Call-out culture: UP’s appeal to stop sharing posts on frat member’s death

September 30, 2019 - 6:51 PM
Oblation at UP Diliman
The "oblation" stands in front of Quezon Hall, the administration building of the University of the Philippines Diliman. (Wikimedia Commons/Ramon Velasquez)

As the University of the Philippines urges Filipinos to stop forwarding social media posts and photos related to the death of a fraternity member, issues about the dark side of social media call-out culture arise.

In a statement, the Office of the Chancellor in UP Diliman appealed to students, faculty members, the staff and other concerned parties outside the university to refrain from “posting and forwarding social media messages” about the death of a Sigma Rho fraternity member.

“Let us do this out of a sense of decency and respect for the privacy of the family. Administrative action was initially initiated immediately after the hazing exposé, towards the pursuit of justice and for the hazing victims, and we will keep the public updated on these cases,” it added.

The state university also reminded everyone of the dangers of “sensationalism” on the internet and said that it is “not the solution to the fraternity culture of violence.”

Some Filipinos echoed the sentiments of the state university, saying that they should not “add to the pain” by spreading or forwarding such posts.

A particular Twitter user pointed out that such a culture has claimed the life of a person but acknowledged it was the “rotten system” of fraternities that made it “possible.”

“The ‘call-out’ culture killed another victim. But moreover, the rotten system of fraternities made this possible — a system grounded on outdated and barbaric beliefs — which has a lot of proving to do whether it can really evolve in this modern day,” the user wrote.

A journalism professor from the state university shared what he thinks constitutes ethical guidelines that people should know when it comes to calling out others on social media.

Last week, screenshots of a group chat that allegedly featured UP Sigma Rho fraternity members went viral. It included a picture of someone brandishing a paddle and a badly beaten young man.

The incident has prompted several UP Diliman student organizations to call for an end to fraternity-related violence or “FRV,” as the online community calls it.

A fraternity member reportedly took his own life shortly after receiving backlash from social media.

The dangers of today’s call-out culture 

Call-out culture is defined by Forbes as a “social phenomenon of publicly denouncing perceived, racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry.”

“It is one of the great curses on social media when in a group focused on political activism, the group’s tenor turns to a massive critique of what others are doing wrong,” it continued.

It might only take seconds to record and then upload videos or pictures on the internet but its ramifications, according to Dr. Guy Aitchison of the University College Dublin, can last a lifetime.

“People have long been called out and criticized publicly for breaching social norms,” he said to The Telegraph.

“What’s new today is that technology allows this to be immediately recorded and shared with millions of other unknown internet users thanks to smartphones and social media,” Aitchison added.

“A whole global audience is then invited to join in with ridicule and abuse and this often spills over into the target’s personal life with calls for them to be fired and disciplined at work and so on,” he said.

An assistant professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology has suggested that people who engage in online bullying, trolling and shaming are compelled to do such acts because of various factors.

Nicole Legate explained that these kinds of people lack a sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness in their lives.

When their needs are not met, this leads them to act in harmful or anti-social ways, she explained.

Aitchison said that online shaming is rampant since “politics has left people disempowered” and that people “want to feel like they are fighting bad behavior and injustice.”

“It’s a relatively low-cost way to feel like you are doing something noble. But there are also darker motivations at work: The psychic pleasure in seeing someone else brought low and humiliated,” he said.