In ‘free’ social media realm, every Twitter post, Facebook photo come with costs

Reuters file photo

MANILA, Philippines — They come from different worlds but a common thread called social media somehow connects their lives, just like everybody else’s.

On Thursday, two striking stories of how Filipinos are using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter showed that just like in real life, whatever words or photos we put up online will always come with certain consequences.

One story involved Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Barako Bull player Don Allado, whose controversial tweets alleging game-fixing in the national league cost him, literally, half a million pesos.

Early Wednesday morning after his team narrowly lost to the Powerade Tigers, Allado fearlessly posted the following statement on his Twitter account: “PBA games are fixed. They control who is in & who is out. It’s a disgrace to be in this league.”

Realizing his error in judgment, Allado deleted his rage-filled tweets several hours after, but not before setting into motion a controversy that rocked the world of Philippine professional basketball.

Despite apologizing and retracting his statements, the player was still slapped with a P500,000 fine by the PBA and was suspended for one conference.

Tonyo Cruz, one of the more prominent social media personalities and organizer of the recently concluded Social Media Day, told InterAksyon that the incident only showed how Filipinos “must be prudent when using social media.”

Cruz said Facebook and Twitter have become powerful tools that require its users to be responsible, both in the way they are used and in ensuring that they remain “free and open.”

“Because if and when actual game-fixing happens — and we hope not — the whistleblower could use social media too,” Cruz pointed out.

Sacked over a Facebook photo

Another story involved a government official who was discovered to have neglected his official duties through the help of a photo posted on Facebook.

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, Maynardo Valdez, a provincial information officer of Nueva Ecija, went AWOL and closed his office for four days sometime in 2011.

Valdez, however, was not able to cover his tracks as Philippine Information Agency (PIA) officials on his Facebook wall discovered a photo of him during a reunion at Boracay Island no less, when he should’ve been busy at work.

In his case, Valdez’s brief Boracay rendezvous followed by a slight Facebook faux pas cost him his job.

All over the world and around the Philippines, such stories about the diluting boundaries between work and personal life as afforded by social media have become cautionary tales for a lot of people, but it seems some never seem to learn.

To avoid being in such incidents, Gang Badoy-Capati, also one of the more influential personalities online, offered a sobering advice to users of social media during her talk on Social Media Day: “If you can’t defend something, don’t tweet [or post] it. Your cyber-thoughts shouldn’t be different from your real-life thoughts.”

Capati, also the founder of alternative education group RockEd, advised users that should they find the need to blow off steam, “talk to friends you trust while mobile net [connection] is off.”

In a medium that has recently become a battleground for celebrity catfights and public bickerings with friends, Capati called on Filipino Twitter users to be a bit kinder to each other — if not in real life, then at least online.

“Go on Twitter not just to be heard but to learn, learn to be nice to one another online and know when to speak up, shout out for someone, and shut up. If we can’t yet be a community of kind people then we can at least be a community that tries,” she added.