You open your social media to check what’s up with your friends or updates on news and events, then boala! You seem confused because you cannot almost identify whether the posted photos are real or not. Suddenly, people have that perfect body, poreless skin and look sophisticated in their fashionable wardrobes. Of course it’s undeniably because of the famous Photolab, a generative artificial intelligence application which can transform your single photo into whatever and however you imagine to be!

I’m very much aware that millions of Filipinos are into this, and perhaps I would be crucified with my admission that I have never been a fan of photo apps since then, except that that one app I use for my business pages. Oh, there was a time also I tried face swap out of curiosity because I wanted to see how my husband and I would look like should we switch faces and I could barely remember the result.  After which different AI photo applications have been popularly enjoyed by Filipinos, regardless of their age, occupation or character.

When I was working for the print media in 2003, I could recall our layout artist was using Photoshop in a computer to crop pictures for the newspaper. While I was observing him, I felt like, you need to be an expert in tracing lines and shapes without leaving a visible edge, to come up with a flawless crop which consumed about two to three hours. 20 years to date, it only takes two clicks to remove the background and that’s it, just like magic you can appear to be in any situation, place or environment in seconds.

Literally I’m not a genius in science, computer and technology, nor do I would like to go into a deeper discussion on how Artificial Intelligence has evolved through time because I believe all information is searchable in many websites. Pros and cons are also elaborated on the terms of the apps if we aren’t just too excited to jump into the “I AGREE” button and did not skip reading the terms to automatically hype into using the app. One of the risks is that we are freely giving access to the manufacturer of our personal information. Likewise, there might be a possibility our photos can be converted to AI videos for unauthorized activities by strangers, just like the avatar made videos of famous personalities which have gone viral.

However, we seem to ignore the upfront consequences because of the fun and fascination the AI apps bring. As in the Photolab, as it spreads like wildfire, the young generation or even the not so young, are like on cloud 9 by just looking at their transformation. My point is, with the bliss and the positivity AI brings, despite the dangers it poses, we recognize that our current emotional and mental health matter more than anything. Although mixed reactions and weight of its acceptance differ in people, AI photos are uncontrollably dominating our social media feeds.

Thus, who I am to throw stones on people especially on my social media friends when they post their versions with a happy heart? Who are we to rant about what others love to do with their lives when they also feel responsible of their actions? Why should there be social media shaming when the world is kind of heavy for many and has so much hate already?
October is Mental Health Awareness Month. While mental health practitioners are medically caring for six million Filipinos diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and advocate groups are building social support programs for all, we as ordinary citizens can contribute also in creating a stress-free social media environment.

We all have our ways to cope from simple to complex problems. Some travel, others go to coffee shops, while many because of its convenient access, make social media a diversion to be themselves. So, during that time when I was about to click the post button in my timeline with this expression, “Ugh. Really, Photolab this time?” I paused. Deleted every single letter. Until there was none that could strike a knife on one’s heart. Photolab isn’t still my thing, but it is others’ and respect is free and precious when given with an intention to foster a positive social media vibe.

Controlling our reaction towards other’s social media activities isn’t easy, but we can at least practice even just this month as our observance by showing we care for what our connections feel.