By Marco Pantaleon, University of Asia and the Pacific
There has been a rise of online freedom walls across universities in the past few years. The concept behind it is simple. You anonymously submit an entry, which, at the discretion of the Facebook page administrators, may or may not get published. Everyone seems to have it now: UP, Ateneo, UST—literally everyone. While it has served an opportunity for a good laugh and shy romantic confessions, it has come with its fair share of problems.
First, in a society that hates face-to-face confrontation, the call-out culture has found its home in freedom walls. With unassuming student administrators, this can quickly turn problematic. Professors are accused as sexual predators. Students’ dirty laundry is aired out for everyone to read. Every facet of student life that one may not necessarily agree with is called out, often unfairly, to be criticized and condemned.
The place has become a haven for the resentful and the bitter. For the rest of us, we just keep scrolling, hoping we aren’t the next victims, hoping we aren’t the next ones to be called out. Second, with student politics flourishing at universities like UP and Ateneo, the wall tends to be weaponized for that purpose. With no names and faces behind the posts, there is little civility on the freedom wall. No holds are barred. The politics is even nastier than it is in real life. Names are dragged to the mud and parties are scandalized. When it comes to politics, there is little fun and games on these freedom walls. Perhaps the only good thing that has come out of these freedom walls is that it reveals the true pulse of the students.
We get to know what some students are thinking. The thin veneer of hiya is lifted and we finally get to see some opinions for what they really are, in their truest, and nastiest sense. While it has been instrumental in outing sexual predators, bullies, and cheaters, one can’t help feel its chilling effect.
The idea of freedom isn’t that we simply can do what we want and say as we please. That’s a shallow understanding of freedom. True freedom lies in not only choosing what’s good, but in standing up for it.
When I make a promise for instance, I do my best to fulfill it because the words that made that promise were mine. They emanated from me.
But what if the whole idea of “me” is not only distorted but done away with? A lot of the issues solved through the freedom walls could have been resolved if someone stood up and faced the music. Its banes, however, far outweigh any benefit. At best, it serves as a platform for the oppressed to speak out. At worst, it becomes a palliative to any real action, more content in staying “woke” more than anything.
When Rizal and company wrote anonymously against the friars, they did so because the opposite would’ve resulted in their deaths. What great irony it is today that we write anonymously under such different circumstances. If there is any freedom that we gained from their struggle and sacrifice, we squander it by hiding behind such walls. In the end, perhaps it has brought some good to universities, shining a light on many things we were afraid to bring forward.
But I am more convinced it has cheapened freedom and built walls.