If there is one big lesson to be learned from the recent influx of high profile scandals, then it is all about the dangers of new media.
Of course the world has changed as it will always be changing. One who is not abreast with the shifting ground and the direction of technological progress will be left so far behind with threats of extinction. Yes, that is right --- extinction. Either that or atrophy. It is like being caught with a whole box of cassette tapes to play your music ... or not knowing what to do with shelves and drawers full of Betamax and VHS tapes as well as your laser discs. That is the way the world works.
You take a nap for too long and you turn out to be Rip Van Winkle. The world does not and will not wait for you. And it is still within very fresh memory when we used to lug around cellular phones as big as shoe boxes. For who would think that in twenty years, the hand phone can do almost anything (record music and voices, play music, serve as a home for video games, show movies ... and, if our guess is right, defrost steak and bake pizzas in a matter of a few years) that was beyond anyone's imagination.
Together with all that fast-paced progress are new dangers.
Although used for a variety of purposes ranging from business to amusement or even taken for granted, we never fully realize the volatile quality of technology on hand unless it backfires on us --- or when its novelty becomes the subject of misuse or even abuse. We never really think about how vicious it can get when until someone (especially of high visibility or familiarity) bungles things up ... and becomes either careless or downright malicious.
There is no need to give a lengthy lecture about the dangers of the internet. Inasmuch as it has literally made the world much, much smaller --- intertwining channels of knowledge through accessibility and availability --- the click of a mouse can and will make a world of difference.
The internet has changed all the limitations of our knowledge: it has made volumes of encyclopedias housed on bookshelves extinct because the word Google has become a verb. The internet has enabled us not only to speak but also view people who live half a world away, defying time zones and causing the death to expensive long distance phone calls. The internet has created an entirely different realm of human contact and socialization.
It all started with Friendster when the term "friend" was completely redefined.
No longer was being a "friend" a personal and exclusive involvement but merely a tangential interaction of two computer-literate humans who come across each other in a common site.
But after all the permutations and innovations brought into a technological invention supposedly binding people together for the sake of introductions or rediscovery, it was the phenomenon of Facebook that made all the difference.
Suddenly the global village became more of a reality as "friends" both old, new, resurrected or discovered came together to not only find each other but to share their lives in ways that exposed private lives to literally the rest of the world. Not only are messages exchanged but images in the form of photographs and videos --- as well as thoughts through brief but sometimes all too powerful and very revealing shoutouts used as profile headlines warrant attention or to even send signals to all friends and acquaintances in the cyberworld one's state of mind and disposition.
Shouting out became the template for the equally successful Twitter in which one has to exercise the ultimate creativity and resourcefulness to design a message using 140 characters. But then Twitter created a much more intimate setting for cyber-dependents who have seemingly decided that they need to record and share every detail of their thoughts and actions with everyone in their network --- now constituting their world.
Facebooking has also become a verb like Googling --- but Tweeting has become a practice ... or even an addiction. Endless entries reveal a timeline of what one is doing, thinking, feeling or even eating and drinking so as to provide a blueprint of a life being lived diminished to a series of 140-character sentences or messages. There is an entire psychology to tweeting or even oversharing but let us not go into that now for that is a discussion that is all together separate and different.
But the point is that social media has provided a way of expressing and ventilating to the world one's state of mind at any given time ... as long as there is access to the internet. And, most certainly, the smart phones have made that even all the more handy and easy. It is now so easy to put into words what one is feeling --- so that tweeting to the world what one thinks becomes a kind of short cut process of catharsis.
Then, of course, there is YouTube.
With the simple act of uploading videos, everyone equipped with a camera (or a smart phone) can create a visual documentary that is available for the world to see. It is not enough that words are used to identify, define or describe. With moving pictures, the images become the stories themselves and information is disseminated at a speed as fast as the power of any internet server. The world has not only become small: it has become compact.
YouTube has created celebrities. It has also made monsters. It could make and unmake personalities, provide not only recordings but interpretations of events. It has turned history into present progressive --- because it is capable of tracking events --- then gathering feedback and opinions via its commentaries --- thereby attaching biases and knee jerk judgments to what is made available.
Now comes the rub.
For how many people have blundered big time because they failed to see the dangers of new media.... especially social media.
There are so many laughable stories about truth being discovered and unraveled just because of messages sent on Facebook or posted on time lines. Worse, because of the magic of tagging photos, associations of people ... in terms of time and place ... are revealed with more verifiable proof.
(Word of Warning: Why has it not entered the immediate knowledge of people that the moment you tag a person in a photo, everyone he has allowed access to his profile gets to see this photograph in all its sweetness or even clandestine glory?)
If shoutouts can be all to revealing, what about tweeting?
Shall we do a headcount of all the celebrities who have warranted unnecessary attention because:
(a) they have fed false information via tweeting --- like the claim that the President of the Republic was seen holding hands with his Kimchi darling in one of the malls of the metropolis during the height of a workday? WRONG!
(b) certain high profile people are capable of such major blunders that involve issuing politically incorrect statements that alienate entire communities or marginal groups --- maybe for the sake of asserting so-called principles or maybe just to make clear a personal stand.
(Word of advice: If you want to diss, make sure you can handle the piss. If you make sweeping statements that says f--k you to an entire community, then be ready to also be f--ked back ... big time! Somebody just recently learned that ... and is still suffering from the consequences.)
(Another word of advice: If you kick a beehive, don't expect flowers. And the next time you tweet a sweeping statement, make sure you are not the one swept away by the reactions ... and retaliations.)
(c) those addicted to tweeting and facebooking have a tendency to record every millisecond and broadcasting details of their lives to the rest of the cyberworld --- then get shocked when people feel entitled to pry into their lives and intrude into their affairs.
Let it be known that the moment you start (1) announcing to the world every bout with bacteria or virus your metabolism encounters by the day, (2) take photographs of the food that you are cooking or eating or in the process of digesting or (3) catch a glimpse of the entire gamut of your emotions ranging from elation to frustration even to the crevices of sexual deviation --- then don't be surprised if they think they have the right to pilfer with your life. Or be judgmental about who you are and what you have become.
(d) there are those who use social networks as their platforms for catfights, brawls and exhibiting levels of crassness and love of mayhem. Undeniably, it can be shocking at first --- to actually read exchange of messages that literally excavate the lower depths of human nature to concoct insults --- but then after a while it becomes amusing --- until it inevitably becomes just disgusting ... graduating to the boring.
There are just so many ways you can entertain people with your capacity for vulgarity.
(e) those who are attached to social networks realize that there will always be haters. You do not have to be a big shot celebrity to have a hater. The moment you make your presence felt, express an opinion or even show the world that you exist --- there will be someone somewhere out there who will hate you for a variety of reasons.
And you need not find out why you are hated. That is because it must be as much a part of human nature to dislike someone as it is a need to love and be loved. Celebrities are more prone to haters for an eternal list of reasons --- one of which dictates: for the sake of hating.
Acknowledging the existence of haters (who can also choose NOT to identify themselves and have the courage to say such evil things about you because they hide in anonymity) is only the prelude. What is really worse is when you are one of ...
(f) those people who react to haters --- and in the process have emotional meltdowns trying to defend one's self, retaliate or try to outdo the legions who come attacking like the entire military force of China.
(Yet another word of advice: In Twitter as in Facebook, there is a function called BLOCK. Facebook even has UNFRIEND. These are the only ways to react ... because, to reiterate what has been mentioned at an earlier item: When you kick a beehive, you don't expect flowers.
Acknowledge the existence of haters ... and you are the star of the B-Movie entitled Attack of the Trolls. Just like a game of Plants Versus Zombies, the monsters will keep on charging regardless of how much artillery you carry --- or how much energy you have reserved for defense.
There is an entire mindset for people to deliberately go out of their way to make somebody miserable.
It has got something to do with leading a half-life. Or no life at all. And they suffer from a common malady called, "Existence-envy" which is worse than your traditional hatred for somebody having a larger penis than you.)
Now the fact that somebody can a) take your picture without your permission and when you least expect it and b) grab a video of you in your most unflattering moments --- either of mischief or misbehavior and then upload these in the net should be warning enough for anybody (not only celebrities) to watch out. Be most cautious because George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were both right: part of the evolution of civilization is omnipresence.
It is called omnipresence because there will always be somebody looking at you ... and worse, judging you for everything you do ... because you think nobody is looking. The fact that words and images can be so easily broadcast to the entire universe is appalling because 140 characters and a video upload do not give you much room to explain and defend.
People will always judge you for the words you said and the images they see ... and not how you are going to be soul and context to what you have said or done at a given point in your life.
The fact that you shared any part of your life in the internet makes you vulnerable as any celebrity. And don't blame anyone for it. Face it: you, too, wanted to be public property ... so deal with it.