In this age of social media, it is possible to get to know people without even meeting them first, based on the things they share in their profile.
Unless you’re dealing with a professional conman, Facebook is an especially powerful tool. There are direct and indirect ways to reveal oneself through one’s FB profile. The more obvious ways are the basic questions of work and education, as well as preferences in books, music, films and others. Some people take the trouble to really list what they like, knowing it helps complete the picture of them that their friends, real or virtual, have of them.
Also among the clues are the status updates and photos that are shared. Of course there is always the chance that the person is a poser or a social climber who wants to be perceived as affluent, intelligent or influential. But for most of us regular people, what we post on Facebook is determined by the values we hold dear more than the image we want to project.
So if we always post pictures of our family or friends or pets, or the kind of food that comforts us, or if we marvel at the mountains we climb, or rant about our government officials or our daily commute, then our friends, if they did not know us well already, would have an idea of the things that are important to us.
A less direct but equally definitive way to reveal ourselves in social media is through the web sites, articles, photos and videos that we share.
Thus, if we find ourselves sharing video clips of a concert of this particular artist, or songs on a running theme, it could give our friends an idea of our emotional well-being (or relationship status!).
If we share lengthy articles about the environment, silly but hilarious puns, housekeeping tips, restaurant reviews, or links to pieces about equality or social justice, then people would have an idea of what more than catches our fancy -- in fact what moves us, what we are truly passionate about.
The curious thing about social media, however, is that you can’t lay ownership on something when you post it. Once it’s out there, our posts and shares take on a life of their own -- for good and bad.
An example would be the act of social media users uploading photos of compelling stories they see on the street.
Remember that boy who was struggling to study his books aided by the light of a fastfood chain? That was in Mandaue City, Cebu. Joyce Torrefranca, a college student, was on her way home when she happened to pass by the boy, nine-year-old Daniel Cabrera, on a pavement. Joyce was in awe—whereas other street kids would beg or even resort to petty theft, this one has his eyes on the prize: a good education, a bright future, which he knew could only come if he studied his lessons well.
Joyce was so moved and inspired that she took a picture and shared it online.
Daniel must have thought it would take him a lifetime to attain his dream, but help came sooner than expected. Because the girl’s post was seen, shared and re-shared, Daniel was tracked down and given aid, even a college scholarship. People admired his drive to learn, even if it was only through the light of a nearby commercial establishment. He is proof of the adage: “Kung gusto, may paraan.”
Unfortunately, not all the things shared by social media users are for the common good.
For example, in this past week, tragedies happened to young actors: one, just 15, apparently committed suicide. The other, at her tender age of 12, was involved in a sex scandal.
These events were indeed out of the ordinary, which was why some people felt compelled to share stories speculating on what might have really happened there. Alas, the sharing did little to help both families and the 12-year-old girl.
In these cases, the best help would have been doing nothing. Remember that other adage: Rumor stops on the ears of a wise man, or of a social media user.
Many other examples come to mind. These days, there are countless ways we can make our presence felt, either online or offline. The things we post and share, we either help make the world a more caring, responsive place, or a shallow, mean, trivial, unthinking one.
The choice is right here, in front of us, at the tip of our fingers.