On Monday, my Facebook feed went abuzz when the 6.9 earthquake broke out in the Visayas. Updates and photos about the earthquake immediately spread like wildfire, proving just how useful social media can be during disasters.
Following the earthquake, a tsunami alert was raised by the authorities. It was eventually lifted after “an extended observation period.” Terror and panic receded, until Ahcee Flores, just a random netizen, made waves on her own—online!
So here’s what happened: in a Yahoo news article, Ahcee wrote in a comment “Let us all pray……. Na matuloy ang tsunami para maraming bisaya ang mamatay, para mabawasan ang mga baduy sa pilipinas [I hope the tsunami pushes through so people from Visayas will die..so the outdated will cease].”
The conundrum right now could have ended as soon as it started, had the online community ignored her comment (after all, her offensive comment is rather common in cyberspace).
But that didn’t happen.
Immediately, she received a barrage of hate comments, to which she, surprisingly and bravely, replied! This continued in Yahoo’s thread of comments and, eventually, in Facebook (pages and “hate movements” were set up just for her). The topic Ahcee Flores even became trending on Twitter locally!
The continuous exchange of words started to seem obnoxious; the users’ and Ahcee’s comments are almost inappropriate for publication.
“If Twitter is a gun, that Ahcee Flores is now a rotten meat,” surmises PR practitioner Harold Geronimo (@harold_geronimo) on Twitter. So much hate is flying around online against Ahcee as her posts continue to be available for public viewing.
This brings me to think about how she’s slowly becoming a victim of cyber bullying. But Ahcee doesn’t seem to mind. She enjoys the glory, even!
In 2011, at the height of the Sendong disaster, Pinoy netizens were similarly angered by the posts against the typhoon victims. Posts about how “the victims deserved what they had” were allegedly written by a Filipino living in France (Celine Acut) and a Cebuano living in the United Arab Emirates (Van Carumba).
This yet another online chaos repeatedly brings to the online community the same lesson it should have already learned back when the Internet became accessible to a vast number of users: think before you click.
Never joke about people and death in times of disasters—especially not in social media platforms! Ignore hate, unintelligent comments and rants (anyone who fights fire with fire makes him/her equally obnoxious). And more than ever, there’s a stronger need for digital media literacy. While truly, social media can be powerful, it can still be brought down and be used for the most pitiful and shameful of acts.