THE Department of Transportation recently released a comic strip warning passengers on trains to keep their luggage to themselves, and unwittingly unleashed the kraken of criticism for the way the message was worded.
In a tweet, the DoTr said (caps theirs): “TAG MO YUNG KAKILALA MO na feeling SIYA LANG ANG PASAHERO NG TREN kung makapagdala ng backpack, na tipong WALANG PAKIALAM kung MATAMAAN ang iba. Pwede naman pong ILAPAG o ITABI para hindi masyadong makaabala. #DOTrPH”
The cartoon strip shows people piling into a train. One of them has a huge backpack. Another passenger says, “Ayy! Si kuya 3 space ang sinakop!” Below it, a figure of a man in a white shirt and a red bandana worn katipunero style and with an angry expression on his face says, “Kuya, konting respeto naman sa kapwa mo mananakay. Baka kung masagi ‘yan ikaw pa galit ha?! Nakakagigil eh. GALIT NA ME! >.<”
Below that, the DoTr social media person added another tweet: “Tandaan, ANG PAG-UNLAD AT PAGBABAGO SA SISTEMA NG TRANSPORTASYON, TWO-WAY YAN. Habang kumikilos ang gobyerno, dapat, nakikisabay rin sa pagbabago ang mga pasahero. Walang mawawala kung ITATAMA NATIN ANG ATING MGA ASAL lalo habang nasa loob ng pampublikong sasakyan.”
It sounds like the DoTr is fed up with ill-mannered passengers. It’s true enough about folks who seem to not care about the space they’re taking up by manspreading and not caring whether their bags inconvenience others. It is incumbent upon everyone in public spaces to have consideration for others.
Take the case of Japan, a model in terms of individual behavior in public. On trains, people keep their hands to themselves no matter how crowded it is, and refrain from having phone conversations, listening to loud music, or doing anything that will annoy or disturb others.
Specific to backpacks, in the US there are signs on California’s Bay Area trains about putting backpacks on the floor. If people don’t do this, others around them will not hesitate to tell them.
There are people who don’t have to be taught or be reminded of good manners and right conduct, but others do. Hence the need for DoTr to come up with this public service announcement.
However, there is something off-putting with the way the message was crafted. Granted, there’s a need to be tough, but this has gone beyond that into the territory of rudeness and meanness.
A commenter to that DoTr tweet said that the instruction to “TAG MO YUNG KAKILALA MO” is a form of public shaming. “Why not be more informative,” he said, “to have an effective way of relaying your message to commuters?”
The same person pointed out that the LRT1 has a better way of conveying messages, and posted an LRT1 comic strip regarding proper trash disposal. The two characters in the comic were smiling as one of them simply said, “Ibulsa muna ang inyong basura at itapon sa tamang basurahan paglabas ng tren.”
Another commenter noted, “Kasi…pinag-aaralan ang proper sending of messages hahaha.” Yet another said, “Your post lacks finesse… What else can we expect from this government aside from being bastos.”
Following the storm of censure from netizens, DoTr followed up by tweeting a “CLARIFICATION” that the controversial comic strip was part of its social media campaign to “Educate the public to uphold proper etiquette when inside public transportation.”
Here’s the thing about communication: it needs to be done properly if it is to bring about the desired awareness and change in attitude and behavior. Audiences have become sophisticated and the power of the Internet as a feedback mechanism allows them to call out what they see or perceive as inappropriate.
You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, the saying goes, and scolding and nagging people won’t help your cause. In fact, negative tactics cause resentment and anger. Using all caps on the Internet means one is shouting, and that’s not too friendly, is it? In this particular instance, DoTr could have softened its wording of the message and/or used humor to make it more palatable to its audience and more effective.
It just goes to show that this government needs qualified and competent communication professionals to get its messages across, because a lot of its efforts end up backfiring and all for naught.
Dr. Ortuoste is a writer and communication consultant. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO