Editorial: Informed and critical

THINK before you post. The precaution is relevant with the recent publication of a report that Filipinos are “among the most ignorant on key global and local issues.”

Last Feb. 9, “The Philippine Star” reported that the country ranks “third in terms of ignorance on key issues, next to South Africa and Brazil.”

This was culled from the 2017 Perils of Perception Survey by Ipsos MORI, a Paris-based global market research and consulting firm that interviewed in Sept.-Oct. 2017 29,133 respondents from 38 countries, including 500 Filipino respondents.

The survey also established that Filipinos were the “most confident” of their answers, aside from the nationals of Peru and India.

“Filipino respondents overestimated their perception compared to the actual data” on issues touching on crime rates, teenage births, health issues, and access to technology.

While “each population (in the surveyed 38 countries) gets a lot wrong,” the Filipino respondents were among the “most ignorant” despite their “high confidence in their answers.”

Contrast this trend with the finding that Filipinos are the most active on social media.

According to a report, “Digital in 2017,” released by the social media management platform Hootsuite and United Kingdom-based consultancy We Are Social Ltd., Filipinos “spent an average of four hours and 17 minutes per day on social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.”

This trend was based on the “active monthly user data from social media companies as recent as Jan. 2017,” reported Inquirer.net on Jan. 24, 2017.

The Philippines is followed by Brazil, whose nationals spend an average of three hours and 43 minutes, and Argentina, with three hours and 32 minutes.

These three countries ranked as the most active on social media have, ironically, the slowest average internet speed. Although it is speculated if slow speed results in more time spent on the Internet, specialists agree with the general observation that Internet use is up.

Juxtaposing the trends established by these two studies, what are the insights?

Filipinos need to be better informed, specially if they want to be socially relevant and responsible about the information they share, as well as the views they post or blog about.

The convention that one is entitled to one’s opinions requires this caveat: a rational and critical stance is taken only after one has reviewed and weighed the facts that are accurate and complete pertaining to an issue.

Jurgen Habermas theorized that only the participation of citizens discussing rationally an issue concerning the public and taking a critical stance in reviewing the roles of stakeholders in pursuing the public interest can produce public opinion, which exerts the power to pressure the state and other elites to uphold the welfare of the majority, as well as the often marginalized minority.

In this media-saturated age, citizens’ opinions are strongly influenced by the media. Yet, those who are socially active online are also the new public opinion leaders.

Whether one is followed by hundreds as a social media influencer or a mere Netizen followed by friends and family, the importance of educating oneself and contributing to productive and constructive discourse cannot be emphasized enough.

It is cynical to blame educational institutions and the mass media for modern habits in how we acquire, comprehend, and share information and opinion.

Yet, with the emerging tools of communication that are accessible even to the most junior and the least formally educated of citizens, we must do our share to not just restrain polluting the internet but also enhance its power for social good.

Engagement through the social media holds many potentials for our society with limitless needs and limited resources. We can speak out for the voiceless and mobilize assistance. We can also mislead and alarm. Putting a premium on information should orient us in the right direction.
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