Something to think about a midst this crazy rainy season we’re having! Stay safe everyone.
By Rica S. Facundo and Michael C. Cruz
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THERE WAS a time when social networking was a domain reserved for more personal affairs. While this is still true, we now find ourselves glued to our Twitter or Facebook feeds for “official” information on class cancellations, traffic reports or weather updates. This shift to a new medium of information raises some significant issues.
Filipinos love social networking. In 2010, a well-publicized report by digital systems analyst, ComScore, found that Filipinos are the 6th top Twitter users by proportion of Internet users visiting the site. Last May 2011, Facebook’s own figures showed that there are as much as 25 million users in the country.
“This is one thing we all can’t change,” Sanggunian Secretary-General Ian Agatep says, regarding social media. It comes as no surprise that government agencies and universities are flocking to social networking sites as well, in order to reach out to their increasing online following.
“Drowning” the news
On July 2011, the Metro Manila class suspensions due to Typhoon Juaning was announced repeatedly throughout Twitter and Facebook, spearheaded by a storm of ecstatic university students.
Despite the access to instant information, official statements released by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Vice President for the Loyola Schools were often drowned by sensational and irrelevant comments.
Jenica Dizon, senior School of Humanities Executive Officer and Head of the Senior’s Alliance, says that during the fiasco, her batch’s Facebook group “became cluttered with funny but senseless posts.” The democratic nature of social media enables the public to get carried away and lose sight of the authenticity of information, causing unnecessary panic rather than assuaging it.
However, information, whether released online or elsewhere, is not the headache. “My problem is more on how people deal with the data,” says Associate Dean for Student Affairs Rene San Andres.
Personalities and institutions can easily be “faked” online. It can do a lot of damage if the public is not sufficiently judicious about the reliability of their sources. In the Juaning media storm, it was revealed that CHED did not have an official Twitter account, leaving university students unsure of what to believe.
Informed versus educated
Last August, Christopher Lao became infamous for the controversial “I should have been informed” statement about the unblocked flooded road that damaged his car. However, it is hard to sympathize with Lao given the extensive channels for information dissemination. Perhaps it is education, not information, that should be pursued.
“Social media is a tool. It is neither good nor evil. [The implications depend] on how you use it,” says San Andres. In order to improve this tool, parties on both ends—the decision-makers and the awaiting public—must be aware of their mutual beneficial relationship, and that social media entitles them both to be gatekeepers of information.
In this regard, San Andres says, “It would be good if people would just share the link rather than post their own interpretation. [The latter] makes it tsismis.” Indeed, citizens must be wary not only in what they post, but on how it they post it.
The world is undeniably experiencing the storm of social media. Regardless of whether it causes more confusion or confidence, Agatep says, “It is better to be safe than sorry.” With this new platform for information dissemination, our generation is called to exercise its responsible use. The instant gratification provided by social media must always be considered hand in hand with the welfare of the public.