It is undeniable that social media has been a source of virtual people power where it warrants the anonymous not simply a booming voice and a strategic venue to ventilate both likes and dislikes but also some of the most crass and candid criticism that would perhaps be held in check had the vehicle been mainstream media.
Where it amasses a united collective whether in protest or prayer social media transforms into a virtual EDSA in cyberspace.
Admittedly not a few will simply call the collective a “mob” and their advocacy “mob rule.”
Several factors inherent in social media’s distinctive nature are not only empowering but when applied legitimately, they are fundamentally democratic and reflective of the public’s thoughts and desires. After all, what indeed is democracy but a state where supreme power is vested on the people and exercised by them.
Social media is discernibly democratic because it empowers the powerless where a state might rob them of their authority or is so unrepresentative that a minority wields swords as its primary tools of governance and power.
Social media thus effectively devolves authority from a traditional central pinnacle down to the level of the governed. It allows the governed to exercise a degree of governance by granting a rather vigorous vocal constitution to temper abuse. It is the power of the pen on a touchscreen or keyboard pounded by fingers that would have curled into fists had not a saner medium been available. Ironically, it can be more effective than a battalion of generals.
But such power is only potent and effective where it emanates from a substantial collective solidified through a common cause.
Thus, numbers are important. Arrayed against the lesser number of officials in a government hierarchy, a politburo, a state or even an army, the democratic whole effectively demands that the majority rules over the minority. Here, in Trekkie lore, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
Unfortunately, it has its dark sides. Its darkest, its vulnerability to manipulation. We’ve seen social media’s fierceness recently in two occasions. Now more relevant than ever, social media has focused on two accountable officials, both apparently indispensable to the bureaucracy at this time.
Debold M. Sinas and Margaux J. Uson were recently in the crosshairs of social media. Both are ranking officials and according to each’s superiors and peers measured through their respective impact on the specific areas assigned them, they’ve been effective. One, an enforcer, the other, a morale booster.
Sinas is a police director in the Philippine National Police. In military terms he is a major general. Uson is a deputy administrator at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Both have been accused not simply of poor judgement, but of violating latent laws on quarantines. On several counts for one and a single count for the other. One for circumstances that were personal in nature albeit carried out openly involving a number of other officials, while the other, according to her superiors, for authorized acts carried out in the performance of her duties.
In the case of Sinas, the bloodthirsty outrage against him was mostly prosecuted in social media as it was in that medium where incriminating photographs had spread virally. It is the same medium that has long been unkind to Deputy Administrator Uson. Her vilification in social media has been going on for some time now.
The case of Sinas is critical where the institution he represents has been under fire for over a year now. Meanwhile, Uson is a charismatic political doyenne. Her role in drumming up mass-based support for government causes is amazing albeit her methods are controversial and too often misconstrued.
Both are at the blunt end of social media’s damnation. The government however is leaving their fates to the proper adjudicators or courts, neither surrendering to social media nor damning noise, clearly aware that the medium can be wrangled and trolled.