Clueless citizens turn into #trendingtopics, no thanks to the Web

by Mariejo Ramos

Screen grab of the “Amalayer” incident from YouTube

It could have been a scene from a primetime drama.

In a short amateur video, a woman in student uniform is seen berating a lady guard with statements fashioned in the English language. Evidently losing her cool, the woman attacks the guard in a menacing tone with lines and manner seemingly fit for a television drama.

But the frenzy which attracted a small live crowd in a public place is not, intentionally, a scene for the screens. The public show could only have lasted until the commotion ends—except that in the age of technology, any mundane incident caught on camera can spread around the globe with just a click of a button.

And that is when the real drama started.

On the evening of November 13, Gregory Paulo Llamoso uploaded in Facebook his one-minute cellphone footage of the woman taunting a guard at the station of the Light Railway Transit (LRT) in Santolan. In the video’s description, Llamoso identified the woman as Paula Jamie Salvosa, who is later discovered to be a 23-year-old student of La Consolacion College. He also went on to express his sentiments on Salvosa’s improper demeanor, labeling her as a “rude passenger”.

The uploaded video instantly attracted fury and influx of opinions from Filipino netizens and quickly went viral in the leading social networking site, with more than 40,000 shares in less than 24 hours.

In what seems to be a bida-kontrabida telenovela encounter, the guard easily gains the role of a powerless protagonist while Salvosa plays the stereotypical “mean girl”.

But what is clearly missing in the hiatus is incidentally the most essential piece of the puzzle: context.

The uploaded video is only a portion of what exactly transpired at the LRT station, yet the social media audience was quick to strike back at Salvosa and her unwarranted way of defending herself.

The amateur video was consumed at face value, in which it is easier to label a person even if what one sees is just a fragment of the whole. This default appeal of personality that overlooks any other key element runs through the very core of Philippine culture, evidently in Philippine politics, TV, and movie industry.

The “Amalayer video,” as it later dubbed by many, manifests that when the characters are zoomed in as the story, the truth, as a consequence, may take a back seat.

On prevailing culture

Perhaps the bulk of media attention received by Salvosa is not from the way she acted; it came from her speech affectations, the most popular of which is her “I’m a liar” statement, which was punned by Netizens as the new buzzword “Amalayer”.

What further provoked netizens to condemn Salvosa is her unnatural and rather clumsy attempt to argue in English as she tried to mimic the accent of our former colonizers.

In a society where the ability to speak fluently in English is equated to level of education, language is often used as an instrument to impress differences in class and status. Salvosa’s wayward fascination with the language reflects how this ideology is masked through her sharp, movie script statements. Her repeated utterance of the famous statement “I’m a liar”, whose delivery was seen by most as a hilarious goof at the language, gave way for a circus of parodies from viewers as seen in YouTube shortly afterward the original video was posted in the same website.

Amidst the frenzy over the buzzword, there are viewers who chose to look at the misuse of media technology these days as a culprit that strips the notion of ethics online. Some observers believe that Llamoso, the person who made the video public, should have had a sense of responsibility before uploading the video.

Llamoso expressed in the original video’s description that to know how the incident came about is none of his concerns. He uploaded the video to sympathize with the lady guard who is “merely performing a low-paying job just to put food on the table” and therefore, does not deserve to be treated that way. But when he chose to make the video accessible to virtually anyone who can access the internet, he also committed an invasive act which was proven to have heavier repercussions.

The mob mentality

A year ago, Christopher Lao struggled with a bizarre outpour of bashing online when he was caught by a newsman driving his car into a flood. Despite his privileged upbringing and educational attainment, Lao was not able to escape public vilification.

Both Lao and Salvosa became victims of cyberbullying. Through powerful social media sharing, most were quick to condemn their act through personal hurtful comments and messages. The culture of mob mentality has clearly taken the best out of the rational beings that civilized and intellectual citizens shall be. Generating hate upon a person due mainly to preconceived notions and quick judgments is what makes the impact of cyberbullying profound and oftentimes irrevocable for its victims.

In her TV interviews, Salvosa confessed that she is yet to cope with emotional and psychological effects the incident has brought to her. She disclosed to DZRH that in fear of being recognized and condemned, she temporarily stopped going to school and even thought of leaving Manila.

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, resident legal analyst of TV5, pointed out that the bullyfest over the video can legally be considered under the Abuse of Right Doctrine, as embodied in Article 19 of the Civil Code. According to this provision, “every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith”. He stressed that rights shall not be abused for every person’s dignity and privacy shall be respected.

Amidst scathing remarks, parodies, and sensationalized news, the incident concerning Salvosa also resurrects the debate on RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act. It brings to the fore the discussion on how borderless information may be regulated to protect individual rights.

In vast cyberspace where interaction and communication increases vulnerability of the individual, how does one navigate between freedom and responsibility?

Netizens desensitized to the effects of their actions may witness just another rise and fall of an instant video celebrity. But for those who see the obvious signs of irresponsibility, another video star is not one of the wisest things to come out from the powers of media. with a report from Jovianne Figueroa

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.