Welcome to the "loud democracy"
Photo: Screenshot of 2017 Pahayag survey showing 59,% of Filipinos more politically active (Publicus Asia)

The last two years have seen you be more actively involved in political discussions. Your social media news feed is as noisy as ever, and your online friends are deeply divided along political lines.

You wonder why this ideological divide? You think something is wrong with society.

The news is that there is nothing wrong with society. People are just thinking more, reacting more, putting themselves out more than they ever have.

Two sets of statistics show us why:

The 2018 Global Digital report, conducted by creative agency We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite, said Filipinos spent an average of three hours and 57 minutes on social media last year, putting us as the world leader in social media usage. (https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/03/1784052/philippines-still-worlds-social-media-capital-study)

Likewise, Filipinos have become more politically inclined since 2016. The 2017 Pahayag survey conducted by political firm publicus asia shows that 59% of Filipinos have paid more attention to politics since the election of Rodrigo Duterte.

With these figures, we are not surprised to find a more amped up, louder democracy than what we are used to.

Time was when freedom of expression and opinions was the almost exclusive realm of mainstream media outlets.

Save for phone in questions on radio shows and letters to the editor, the public was a passive consumer of perspectives that were chosen and qualified for us on print and broadcast, since they were put out by the announcers and columnists we patronized.

Nowadays, though, social media has enabled us to be our own radio commentator and newspaper columnist.

The bare truth is that thousands of opinions available arent always well thought out and studied, like barber and coffee shop talk. Many become instant economists, foreign policy analysts, even theologians.

Thus, the cacophony and volume of these online exchanges can sometimes unnerve us.

Our blood pressure goes up when we read adverse opinions, as our time on social media goes up just to reply, respond and argue.

Is it all worth it? We ask ourselves this vital question.

We believe it is. We think that a democracy functions when a greater number is engaged in discourses that matter to them, as they discuss things that affect their lives.

No matter how crudely people react, they are still their voice. Bullying them for their hackneyed opinions is tyrrany itself. Name calling and downplaying their views as illegitimate is unfair.

Likewise, this larger pool of opinions means that as readers we must all be more critical than we have ever been.

No longer must we succumb to the tendency to believe everything we read. We must sharpen our minds to soberly differentiate fact from opinion and be careful about spreading information we are not sure of.

When we fail to do that, fake news thrives. Allowing emotion to rile us up and influence our decisions is a choice we make.

In a very real sense democracy has through online and social media, progressed from the elite corridors of mainstream media to the streets, back alleys, farms and minds of people. It has become louder and freer, hence the noise.

How we thoughtfully modulate that and feed it into our minds is up to us. Whether we believe it and share it is a decision. In doing that, we have become more empowered.