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The Irony Of Ethel Booba's Social Media Genius

The comedienne's online presence is authentic as it gets. And as witty as she is when dealing with her trolls and haters, she isn't immune to the toxicity of the internet
by John Paulo Aguilera | Feb 9, 2017
Photo by Ejay Leung
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If you've been enslaved by social media, then you've probably chanced upon a tweet or two from Ethel Gabison, more popularly known to the masses as Ethel Booba.

From serious current events to silly matters of the heart, the comedienne has managed to inject her tongue-in-cheek wit when offering her two cents on particular social issues. The result? Comedic commentary gold aka charotism.

With how severe things currently are in the virtual world (See: Facebook followers constantly spewing nonsense), we knew we had to talk to Ethel in hopes of learning the way of the online sword.

However, on the day of the shoot and interview, the cyber-savvy funnywoman made her way through the room in an exceptionally quiet fashion. The staff seriously expected the photo session to take longer than usual due to hearty fits of laughter.

Instead, Ethel diligently complied with our photographer's every instruction, occasionally muttering a few words in between takes, while everyone else looked on.

Apparently, she was bracing herself for a rather unfiltered interview.

For someone who could attribute her newfound fame to social media, Ethel herself is dumbfounded by the popularity of her tweets, given that she has been addressing her followers in the same biting manner on Facebook.

"Noon pa madami na [akong kasagutan], nung dati ko pang account. Parang ako yung nalalaro [namamanipula]—hindi pala dapat ganun. Dapat pala hindi ka maaapektuhan, ibabalik mo sa kanila."

If anything, the tweets that have gone viral, hilarious as they may seem, are a watered-down bunch, due to the microblogging site's logistics. "Kasi 140 characters lang. Actually, kasi sa dami na din ng followers lately, parang medyo tame na nga eh."

The humor comes naturally for Ethel, who started out as a stand-up comedienne, impersonating fellow voluptuous showbiz personality Rufa Mae Quinto, before crossing over as a host and contestant in reality TV (Extra Challenge and Pinoy Big Brother: Celebrity Edition 2, respectively).

Her comical tweeting process goes something like this: the same followers who like and retweet her posts are also the ones who feed her a certain issue, she lets the side-splitting ideas—ripened by years of improv comedy experience—spill over, and try to squeeze all the hilarity into the maximum number of characters allowed on Twitter. It's a seemingly simple recipe for virality, and only a jester of Ethel's caliber can unleash its full potential.

But despite the apparent clamor for her contemporary wisecracks, the funnywoman couldn't avoid being in the crosshairs of the lingering hate, like any other online celebrity. Typically, the most rabid cynics poke fun at her outward appearance, while others dig up her colorful, scandalous romantic history. Fortunately, Ethel is hardwired to devise methods for combatting the gloom and doom.

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Whether it's anonymously calling out the guilty party, or altering her tweet composition to throw off pretentious keyboard warriors, she leaves it to her gut feeling when trying to address such online hate. "[Nung simula], iniiba ko [yung atake] para mag-isip sila kung ako talaga yung kausap nila. Parang, 'Si Ethel ba 'to?' Tabla-tabla din sa iba na mga poser."

Still, there are times when Ethel just can't tolerate the level of vitriol—"mga bastos din talaga"—so she hands over the Twitter reins to her family members, particularly her brother. "Minsan ganun. Kadalasan nga nanay ko eh. Kasi kailangan sagutin mo din para manahimik."

Bashers are one thing, but trolls are a different kind of animal. She never minces her words when profiling them: "Feeling ko mga naka-drugs, sa totoo lang. Parang mga wala talaga silang tulog eh. Sa pagkakaalam ko yung mga nagdo-droga masyadong creative. Nagha-hallucinate na sila—iba din talaga ang nagagawa ng drugs kesa vitamins...charot, ha ha!" 

Believe it or not, the 40-year-old isn't exactly loving her new lease on stardom, despite the deluge of praise she receives from the thinking public for coming up with laugh-inducing one-liners. Particularly, she feels that the high-brow persona is warding off potential romantic suitors.

She exclaims, "Baka merong mga boylet na gustong lumapit sa'kin; sabi ko, 'I-deactivate ko na lang kaya?' Ha ha! Kasi parang nakakasagabal na siya sa love life...charot! Ha ha!"

Involving her kin in her social media engagement also has turned out to be a bad idea. "Hindi na talaga ko natutuwa. Kasi pati yung mama ko, 'Tignan mo!' Sabi ko, 'Mapagpatol ka din eh! Papatayin ko yung Wi-Fi!' Mga puyat na, lahat naka-ganun," before motioning a painful bow.

Once eager to reply to her followers, Ethel is now starting to get tired of all the crap online, saying it doesn't reap any personal rewards.

"Pati yung family ko nakaabang kung, 'Magtu-tweet ba siya?' Titignan kung nakahawak ako ng phone, kailangan updated din sila. Minsan nasasabi ko na lang, 'Para tayong mga gago dito.'"

Due to the collective stress generated by her social media usage, she has seriously contemplated shutting down her Twitter account. Considering that she has already done this more than a few times in the past with her other accounts ("Para walang trace"), the idea could prove to be the nightmare of every Ethel Booba follower who regards her 140-character commentary as an accessible form of escape from the stress of current affairs.

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She admits, "Kung ako ang tatanungin, kasi sumisikat yung account ko, dapat i-push ko pa. Pero hindi eh. Nabuksan ako niyan sa maraming tao, baka ako din ang magsara niyan, ha ha! Mahirap na din."

This goes to show that even great minds like Ethel aren't immune and can succumb to online toxicity. In her own words, "Hindi na nakakabuti, sa totoo lang. Hindi na nakakatuwa." That says a lot about how malignant social media has become. If someone like Ethel, who is used to the noxious trappings of being a celebrity can't handle the heat of the Internet, imagine the effect this has on the millions of regular Filipinos online who are easily susceptible to social media negativity.

Online liberty is perhaps the most cancerous descendant of the freedom of expression. Everyone is given the right to voice out the inner-workings of their mind, no matter how scathing the effects might be. Especially in the Philippines, the concept of free speech somewhat reeks of irony, with how partisan blogs are criticizing the mainstream media for reporting about reality. The power of a single social media post has become so seismic that it can now divide a nation.

Who wants to see Ethel and her bottomless well of 'charot-isms' dry up? Definitely not us and her 279 (and counting)-thousand strong following. Although at this rate, with the reckless proliferation of hate and misinformation, her retreating and shutting herself up for good wouldn't be so shocking. Keeping quiet, after all, is the easiest form of apathy.

Follow her if you still haven't. Cherish her daily dose of witty zingers. Laugh your hearts out at her antics, before she signs off for good.

 

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