A woman accused her lover of cheating and lying to her about getting a change oil and unleashed trending hashtags, memes, and influencer parodies. Welcome to love gone sour on social media, where millions of eyeballs can't get enough of real-life drama.
If there's anything that gets the country buzzing more quickly than hard news, it would probably be the trio of love, cheating, and heartbreaks. From viral to-die-for wedding proposals to "Tulfo-worthy" cheating allegations, Filipinos are quick to react and speak up in the name of love.
TikTok in particular was both sleuthing and giggling about how to catch a cheater based on their digital footprints and how lame excuses can get. The hashtags #changeoil and #changeoilserye shared top billing with the COVID-19 quarantines that were again renamed but with familiar restrictions.
Why is there such a huge interest in relationships and cheating scandals on social media? "It's because the issue is relatable for anyone," said psychologist and life coach Dr. Ali Gui. "Social media grants people access to other people's lives," Dr. Gui told reportr. "When you see these kinds of stories, it makes people think, 'Hindi lang pala ako, siya rin pala' or 'Parang ganito yung naranasan ko.' It's a distraction to people's everyday world."
Technology and cheating
Social media has become a part of people's daily lives and in turn, relationships. You see posts of heartbreaks, engagements, and basically relationships in general from day to night. Technology is a double-edged sword. Screenshots of double-crossing partners can easily break one's relationship—and social media personality. One's history of cheating can easily become public knowledge with a single post and most of the time, if not all the time, cheaters are criticized and canceled.
What we have to remember is that anything we post out there is subject to scrutiny and public opinion, so we have to be prepared.
"Social media right now is the easiest way to connect and relate. But it's also the easiest way to destroy," said Dr. Gui. "What we have to remember is that anything we post out there is subject to scrutiny and public opinion, so we have to be prepared." In the past, detective skills were needed to prove a con lover. One has to go to great lengths to find proof of intuitions of wrongdoing. But nowadays, a simple phone check can make or break trust in relationships.
Backlash on social media
A cheater is bound to receive backlash on social media once the extracurricular activities become public knowledge. And for anyone who has been on the receiving end of the criticism, the public scrutiny can feel like a lifetime. Why is the backlash usually so tough especially from strangers? The answer goes back to how relatable the issue is, Dr. Gui said. "Extended time [on] social media makes it easier to escape into the lives of other people," she said. "Most of the time, those who comment a lot are those that are miserable or experiencing the same problem."
Accepting such backlash would be very hard but one must keep in mind that you cannot control the reaction of everyone, Dr. Gui explained. "Even friends and relatives will conclude something about you when they see stuff online. But what you can control is yourself. You really have to make the conscious choice to take contol of your virtual landscape," she said. To recover from the backlash, it's a must to accept that what happened happened and grow from the experience, Dr. Gui said. "Feel it and accept it and learn to grow from it."
Should one respond to critics? "It's different for every person but you have to be ready for the repercussions. What's best is for you to accept the shame and move on."
The criticism is not limited to cheating.
Different issues that come with relationships are also common rallying points for Filipinos. From ghosting, to "red flags" in relationships, people make sure that their takes on the personal lives of others are heard loud and clear.
Take the buzz over celebrities Bea Alonzo, Gerald Anderson, and Julia Barretto. People were quick to defame one and side with another despite being outsiders to their narrative. "Other people's problems are a distraction from our own personal lives that's why we want to talk about it, to make comments about it," Dr. Gui said. "But sometimes we forget that [they] are people like us too."
The criticism is not limited to allegations of cheating and other wrongdoings in relationships. Couples deemed "unconventional" are also a common target of criticism online such as queer love, and age gap relationships. "In relationships, things that people consider are different for them also become open to what you can say scrutiny. It's not something that everyone can relate too that's why these attract comments," Dr. Gui said. "Sometimes, people always want to have a say in other people's lives, love lives in particular because they are probably unhappy with theirs."
Should relationship woes be discussed online?
So why do lovers sometimes turn to social media as an outlet for their feelings and, in some ways, as a medium to destroy the character of their partners? It's a way of expressing hurt, said Dr. Gui. "Why do they do it? Because they are hurt and they want to express their pain and want the world to know what has been done to them because they don't want to sulk," she said.
Scorned lovers want the world to know that they have been wronged especially if there's no more turning back on their relationship. And doing so, according to Dr. Gui, should not be treated as a question of right or wrong but rather of motive. "It's not a question of right or wrong. It's a question of 'what is your motive?' because you can always discuss it behind closed doors. Years after, would you still be having the same feeling that what you did was right? Ang siraan ang isang tao sa social media?" she said.
Sharing snippets of one's personal relationship with others is normal but Dr. Gui advises lovers that it's still best to keep a little something just between you and your partner.
"Mas mahirap kung ang relationship niyo is based on public opinion ng mga taong minsan hindi mo naman kakilala. You will only distract your relationship, you will only hurt your relationship. In relationships, you have to protect what you and your partner have," she said.
And the next time another relationship woe goes viral, Dr. Gui urges netizens to be kind in voicing their opinion. "Remember that they are people too. If you can relate to it, [the] more reason that you should be kind in your comments. If you're leaving a comment and you know your comment is leading to negativity, be kind," she said. "At the end of the day, your comment should be aimed at helping others grow."