BRUTALLY FRANK: The Selfish vs. Selfless Public Figure

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By Francis Baraan IV

My life has, to some degree, become public, because I have made my tweets and social media posts public, and have actively engaged in public discussions of the current issues. Those tweets and social media posts trended, went viral, and have earned me some measure of notoriety.

I have been asked, on quite a number of occasions, by universities and student leaders to be their resource speaker on human rights, press freedom, fake news, and free speech—all of which I passionately advocate for. I have seen my name in mainstream news outlets in bold-faced letters, because of tweets calling out leaders for their hypocrisy for supporting immorally repugnant policies that run counter to their public image of holding very Christian-based values and beliefs; news sites have written profiles on me; pro-administration bloggers have written innumerable outright lies about me.

I have been invited by the office of a Senator to join a round-table discussion on a bill protecting LGBT rights and received a personally handwritten letter from another Senator thanking me for greeting her on her birthday, and commending me for my “always on point” tweets against what she calls “the aberrations of this government. And apart from the many press mentions from both national and international publications, I have also been on the headlines a few times.

Those tweets and social media posts have made me gain over 100,000 followers across social media platforms in which I am active. They have also given me a solid reputation as a human rights activist and political blogger, which resulted in me being included by French ranking site Agilience as among the Top 100 AuthoritIes on the topics “Philippines” and “Politics of the Philippines” together with globally admired Senators, prominent Opposition figures, and the country’s preeminent journalists.

But those same tweets and social media posts have also made me gain a lot haters, bashers, trolls. l receive death threats, receive thousands of hateful messages on my social media accounts from total strangers. But being in the public eye—being someone of public interest—you become fair game.

You will be called names, scrutinized, vilified, criticized, lambasted, bullied—you name it.

So, unless you are ready for the backlash you will receive from making your statements public thereby implicitly consenting others to share them, or take a screenshot of them — unless you are prepared for the possibility of random, anonymous people messaging you, replying to you, cyberbullying you, constantly trolling you, and commenting and gossiping and making up stories about you and your loved ones — you better think twice before posting something publicly online.

Because if you cannot take it, do not, at all costs, dish it. You need a thick skin in order to withstand the glare of the spotlight. And by the glare of the spotlight, I mean: trolls & blind fanatics.

But more importantly, make sure that you sit your family down and discuss with them all the possible ramifications that come with your vocal criticism and activism. A certain level of notoriety brings a lot of attention not only to yourself—it could also draw unwanted attention onto the private people around you — friends and family — from sinister, malicious people and entities.

THE BEST SOLUTION AGAINST YOUR LOVED ONES FROM BEING TROLLED IS PREVENTION.

And the best way to keep those online vermins at bay is to to make remind them to always keep their profiles private. That way, you don’t become some kind of a “public figure” at the expense of your private family members.

You see, there is a difference between
(A) constantly inserting yourself and your opinions in every controversial, public issue just to remain relevant and popular
AND
(B) actually genuinely sharing your valid opinions and viewpoints to elevate the public discourse; actively creating valuable, educational content for others; and generously amplifying the voice of your fellow citizens.

Being a public figure is not about having the public interested in you — it’s about advocating for the interests of the public, and raising more awareness on issues and policies that are of huge public interest.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” JFK famously said as a challenge to all American citizens.

But let’s paraphrase that famous quote in a way that directly challenges public figures to truly be of useful service:

Ask not what others can do for your PERSONAL BRAND. Instead, ask what you—PERSONALLY—can actually do for others.

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