COMMENTARY: Think before you tweet by Jesse Pizarro Boga

DAVAO CITY (December 28) — That’s what you should always tell yourself especially when you’re living a life with social networking sites here and there. With privacy, security, and personal information on the line, you should always take extra precautions when sharing things on Facebook and Twitter.

More importantly, you should be more careful with the posts that you make ABOUT people, because in the digital era, a single click in the virtual world can change everything in the real world.

The advent of social networking and microblogging sites has changed the way we live, communicate, and share information: we change our status as frequently as we change our underwear, we get to interact with people from across the globe, and we even play high maintenance games that require us to wake up in the middle of the night to “harvest crops.”

But more than that, these “new media” have also created ripple effects outside the virtual world. Twitter, for example, has roused a new avenue for linguistic studies; Facebook pushed the boundaries of advertising and marketing through “official Facebook pages” for brands, products, services and even personalities.

They have long woven themselves so tightly into our lives that every click we make becomes, as the cliché goes, a giant leap for mankind. The idea is simple: we can easily access information about anyone and anything, but at the cost of privacy—and sometimes, even credibility.

Specifically, it’s Twitter that demonstrated that it’s easy to broadcast false information, and inappropriate statements.

Many controversial tweets have already made waves in the virtual world. In the Philippines, we have the infamous “The wine sucks” tweet by President Benigno Aquino III’s speech writer Carmen “Mai” Mislang. This outraged critics because the less than 140 characters message could have jeopardized the country’s relationship with Vietnam, the host of Malacanang’s presidential visit.

In addition to “the wine sucks,” Mislang also tweeted “Sorry po walang pogi rito sa Vietnam,” and “Crossing the speedy motorcycle laden streets of Hanoi is the easiest way to die.”

Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang, who defended Mislang, said that such tweets were “pretty harmless.”

Maybe he’s right—but only at first glance. Although the tweets have already been deleted, they have created “irreversible” effects, which range from simple bad impressions on the Aquino presidency, to generalizations like carelessness and “ill-breeding” of the Filipino people even when educated.

Then we have Tim Yap’s lotto tweets, which didn’t get a lot of media attention considering that everything about him is just entertainment.

There was a commotion in the online world early December about how Yap carelessly tweeted about the PCSO 6/55 Grand Lotto winner. Apparently, Yap made a colossal mistake about telling the world that Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Miko Morelos won the lottery prize: 741 million pesos, the biggest prize ever in the country’s lottery.

Morelos did not win the lottery, he only wrote the news story about it.

Yap’s careless tweet, which is now deleted from his Twitter feed read, “Eto na, PCSO confirms one winner—his name is Miko Morelos. He gets to take home the P741.2M peso Grand Lotto 6/55 Jackpot! #magtagokana!”

But in his later tweets, Yap admitted that he made an honest mistake. “I tweeted those messages without any malice or ill intentions. I have already spoken to Mr. Morelos and personally apologized to him.”

Morelos, in an article he wrote in, said that he found the hash tags (#magtagokana and #afraidforhislife) on Tim Yap’s tweets “contentious bordering on the malicious.” He was also appalled at how the people, who read Yap’s tweets, took the wrong information as gospel truth and spread it like wild fire.

Although Yap has already apologized, his tweets’ damages can’t be undone because many people (online and offline) already believe that Morelos won the lottery. This jeopardized the reporter’s personal security and his family’s too.

These two are just some of the many Twitter-gone-wrong incidents in our country; but it’s a call to all of us who have already made unbreakable ties with the Internet: be careful with the things that you share, and don’t post too much information in the Internet.

More importantly, the cliché “think before you act”, or tweet, applies.

There’s so much we need to learn more about “new media.” It’s always fascinating how intense the studies on these are becoming. One of these lessons we learned came in the form of a rhetorical statement posted by Morelos himself:

“What bothers me is how people take information at face value, without reading or even processing these bits to form a coherent thought. Is this a sign of the times that people aren’t thinking critically anymore?”

Experts have already published an overwhelming number of tips on how to use Facebook and Twitter, but there are no ethical rules that govern our usage. It’s all up to us to practice good judgment and follow personal guiding principles on what to post and what not to post.

Too much information isn’t healthy.