Published in Manila Standard Today on 24 March 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
I CONSIDER myself technology-challenged. Some friends say that I am averse to technology. I resisted computers. It took me many years before I could write directly on one. Until now, I have yet to maximize computers and the Internet. But I have since conceded that age is not a hindrance to learn at least some new ways to communicate.
Social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, have emerged as potent platforms in advancing meaningful social change. Social media has become the citizens’ forum and a melting pot of ideas.
It took me sometime before I entered Facebook. At first, it was just a convenient depository of pictures others take of me (because I don’t). Then I realized it can be an effective way of doing my advocacy for the reproductive health bill. And the rest is history.
I now use Twitter more than Facebook, and largely still, for my advocacies.
Many millions are in social media. Some even say that the Philippines is the social media capital of the world. Political tendencies from left to right, all sorts of personalities from culture and arts to show business, media practitioners, business people, activists and advocates; professionals and students; etc. are all represented.
Everyone who has something to say about anything under the sun is there. Imagine the richness of conversations that simultaneously go on at any given time.
Twitter, particularly, has changed how we get news and information. The news is now available as it happens. Gone are the days when we had to wait for news programs or the actual newspapers. We simply check posts of media people and everything is there.
At the same time, social media enables us to make public information that we have, which will otherwise not be relayed by mainstream media. I particularly use Twitter to provide my followers a blow-by-blow account of hearings and plenary discussions on the RH bill. People should know who among our legislators are their allies.
Twitter gives us access to personalities who are otherwise very difficult to reach. In my case, I am particularly interested in communicating with politicians for my advocacies. A good number of my meetings with them were arranged through this medium.
Making known to these politicians how people stand on issues is important so they know the pulse of those who follow their work. This is a way to give them feedback, even exact accountability when needed.
Social media discussions also create news. Mainstream media outfits monitor people’s conversations and sometimes convert these into news. Remember the front page apology to Mr. Demetrio Vicente, a witness in the impeachment trial, issued by one leading broadsheet? It was because Twitter users “forced” the issue on the paper after it published photographs that “insulted” the witness.
Social media enables us to reach a different audience for our advocacies. Millions of Facebook and Twitter users are private citizens who do not belong to organizations. Engaging people is not only educational; it also builds relationships, even friendships.
Indeed, social media is potent. But using these, particularly Twitter, is not without challenges.
As in other things, we need to be responsible users. Because information is instantaneously made public, we must be careful that what we feed people are accurate. It is easy to spread malicious “information” and ruin people’s reputations in social media. Being a responsible user is key.
We should also practice restraint. There are many fictitious accounts used to provoke people to lose their cool. In these cases, the best way is to ignore them. If people cannot even be upfront about their identities but have the audacity to insult others, why bother?
Lastly, we have to always remember that while millions are Internet savvy, many more millions are without much access. And they are those whose lives are more difficult and who actually need the social change we passionately discuss and debate online.
While social media activism has its merits, many of us are more privileged than ordinary Filipinos. The real challenge is to get these activists from their comfort zones and bring them to work with people whose lives are actually affected by the issues we advocate on.
Personally, this is what I try to do. Engage people online and convince them go offline for some time to connect and work with the “real” adversely affected people. For me, bridging people for social change is the goal of social media activism.
email@example.com and @bethangsioco on Twitter