Reputation in the Era of YouTube

15 Minutes of Fame

Aug 24, 2011 by

Depending on where you’re standing, YouTube can be manna from heaven or the work of the devil.

Many a successful career has been built on YouTube.  Filipina singer Charice Pempengco’s meteoric rise to international stardom is one proof.  It was YouTube that brought her to the attention of Ellen Degeneres and, eventually, Oprah.  Therefore, fear not, stage mamas.  There is hope for your child prodigy.  Simply wire every nook and cranny of your house to a CCTV camera so you can capture precious moments of your 6-month-old diaper-clad darling dancing to Single Ladies.  Hail the next Beyonce Knowles!

To qualify as an expert these days, one must upload videos.  Ergo, the mad rush by every CEO, COO, CFO, consultant, marketer, expert, guru and entrepreneur to YouTube.  In case you have not noticed, every person in business is now a Peter Drucker.  Every home cook is now a Mario Batali; every mother now a Martha Stewart.  Thank you, YouTube.

It used to be that a wallet, car key and mobile phone were the essentials of anybody’s handbag.  Now, the digicam is part of that growing list which explains why our handbags are slowly becoming mini-Samsonite suitcases.  If we keep this up, I foresee a rosier future in chiropractic medicine and orthopedics rather than cardiology or neurology.

Yet, while YouTube is instrumental in many phenomenal successes, it is also notorious for the merciless destruction of reputations.

Suddenly, people have discovered that, with the right handy dandy gadget, they can now be the next Steven Spielberg or Ron Howard.  At the click of a mouse, voila!  A personal opinion previously confined to the privacy of their homes and tight circle of friends can now rival those that are printed on the pages of the world’s most widely circulated newspapers.  At times, it feels like one should fear commenters more than multi-awarded and internationally-recognized experts.  Of course, in the age of social media, everyone is now an international expert on something of something.

The internet, while a boon that highlights the triumphs of the human spirit in countless amazing ways, also seems to unleash the evil that resides in us.  Behind the safety and security of our online identities, we are afforded the orgasmic release of our dark side.  For every Pollyanna post we make, its Darth Vader counterpart lies in wait for that perfect moment when we can finally let loose the hounds of hell.

To many, they don’t even feel the need to hide behind anonymity.  They equate the act of expelling venom to an act of valor, as if their poison deserves a Medal of Honor.  We easily pass off our judgment as the sole standard of morals and ethics by which the world should abide by.  As if no one else can distinguish right from wrong but us and our exalted opinion of things that, most likely, we know nothing about.

Last month, videos of a lady mayor punching a sheriff in the Philippines went viral and caused a furor.  Of course, I joined the fray.  Of course, mine was the correct opinion and everyone else who opposed it condoned tyranny, vigilantism and human rights abuse.

Really?  Exactly what do I know of life on the other side of the rainbow?  I, who has never known what it feels like to live with criminality beside me will now pass judgment on a people who have endured the pillage of their homes, witnessed the rape of their women and children and wailed at the lifeless bodies of their men?  I may not agree with the way justice was dispensed but I should at least possess the common courtesy of respecting a dissenting opinion.  And I should have been more thoughtful before I clicked that mouse.

Recently, another video here went viral.  The poor man captured on video is now experiencing what is tantamount to cyber bullying.  To say that the comments were scathing is an understatement.  Here was your average Juan dela Cruz who, instead of being lauded for his academic achievements, will now have to go through life scarred and branded by 2 minutes of his human frailties that were captured forever on video and immortalized on YouTube.

And what about those sex videos that will haunt reputations forever?  For if there is much to be said about the participants on those videos, there is also much to be said about the people who upload them.  Even more to be said about the people who comment on it.

What was it that was said on the Bible?  Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.  I think it will serve us well if we remember that before we click that mouse again.

Freedom comes with responsibility.  It is not there to give us license to destroy reputations without mercy.

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