As English writer Aldous Huxley succinctly puts it: “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
Indeed, when used wisely, words can bring forth countless benefits – it can educate, it can bridge distance and time, it can entertain, and it can influence. Wordsmiths, therefore, hold great power in influencing people. Whatever they pen about can either pacify a nation or create chaos. That is how powerful communication is.
In the movie Spider Man, Uncle Ben couldn’t be truer when he said, “And with great power comes great responsibility.” Communicators — journalists and bloggers alike — are looked up to by their respective audiences, therefore, they owe it to their readers to be extra thorough in scrutinizing the veracity of the information that they give out.
Social Media: an advantage and a challenge
We live in an era of social media and internet-enabled smartphones, making communication exchange almost instantaneously. Affordable phone plan packages, pocket-friendly load retail, and even free WIFI have all democratized internet, bringing access to information in practically everybody’s fingertips.
In a story published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this year, the broadsheet said that the Philippines has taken the global lead in terms of time spent on social media. The report bared that Filipinos spent an average of 4 hours and 17 minutes per day on social media sites, according to active monthly user data from social media companies. This information was based on studies by social media management platform Hootsuite and United Kingdom-based consultancy We Are Social Ltd. That means a captive audience for more than half the daily working hours.
Social media is, thus, a potent tool for sharing information and influencing other people. As bloggers, we are presented with a vast opportunity to harness the power of social media. We have followers, large or small, who listen to our thoughts, read our opinions and narratives, heart our photos, and who care greatly about what we’ve had for lunch. It is our obligation to provide them truthfulness as whatever we say may affect them in one way or another.
Whether in the blogosphere or in our day-to-day dealings, we have most certainly experienced how our words may have affected other people. A simple word of affirmation, for example, that has lifted the spirit of an acquaintance or a statement that we have unknowingly spoken and inadvertently caused another person to suffer. You see, even as ordinary individuals, our words have impact; and it has the ability to create an even bigger impact if told to a bigger group in nearly real time.
We have seen how social media has helped victims of the recent Hurricane Harvey in Texas. According to the New York Times, with power lines ravaged in Texas, people turned to Facebook and Twitter to post their photos and locations, allowing rescue workers to find them and bring them aid.
Through the years, we all bore witness to the evolution of social media. Once upon a time, social media feeds were pristine avenues for sharing happy updates with friends or for keeping in touch with families abroad at a much convenient cost. However, these days, much as we hate to admit it, news feeds have become a chaotic mess of rants, hate posts, unthought-of opinions, and just about any other nonsense one can think of. What’s even worse is that in numerous occasions, we have heard about many unscrupulous individuals who perpetrate fake news for their own personal favor. We have to rise above this mess. Being bloggers, we have to keep in mind that our worth is more than our website views and number of followers. We have to realize that we have a greater purpose, and that is to inspire and to bring forth positive change to our society. Whenever we write or share posts, we have to present facts as they are or make it clear if a declaration is solely our own opinion.
While there is a move from the Government to regulate social media and curtail fake news, the road to change is not instantaneous, nor is it an easy feat. This, I believe, is a universal truth. It will be difficult, long-winded and full of hurdles. But with a collective resolve, we can surmise that it can be done; as with everything else that we pour our hearts and minds into.
Muhammad Ali boldly asserted, “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.” Without a doubt, opportunities lose their potential only if we choose to believe that we are incapable, and if we let go of our values and morals.
In being agents of positive change, bloggers should think like true journalists and uphold the ethics of journalism, namely truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability. To reiterate, it is our duty to our readers to verify the truth behind our statements. And as courtesy to our peers, we have to ensure that we give proper acknowledgment to our sources. Plagiarism, after all, is a question of honor and integrity.
As a basic display of civility, we should not engage in exchanging insults with our readers. If we receive comments that are off or insights that oppose our opinions, we should remain regardful of the diversity of perspectives around us. What’s more, personal attacks on other people can be grounds for lawsuit against us.
It begins at the core
The very foundation of good morals starts at home. When I was young my father always told me to be mindful of my words and actions at all times. I was told that if I had nothing good to say, then best if I kept my mouth shut. It was a good discipline which I have brought with me up to this day.
During college, in UP Diliman, we were guided by our credo of Honor and Excellence. These words are inscribed in our bluebooks to remind us that we have to uphold honesty and distinction in our daily deeds.
I have slipped a few times, I have to admit, especially in my younger years but I have immediately regretted my actions after realizing how it had adversely affected other people. Now that I occupy a small space in the cyber realm, my words have the possibility of being shared to a bigger number of readers. I may not have a large number of followers but I have to ascertain that what I write should be genuinely inspiring and not just sugar-coated lies.
Similar to other writers, I weave narratives to motivate other people. In my case as an aspiring travel blogger, it is to incite my fellow Filipinos to love their Philippines, to see the abundance of beauty that is just a few hours away from our homes, or even just around the corner. I want people to live their lives, pursue their passions, realize their dreams, appreciate our culture and history, and just be happy.