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Commentary: Let’s learn to be more critical of viral stories on social media

Out of the many things we’re lacking as a society chronically living on the internet, it’s the ability to recognize what’s real information from mis or disinformation that causes us our “braindead” and “brain rot” moments online.

Whether we admit it or not, we’re mostly drawn to “underdog” stories or posts that tickle our emotional and empathetic sides. While that’s not wrong at all, it’s what usually causes us to let our guards down and just accept the “truth” that’s on the internet.

Take for example, the case of Zoe Gabriel, the Filipino TikToker who made headlines and got loads of people flaming her for calling Charles & Keith a luxury brand. Everything worked out in her favor afterwards—Zoe had addressed and defended her categorizing the brand as a luxury brand by calling out people’s privilege.

This had caught the eye of the founders of Charles & Keith, who had then invited the Filipino teen to model for the brand, and was also eventually unveiled as its “brand community ambassador” during Chalres & Keith’s 2023 International Women’s Day campaign. She also became a content creator for Malaysian budget airline Air Asia.

Most recently, however, critics alleged that Zoe was just pretending to be poor in order to gain support from her followers.

On April 11, a Facebook user wrote, “Appears that the Charles and Keith Pinoy girl is not as poor as she makes herself out to be. Her dad probably earns more than most Singaporeans. How many of us can afford to homeschool our kids? Don’t be hoodwinked by her.” The post gained about 615 reactions, 778 comments, and 2K shares as of this writing.

Some of the people in the comment section were actually calling out the person that made the post for “being a Karen” and for digging up Zoe’s financial status just to be noticed when the girl didn’t do anything to them at all.

via Facebook

On April 17, 2023, Zoe appeared with her father on TikTok to “clear the air” over “what’s been happening.” In the TikTok video, Zoe and her father included a short-written statement which reads,

“The truth has always been out from the beginning – there were never any “dirty little secrets.” While we are offended, deeply hurt and affected from all these wrongful and false accusations, we choose to stay true to who we are. We choose to understand others and be kind. We choose to be peacemakers and avoid contention.”



♬ original sound – zoe 🦋 – zoe 🦋

The Gabriels ended their statement by thanking their supporters and to those who have been extending their love and support for Zoe “during this difficult time.”

This whole situation in particular, triggered another debate on “how rich is rich?” and “how poor is poor?” among online users.

As Filipinos, of course we’re going to side with Zoe because what she had said the first time was totally right—what’s considered as luxury to her, may not be the same for others. Apart from that, we also know how it feels to be able to afford what we need but not what we want.

Though at the same time, we still have to be more critical of the stories we empathize with, because you never really know when something is actually authentic or not. While this whole situation with Zoe Gabriel had sorted itself out on its own, how about the others in the future?

Surely it won’t be the same; this just means we have to be more vigilant on what we perceive as truth online. If in doubt–don’t share.


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