On Ica Policarpio and Social Media’s Role and Limits
It was one of the most publicized “missing person” cases recently. Patricia “Ica” Policarpio, 17 years old, went missing on December 21. Her sister, Bea, made an appeal on social media on December 22 to help #FindICA. She and her whole family were worried, especially that Ica seemed to have just disappeared after having coffee and trying to break a Php1,000 bill in a store in Muntinlupa.
Word spread, of course, and many netizens shared Bea’s message and the hashtag #FindICA. A special task force was formed to locate the teenager. Even celebrities helped with the cause by sharing Bea’s message on their own social media accounts. Soon enough, the family received solid leads, one of these from a young lady from San Pablo, Laguna. Finally, on December 24, the Policarpios were reunited; a local resident found Ica in a store, distraught and crying. She was taken under the care of a barangay councilor prior to being fetched by her family.
All’s well that ends well. Apparently not.
After Ica was found and an investigation pending, the family appealed for privacy. Many netizens who shared the news of Ica being missing demanded an explanation from the family why she disappeared. As kidnapping was ruled out, a lot of people were clamoring for a reason. Did she participate in the 48-hour challenge? Or did she simply run away?
The netizens demanded their closure.
And so Bea released a statement from the family, telling the people that 1) Ica did not participate in the 48-hour challenge as she did not know such; 2) her younger sister was in deep emotional stress when she disappeared last December 21; and 3) people should not judge Ica, as she is just a teenager going through a multitude of stress, while also saying that the teenager is receiving medical attention and emotional support after all that has happened.
But that wasn’t enough closure for a lot of people. Many also criticized Bea’s statement, that it was too roundabout, too haughty, and lacking. The family’s social status was also brought up, saying that they had money and influence to leverage social media and the local police to find Ica. Some comments on articles pertaining to this story said that the family is not entitled to privacy since they made Ica’s case a public one.
So is Ica Policarpio and her family not entitled to their privacy, as they wish?
Should the public and every social media user who spread the #FindICA post and hashtag be dished even the most minute details of her disappearance?
Does the family owe the public an explanation?
Somehow I felt that Ica’s case has become a melodrama of sorts. A telenovela wherein everything is seen in close-up, not sparing a freckle, wrinkle, or pimple.
It’s like people need to see the Policarpios wash their dirty linen in public.
But do they have to?
Indeed, social media played a big role in finding Ica Policarpio. Facebook and Twitter are so powerful that it only took two, at most three, days to find her.
Without social media, Ica may have been found later. Or maybe a little bit too late. Who knows.
But because of Bea’s Facebook post, news about her sister spread like wildfire and thereby bore positive results.
Still, the question remains: should the family not be given the privacy they ask for? After all, they made a big deal of the situation that may have been a result of a father-daughter misunderstanding or Ica’s mental and emotional state.
Should we be given the nitty-gritty? Isn’t Bea’s statement enough?
For me, what the sister of Ica Policarpio has said is enough. Actually, it’s enough that they had found her.
I don’t know what prompted some people to demand that they be let in the Policarpio’s situation. Sharing Bea’s post about her missing sister or retweeting it doesn’t give others the privilege of prying into someone’s life. If the family choose to hold back the reason, then we should respect that. They need it, too.
Also, even without money or influence, I’m sure Bea would still resort to social media to help find Ica. It is accessible and powerful, and she knows this. Maybe she didn’t mean it to be this big an issue.
And let’s read Bea’s statement again. While she wasn’t totally straightforward, she has hinted on Ica’s condition and the reason of her disappearance. She is a teenager after all. And sometimes, teenagers do things that are not exactly right.
It just so happened that because of social media, this family issue was put under a microscope. A huge one. And, in effect, blurred the lines of what should be put public and what is to be kept private.
I understand that some people are concerned that this may become a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” but I don’t think so. I don’t think people would suddenly become so cold-hearted when learning about a missing person. We are, after all, part of a family: we are a parent, a son, a daughter, a loved one to someone. And whether we admit it or not, we have an innate tendency to care and love our neighbors. This is why we chose to help find Ica Policarpio. Because if she were our own, we would want her to be found, no matter how and no matter what it takes.
Let’s just be happy that the Policarpios have been reunited. And while it’s a long road to total recovery, after what they have experienced, may the family receive healing and peace.
And for us to realize that while all of us — yes, ALL OF US — can leverage the power of social media, it is also enough to know enough.