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UP Professor warns about mob mentality on social media

A professor at the Department of Communication Research of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman warned netizens about mob mentality and online shaming.

In a report by ABS-CBN News, Professor Christine Cox said netizens should first verify the information that they are sharing.

“Since ‘yung information sobrang dami, mahirap i-filter so hindi nila alam san papanig o saan maniniwala.”

[Since there is so much information, it’s hard to filter so people don’t know what side they should be on or who/what they should believe.]

This comes on the heels of the recent online shaming of a man named Nestor Punzalan who was erroneously tagged as the suspect in a road rage incident which led to the murder of a cyclist in Quiapo, Manila.

On their Facebook page, Top Gear Philippines posted a picture of Punzalan and his car which was initially suspected as being involved in the road rage incident. While Top Gear Philippines did include a disclaimer and a note that they were still waiting for confirmation and the full story, netizens were quick to spread the news and condemn Punzalan. Hours later, Top Gear Philippines retracted the post and apologized to Punzalan when the latter went to the police to clear his name.

It was too late though as the online world ganged up on Punzalan. Punzalan, who voluntarily went to the authorities to deny the viral Facebook post, said he feared for his and his family’s safety after receiving several death threats from netizens.

Prof. Cox said that because of the speed of information and news on social media, people tend to pass judgment very quickly.

“By then, lahat ng tao gusto makisali sa usapan pero hindi nila alam ang buong istorya, picture lang nakikita mo tapos konting description. Nagiging emotional sila, parang may mob mentality,” the professor explained.

[By then, everyone wants to join the conversation even if they don’t know the whole story. You just see a picture with little description. They become emotional, leading to mob mentality]

Cox’s view was echoed by Life Change Recovery Center psychiatrist Randy Dellosa. Speaking to ABS-CBN News,  Dellosa said “Filipino netizens are prone to having ‘mob mentality’ or the tendency to adapt beliefs and actions that are popular, viral or trending.”

“It is a form of group-think or herd mentality wherein a person just agrees to whatever the majority says,” he said.

He added social media made it easier for people to express ill feelings towards others online because of their anonymity and distance.

Meanwhile, Prof. Cox reminds the public to verify and scrutinize their social media posts so as not to spread wrong information on the internet.

And to prevent other incidents of online shaming or cyberbullying especailly that of an innocent person, Cox advised netizens to;

• make sure the websites or social media pages you follow are legitimate
• make sure the information is verified and comes from legitimate sources.
• read from other sources to make sure of the information you are sharing.

Written by Ron Mia

A frustrated journalist who found the realization of his dream in blogging. The man behind the blog Nite Writer.

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