH and FOI bills.

Megan is not the only beauty queen to be disparaged on the Internet. Nina Davuluri, recently crowned Miss America, is an American of Indian descent who also received racist comments, some ignorantly calling her “Muslim.” Rima Fakih, named Miss USA in 2010, is of Lebanese extraction and was called “terrorist” online. Where there is success and victory, there will always be envy.

Megan herself seems to have remained mum on the controversy. Her Twitter feed has nothing on the issue. As of presstime, her latest Tweet reads, “Ika nga ni Inay, “you can never go wrong with kindness.” :)

Taking the high road when confronted by insecurity and hate – now that’s a classy dame. That’s the right response to online dogs – ignore them. They’re not worth the time and effort. ***

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