Hearsay, hearsay! The Gullibles Travel

If there’s one thing social media did, it’s to make the world we all know smaller. Never did we have to wait for a newspaper to be negligently thrown at our lawn or TV static to end at 5am for our favorite morning news program to begin. At our fingertips, everything is available.

We all know how rumors, when combined with human’s ever growing need to be listened to, can spread easily. Back then though, we could easily determine if these were basically hearsay—unverified information usually heard from another person.

But then here comes the internet and social media. Oh, what amazing things they are. Not only can gossip travel at an astonishing speed, it also comes with amazingly “Photoshopped” images to add conviction to the false assertion.

Add to all these an attenuated scope of thinking, then you have all the ingredients you need for a definite headache while scrolling down your used-to-be-fun news feed.

Enter, Typhoon Haiyan. With the local media’s lack of precise coverage of what was really going on, we all turned to our favorite social media websites for information. For as long as it was shared by someone we know, we took it as fact—never mind if the source actually defined itself as a “satirical and fictional news website,” it’s human’s weird thirst for attention and acknowledgement at play here. This would’ve been fair enough had it ended here. But sadly, it didn’t.

Enter, the know-it-alls. People who posses all the traits aforementioned but with the certain goal of letting people know how their arguments could pass as that of a trial lawyer’s. Instead of shaking my head in dismay, I actually found it fun to point out why their so-called arguments were put together in vain. Now, I’m not going to go through all but just those I find real peculiar to fooling an ignoramus.

Images of relief goods labeled with names of politicians

I never gave this much thought, not unless it really came from a reliable source, but then it came spreading like a virus and people were really upset—calling these politicians name after name after name. It was an emotional time for Filipinos but, clearly, these were just adding fuel to the fire—a fire that was unnecessary to begin with.

Then came Google Chrome’s amazing “Search Google for this image” trick. For all the superiority Mozilla’s Firefox has in modern internet browsers, I had to take my hat off to Google on this feature—especially made to address inanities like these (right?). With two clicks of a button, you are able to track websites that uses or used the exact same image.

In the funniest cases, people were really bad-mouthing the legislators for being so egocentric—taking advantage of a tragedy, only to find out that the original images came from when they were still vying for a seat in government.

It would be hard to get back at these people as they have since removed their posts because of their inaccuracies much to their chagrin. Though I’m sure there are still some left.

Trade-offs

This one, I find most funny. Given the emotion the natural calamity has brought upon us, it is just inexcusable to forget about lessons from our high school English classes. I know for a fact that I would’ve gotten a mouthful from my teacher from way back had I done something like this.

What am I talking about? So, there’s this couple who angered people who use the internet, particularly social media (no, I refuse to call them “netizens”) by declaring for every 10,000 views their (poorly edited) YouTube video gets, they will donate Php 1,000. Quickly, and obviously without thinking, people were raged by it. Some were going “How could you ask for views at a time like this!?” while some just gave uneducated remarks on the couple—obvious ad hominems.

So then I ask, how the hell is this different from the following?

  • Pau Gasol pledging to donate USD $1,000 for every point he scores
  • ABS-CBN to donate Php 250 for every shirt they sell
  • Several food joints to donate 10% of their sales on certain dates

How? It all comes down to a simple case of sentence construction. While the 3 examples above might show how generous they were, they are no different from what the YouTube couple were doing. Let me show you.

  • Pau Gasol pledging to donate USD $1,000 for every point he scores (Wow, how great for Pau Gasol to donate USD $1,000 for every point he scores!)
  • ABS-CBN to donate Php 250 for every shirt they sell (Php 250 for every shirt they sell? Amazing!)
  • Several food joints to donate 10% of their sales on certain dates (I don’t know how much that would amount to but they are just the best!)

Now, let’s try to reconstruct the messages the same way the YouTube couple did theirs:

  • For every point he scores, Pau Gasol pledges to donate USD $1,000 (Why does he has to score a point first before making a donation!?)
  • For every shirt they sell, ABS-CBN is to donate Php 250 (Why can’t they just donate!? I have too many shirts anyway.)
  • For every order of food and/or drinks, several restaurants are to donate 10% of their sales at certain dates (How can you ask us to order from your expensive menu at a time like this!? Just freakin’ donate!!!)

See how introducing the donation before the condition makes a huge change in how people perceive the message? Had the YouTube couple penned theirs differently, “We will donate 1,000 pesos to Yolanda victims for every 10,000 views of this video,” things would’ve been different—so I partly blame them. But still, most of the blame goes to people who preferred to sleep through their high school English classes.