Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Various | posted April 30, 2015 15:00
The dangers of viral content
The motoring landscape in the Philippines is changing. It's all because of this thing called “viral”.
Unless you've been living without Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, chances are you know what we mean. Someone, somewhere captures a couple images, video or even takes just a screenshot of someone else's status or tweet, posts it and, if it's interesting enough, it spreads through social media like a virus, popping up on walls and news feeds everywhere.
At first the stuff that usually became viral were funny and amusing. Things like unique marriage proposals, flash mobs, pranks, Psy's Gangnam Style music video or even funny marketing campaigns like The Man Your Man Could Smell Like by Old Spice. That's all well and good, as online content like the ones listed above do make a typical working day just a bit lighter and sometimes even more enjoyable after clicking the share button.
But like any new invention, innovation or idea, it can be misused and abused.
In the last couple of years, local news agencies from various beats have been looking for the latest video that can spread like wildfire. The problem, however, is that we're already past the time when viral stuff was amusing, as most of the content that spreads around the web now revolve around the bad things some of us do, particularly when we're on the road. The advent of smartphones, dashboard cameras, CCTVs and GoPros made this possible, and it has become a common sight to see the latest idiot or arrogant bastard on the road the moment you open your computer or phone.
People often ask me why AutoIndustriya.com does not immerse itself as much in that kind of content. Believe me when I say that it has crossed my mind given the potential for clicks, shares and likes. We do share a few bad parking photos on Facebook, but we avoid making stories out of them, though we did try a few stories based on controversial photos and videos we took or were sent or were tagged on, just to see what would happen.
Based on the behavior and comments we observed, allow me to explain why we refuse to do go full blast with content that has viral potential, photos and videos that fill up our AutoIndustriya Facebook inbox 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It's always how it looks and rarely tells the whole story
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if the whole story can only be told in ten thousand?
That's the primary problem with these viral images and photos. As telling as any clip or snapshot may be, it's very commonly what it seems and rarely is it what it actually is. Why? Because we just don't have the whole story and definitely not all the facts. It also doesn't help that we "netizens" have this tendency to jump to the quickest conclusion possible.
One case comes to mind: the Mercedes ML Class driver versus the taxi driver in an altercation on EDSA filmed by a passenger on a bus. It was a clear cut issue of road rage when the Mercedes driver confronted the cab driver, one that resulted in people panicking when the former drew a firearm. People were quick to judge him right away but only a few noticed that the cabbie was the first to draw a weapon: a knife or some other sharp object. The cabbie promptly discarded it when he realized he escalated the situation by literally bringing a knife to what could have been a gunfight.
Remember that Maserati driver versus that MMDA traffic enforcer? Nearly everyone hopped on the bandwagon to condemn the driver of the Ghibli for dragging the MMDA enforcer when the latter tried to apprehend him. It even became a mission of many to track down the car to the guy's home and snap photos of it.
Guess what? That video didn't tell the story of the many motorists who came forward to complain about their experiences with that particular traffic constable. Allegations of him severely abusing his authority, bribe solicitation, extortion, rudeness and many others rose to the surface.
Which brings me to my next point.
People need a villain
Like in movies and TV, the masses are always looking for the bad guy; a person that represents everything wrong with the world or at least a part of it. These viral videos deliver that desire for a villain; someone to pile on and bully because everyone needs an outlet.
There are times when the villain is clear cut. There were the two celebrity girls who pranked a sleeping commuter by honking their horn. There was the driver of the counter-flowing Jaguar in BGC, that one was loud and clear. But what if it wasn't all that it seemed to be?
Back to the case of the driver versus the MMDA officer in that dragging incident, it had all the trappings of a textbook villain just by the make of his car: Maserati. The expensive nature of the car immediately made him a bad guy thanks to this kind of twisted logic: he's driving a multi-million peso Italian car so he must be (a) rich, (b) entitled, (c) arrogant, (d) has connections, so on and so forth.
That's the way a lot of “credible” media sites slant the story for us by antagonizing someone. Think about it; if the BGC counter-flowing or the MMDA dragging incidents occurred with an average car, would you give it another thought or a share? Somehow the titles “Watch as this Vios drags an MMDA officer in QC” or “Check out this counter-flowing Picanto in BGC” just wouldn't pique the interest of netizens.
Change the brand of car to Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Maserati, Jaguar, Audi, Porsche, Ferrari and other similar makes and you have your hook and the makings of a viral, click-baiting title that clearly depicts a villain.
Put yourself in the other guy's shoes
Sure, many of us may laugh and make fun of the subjects of these viral videos but ask yourself this question before you share that new viral motoring video: what if it was you?
What if it was you who was being badgered online for a glaring lapse in judgment, like those two celebrity girls who filmed themselves honking their horn at a tired, sleeping commuter? What if it was you who was being filmed by a third party getting in a fight with a “peace officer” that tried to extort you for a bribe? What if it was you who totaled your own car because you didn't realize that the flash flood was much deeper than it looked? What if it was you who was filmed (either by yourself or someone else) going all “beast mode” on the road when that kind of driving is actually already the rule rather than the exception?
I'm sure there are some of you that will say that you're courteous drivers all the time, that you don't feel rage while behind the wheel and that you follow all the rules of the road. If you do, there's a good chance that you're lying to yourself. We all have our bad days that could lead to even worse moments.
There is, however, another point. These videos that spread all over social media are always picked up, rehashed and regurgitated by online media and passed off as legitimate news stories. Tabloids can do that because they know who they are, who their target market is and they know they're good at it, but it's sad to see the supposedly credible news agencies publish rubbish that promotes hate and exposes others to bullying. These things pass as “news” nowadays?
Being "media" is no excuse when it comes to promote and propagate cyberbullying... even if your last name is Tulfo.
That said, just don't do anything you'll regret on the road or anywhere for that matter; at least not something that will catch someone's attention enough to whip out their phone to film you. And that goes double if you film yourself doing something stupid, even if you think it's secure on your phone or your friend's. Much like a homemade sex video, any incriminating clip or image has a habit of getting out there but with one major difference:
The sex tape is far more entertaining.