The boundaries of free speech as a foreigner

Photo from the internet

Photo from the internet

My thoughts on the Edz Ello controversy and the boundaries of free speech as a foreigner. I’ve changed the headline from what was originally posted on Rappler. I’m using OFWs as an example but I think it’s a common concern for anyone living abroad regardless of their nationality.


Filipinos are no strangers to making the headlines in Singapore.

Last June 2014 a Philippine Independence Day celebration in Singapore was the subject of xenophobic heckling and harassment online, causing the organizers to cancel the event.

(READ: Pinoy group in Singapore drops Independence Day event plan)

A few days ago the couple behind The Real Singapore, a popular alternative news site, was charged with sedition. The cause? They allegedly claimed that a Filipino family caused an incident during Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community.

Online forums are regularly flooded with comments referring to Filipinos as “foreign trash” or “cockroaches,” making Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) feel angry, ashamed or even apathetic. These derogatory comments are nothing new. The question is whether OFWs should feel obligated to defend theirkababayantooth and nail in a nationalistic effort to change the narrative about Filipinos abroad.

But the controversy sparked by Edz Ello, a Filipino nurse working in a government hospital in Singapore recently charged with sedition and lying to the police for posting hateful comments about Singaporeans online, paints a different picture.

Instead of defending a fellow Filipino, the OFW community too condemned his actions, to the extent of saying that he deserved the strict consequences that followed.

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

The unspoken rule: don’t bite the hand that feeds

Most OFWs believe that it’s a privilege to be working overseas, especially in Singapore, where the earning capacity tends to be much higher than back in the Philippines.

Regardless of your nationality or income, the bottom line is that every expatriate and migrant worker is a guest in a foreign country. It’s an implicit agreement – that locals expect respect and sensitivity from those who would share their home.

In the case of Edz Ello, both Singaporean and Filipino netizens alike felt that the hateful comments he posted reflected the exact opposite. They said, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” an unspoken rule about not offending your benefactor that OFWs are all too familiar with.

Boundaries of free speech

While OFWs are used to a culture of freedom of speech back home, once we venture beyond our borders the boundaries become gray. Living abroad makes us more self-aware of our actions, especially online, not merely out of fear of being deported or arrested, but also out of respect to our host country.

Singapore, on the other hand, is known for its strict laws about voicing opinions publicly.

The priority of the government is to preserve harmony in a multicultural society, where race is a major social identifier for locals. As mentioned by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, “You have full freedom of speech [in Singapore] but it doesn’t extend to offending somebody else.”

So similar to how religion is a popular yet sensitive topic in the Philippines, such inflammatory comments along national and racial lines can elicit controversy in Singapore. This is increasingly relevant amidst growing concerns about the influx of foreigners in recent years, with an almost 40% foreign population.

Goodwill ambassadors

172,700 Filipinos work in Singapore, according to the latest publicly available Philippine government data. As part of the foreigner population in Singapore, the responsibility of OFWs is to become goodwill ambassadors for the Philippines.

We are guardians of the Filipino name for the world at large, whose only points of reference about the Philippines are sweeping generalizations and often negative stereotypes. That’s why the OFW community did not speak up on behalf of Edz Ello. They agree that his actions unfairly represented Filipinos. Even some locals echo the same sentiment – don’t let the actions of one Filipino paint the wrong picture of an entire race.

The Ello controversy reminds us that nationalism goes beyond our bloodline, heritage, language and the color of our skin. It’s about knowing that we can be better Filipinos, while holding our fellow kababayansaccountable to that very standard.

As an OFW, that means doing our utmost best in protecting our name abroad. Then perhaps, we’ll be making headlines for all the right reasons.


Writing out loud

I spend a lot of weekends staring blankly at my computer screen, with fingers restlessly brushing the keyboard. A string of sentences that always end in “delete” or “backspace.”

I promised myself to write more in 2014. All the best productivity hack articles advise to “Book time to get the real work done” or else get stuck in the perpetual cycle of emails, or in the case of the weekends, on Twitter, Facebook and Flipboard. So I even have a Calendar reminder that says to write every Sunday at 10AM.

Writer’s block is not uncommon. But lately I’ve wondered whether it’s the case of 1) I don’t know what to write about or 2) I know what to write about I’m too scared to write it out loud. Humans are masters of self-deception. Deep inside we know exactly what needs to be said or done but we prolong the conclusion because it always feels so… final.

As a writer, I discern with words. It’s almost 2PM now. I’m four hours late but at least I’m making some progress.

Digital for Dummies #3: In defense of bloggers

Blogging -- Is it credible or not?

Blogging — Is it credible or not?

A couple of weeks ago a digital marketeer asked me whether I think bloggers are credible. I said “yes,” to which he ended the short lived conversation in disagreement and a haughtily raised eyebrow.

This is re-hashed old news, but are we, the overly self-indulgent, opinionated exhibitionists of the world wide web credible? Does our lack of objectivity diminish the value of our personal insight? Maybe we should stop posting pictures of ourselves.

I started thinking about this a couple of months ago when I tried social listening for the first time. Our team audited the social media landscape to generate buzz levels, analysis and insight on particular products. But we also did other things:

We laughed.

We judged.

We shook our head in disbelief.

Did he/she really need to post that duck face? Do people actually like that? WHY. I cringed. I wanted to plead. There’s more to us than that. 

Don't. Do. The. Duck. Face.  (Photo via the internet)

Don’t. Do. The. Duck. Face. (Photo via the internet)

As a blogger and digital professional with a view from both ends, I would like to defend and give my kind a gentle reminder: It goes without saying that the internet is full of shit, but it doesn’t mean that we have to be one.

A lot of articles discuss the link between blogging and marketing/journalism/advertising — why it works, how to make it work, etc. However, I have yet to see one from the point of view of the blogger and not only the brand.

The first maxim of any blogger is to be organic. Business, if we’re lucky, is the byproduct.

Blogs, at its core, is the digital manifestation of personal expression. Bloggers existed long before brands needed us to exist. This, I believe, will always be our selling point. In fact bloggers existed since time immemorial in a different form. Any form of written observation, critique on any subject whether it’s relevant or not is a form of blogging during the pre-digital era. Regardless of mode of delivery how is the content any different?

In an increasingly competitive market these personal (perhaps what you might even call one-sided) stories are the points of differentiation. In a globalized economy everyone wants to localize content, as proof of the success of Trip Advisor, Groupon, etc.

The big guys — advertisers, news agencies, marketers, corporate giants, content curators — they need us. Our buzz is the measurements of earned success, proof that consumers actually care. Unlike word of mouth, sentiment is left like residue on the web, leaving a trail even beyond the campaign. With one click of the publish button we provide the data that drives trends and insight — for free and with the help of Google!

So it does get on my nerves a little when people (ahem marketers), especially in this new media era, bully us into the diminutive corner and don’t believe us even if they need to.

I understand that credibility is defined by the person behind the blogger and the content that they write. Do they have authority on the topic? What do they write about? My answer is to be the same person online and offline, someone who adds value regardless of the medium. Mark Zuckerburg said that “Having two identities for yourself is an example of lack of integrity” and nowadays everyone is online.

Doc Searls, the author of the The Intention Economy “describes an economy driven by personal intent, where vendors must respond to the actual intentions of customers instead of vying for the attention of many.”

Bloggers are customers, not only the means to the customer. While questioning our credibility is healthy (it should actually want to prove you wrong), remember that blogs (or other forms of social media for that matter) provides the insight and data that drives the industry in the fist place.

Do you think blogs are credible? Why or why not?

Related posts:

Digital for Dummies #1

Digital For Dummies #2: Maybe we’ll always be dummies 

Digital for dummies

It’s official! My first legit set of business cards. Call me, maybe?

If the internet functioned like the United Nations, then delegates represent social media, app developers, androids and smart phones. The threat to virtual harmony is in being misunderstood. Effective digital translation (from old to new media) should be a millennial goal in the year of Web 3.0.

I can sum up my two months as an account executive in a digital agency with the following anecdote:

(In a meeting)

Boss:  Can you pass me my notebook?

Me: (Passes an actual paper bound notebook)

Boss: I  meant my MacBook…

Me: (Silence) Just kidding!

Colleague: We’re in a digital agency!

Me: I thought notebooks referred to tablets!

My job would be so much easier with subtitles – or maybe we need more and better interpreters (hello communication majors!)

Celebrating my first day of work in Singapore!

Illiteracy, as you can see, is a problem when we redefine traditional words like “notebook” or “like,”create new words like “tweet” and add even more complicated and dynamic CMS configurations (small achievement to actually know what that means now!)

Before I entered advertising, my experience with digital was centered on journalism. But by cross-referencing my short stints in both industries, I realized that even a democratic sphere like the internet is governed by guidelines. Just because we don’t see most of them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist and I think a problem is that we forget that they do.

From the people I’ve talked to about the industry, both in Manila and Singapore, the common sentiment is how illiterate and ignorant people are about the digital world — the clients, every day netizens and even people like me who’s in the business itself. But because new media is social in nature, then it will always be dynamic. Nobody knows what can happen, so we keep pushing these boundaries that are permeable to technology, culture and the kind of society we live in.

Notebook — paper or laptop?

Because of this transition into the digital age, there’s a disconnect between what we say and do online and offline. But one day both realities might integrate and become one and the same. Personally, I don’t think new media should be called “new” because it implies that we’re leaving something behind and starting from scratch. Is there something to gain from keeping what made traditional media work and elevate it into the level of 3.0?

In the Social Media Summit I organized last December 2011 and my project thesis on internet-radio, I learned how the internet grants us more freedom, and in effect, more responsibility. Without digital interpreters or translators (which is how I like to look at my job), virtual sovereignty will be encroached. Let’s prevent any more misunderstandings over notebooks shall we?

One part of my office!

Hypocritical thoughts on sharing

It’s funny how a part of me feels like a hypocrite. I’m a communication major who believes in the power of social media so much that I even made an event dedicated to it. My friends know me as a conversationalist, someone who enjoys sharing, hearing and writing about stories. And yet my entry, “On Being a Foreign Filipino,” was the first time I’ve ever shared my blog anywhere aside from Twitter. For the first time I even texted my family to read it. Really, who does that?

It’s hard to put yourself out there in anything, especially a personal blog on Facebook, but I could not ignore this gut-wrenching feeling to share what I had to say. Initially, I personally asked some friends to read it, but after awhile the story took a life of it’s own and I no longer had to ask.

Then another remarkable thing happened. I got a call on January 11 that I was a finalist for Move.Ph/’s “Stories that Move Your World” competition and I won third place.

Honestly, I was speechless. I submitted that entry on the same day I wrote it and had the guts to post it publicly.  I considered not sending it to the competition since I had passed the deadline by minutes, but again, I could not ignore this pestering voice in my head to at least try.

For someone who likes to over-think, I realized that when you genuinely believe in something you won’t have to. In many ways the article was still rough but it was real, at least to me. I remember asking myself, “Is this what being in love feels like? Because I want to tell the whole world about it.” A vocation feels like an out of body experience.

Patricia Evangelista said during’s #MoveManila event last January 12 that “A story can’t change the world but it can make a difference.” While the response has been overwhelming, from friends, family and strangers from all over the world re-sharing and telling me that they believed in what I wrote, the person it made the most difference to was me.

I was born and raised by this story for 21 years. Ironically, I genuinely found my voice only when I had the guts to speak out. Now there’s no way I can stand to be a hypocrite. I am the same person on this blog and in real-life. I feel impassioned to converse not only for myself but for others.  Really, a little cyberspace shouldn’t make much of a difference. This blog will be witness to that commitment and whoever is reading this will too.

The last week in pictures and statistics:

January 9, Monday: Posted my entry at 11:26PM. Number of hits: 242

January 10, Tuesday: 220 hits

January 11, Wednesday:  I found out I was a finalist.466 hits

January 12, Thursday: I found out I won. 110 people liked my status. 317 hits

Feeling moved on stage

I met Al Jazeera’s  lead anchor Veronica Pedrosa. She’s also another ‘foreign filipino.’ I felt so kilig when she told me I was good and to keep it up.  When I asked her for advice she said “Just do what feels right.” #Truth

January 13, Friday: Four days after I wrote the entry. 86 hits

January 15, Sunday: Six days after I wrote the entry. 96 hits

You can also read it on P3, this cool space for progressive Filipino thinkers.

Beyond stress and success: The story of a Social Media Summit

ACOMM's Social Media Summit Team, December 10, 2011

The holiday season is a time to give thanks. If Christmas feels warm and fuzzy, then New Years is appreciative for the chance to start anew.Throughout the year I always try to be thankful for my blessings. They come in all shapes and sizes, through the people I meet, opportunities I grab, and the shortcomings that come my way. While this particular project could have happened during any other time in the year, it’s quite appropriate that ACOMM’s Social Media Summit took place near the holiday season. Gratitude is the best way I can encapsulate this project into a nutshell. A very big nutshell.

I have about 6 months worth of stories I could share about the work, adventures, shortcomings and success of this project, but I would like to focus on the most personal aspect — my team, because these people have made all the difference.

Surviving on adrenaline!

As part of council I’ve been planning events since high school. Since I was young and inexperienced then, I had no idea what the hell I was doing most of the time. Although that was more than 4 years ago, I still remember feeling nervous and mostly alone. That was me back then,  a girl with a super-woman complex. I created my own kryptonite — myself and most probably my ego.

My super team of lovely ladies. The crazier the pose, the more stressed you were!

Even if prom went well, or we managed to pull off that fashion show benefit, now I can hardly recall feeling genuinely fulfilled afterwards. It was a faceless success. No warm and fuzzy feeling afterwards. No yearning for what we could do next. Looking back now, I’m hesitant to call us a team. Where are my fond memories aside from stress and success?

We had a total of over 60 students attend from different high school and colleges

Fast forward more than four years later. Although I’m better equipped with experience, planning this Social Media Summit was challenging for me. Like high school, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was doing. I’ve never done anything like this in scale or form before. Maybe none of us really knew, but the problem is that I’m a pusher. It’s difficult to know when to halt ambition. As the project head, it’s risky because you’re responsible for putting others on the line as well.  I know, I’m not a teenager anymore.

I remember confiding in Kevin, my Associate Vice President, that I was scared of disappointing everyone. He repeated the same advice I once told him before. Start worrying if you’re not worrying.

The organizers with Ms. Maria Ressa during break

One day I hope to be just as accomplished, inspirational and influential as Ms. Maria Ressa is.

“Over prepare, then go with the flow”

I think that quote best describes what happened towards the end, especially on the day itself when a lot of things didn’t go according to plan, both in a good and bad way. I was a stressed-out and sleepless wreck, trying to compose myself minutes before giving my opening remarks. I had no speech prepared, a situation I tried to avoid, especially since I did not want to embarrass myself in front of  someone I really looked up to. She was sitting in the front row. However, we were already behind schedule and I couldn’t buy any more time. So I did the only thing one can and should always do — speak from the heart, for myself and the team. No amount of preparation compares to the reassurance from inside and the people around you.

The lovely ladies of SMS

A prayer of thanks.

This project was a first on many different levels. Yes, for the most part, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing and we were just learning as we went along, but unlike before I was not alone.  We were not alone.

After the attendees left everyone held hands in prayer. I looked around at the people who were not there when we first started planning in July. From less than 10 in our original team, we were almost 30 organizers that day, helping each other out. Aside from my project managers who were required to be there, I saw the faces of my executive board, members from the other departments, my org. That’s when I felt what I didn’t in high school.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible and everyone who I got closer to because of this event. You know who you are. : )

Read our post-event article by Joey Alarilla on Yahoo Philippines here

Jen hates it when I call her Little J. I think I can get away with it, not because I'm her boss, but because we've become friends :)

It was awesome how we live-tweeted the whole event. Bernice practicing for her future career in journalism. It works! Within 24 hours, 426 tweets used the hashtag #SocialMediaSummit, generating 1,384,351 impressions and reaching an audience of 168,012 Twitter followers via

Anyone, regardless of background, uses social media.

In the afternoon we broke into 3 workshop sessions in order to put theory into practice

Another "live feed" of the event

Someone wrote on the evaluation sheet "ACOMM is the org that young people can depend on" <3

Abby and Nika leading the workshops

Lauren and I -- still the dynamic duo even if we head different departments now.

Laughing and learning -- always a good combination

Thank you to our awesome speakers who really were our bread and butter. So thankful to have them! (First row: Mike Palacios, Rowena Palacios, Candice Montenegro; Second row: Pedrosa Pilar, Joey Alarilla, Maria Ressa; Third row: Ivan Henares, Jim Paredes

A Call to Arms

My November article with Jose Mendoza for The Guidon’s Beyond Loyola section.  Aside from the topic itself, I really enjoyed writing this, partly because of the super interesting and insightful interviews  I had.  It’s one of those moments where I felt so mind-blown afterwards! Although I follow the Occupy movements, I love talking to people who are more knowledgeable about the topic than me because it goes to show that perspectives are limitless and I still have so much more to learn. As I wrote that I realized that while I still hardly consider myself an expert on any particular topic (I am unfocused like that), I think the reason why I want to pursue this field is that writing  is my excuse to learn more. At this point I’d rather be a sponge than an expert haha.

If only the word count would permit I would have liked to add a connection to President Aquino’s thrust of  matuwid na daan  (the straight path), which is his platform to fight corruption and call for good governance.  But as Mr. Aguirre said below

“Student politics today has been a politics of governance. There is no effort to question and ‘problematize. ” Politics is not just about governance. Personally, I think the same criticism can be given to Aquino’s administration and why no significant progress has been made since he became President. Continue reading below to see what that exactly means. : )

A Call to Arms

By Rica S. Facundo and Jose Mendoza

SOCIAL MEDIA has sparked occupy meet-ups in 1,300 cities worldwide, while in the Philippines, activists have organized similar protests, such as Occupy Rizal Park and the upcoming Occupy Mendiola. A stark contrast to the ’70s revolutionaries of the First Quarter Storm, these local movements show how Philippine activism is evolving with an alternative call to arms.

Occupy the streets

Each generation has its unique revolutionary ethos and repertoire, its own unique forms of action oriented towards a particular goal. In 1986, EDSA saw the more traditional definition of activists: protesters who took to the streets and were highly politicized.

A people seemingly more accustomed to responding to dramatic events than grand causes, Filipinos seem to need a spark to ignite widespread social activism. But when such a spark is ignited, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, Filipinos rise up and blaze through the streets.

As always, the youth plays a critical role in these kinds of movements, as seen during the chaotic First Quarter Storm of 1970, the Zuccoti Park-like Diliman Commune of 1971 and the People Power Revolution of 1986.

Occupy alternative activism

It is clear, though, that activism has evolved since those restless decades. The loud protests of the past have changed into efforts that are seemingly less disruptive, leading to observations that the younger generations are perhaps becoming more apathetic. The question raised, therefore, is this: what exactly is activism?

Arjan Aguirre of the Political Science Department defines activism as the personal tendency to go beyond. He notes, though, that when it comes to student activism, the effort can be quite passive because students “do not initiate” but merely “participate.”

Regine Guevara, chair of the Sanggunian’s Department of External Affairs, offers a different view. “It’s not so much that our students are inactive. It’s just that we have a different definition of what activism is,” she says, attributing activism to the Ateneo’s strong organization culture.

In the University of the Philippines the Interdependent Student-Centered Activism (ISA), a service-oriented political organization founded in 2005, experiences difficulty in establishing a presence in campus.

“I just think that it is too elitist to brand fellow students to be politically apathetic, just because they don’t join street rallies,” says ISA President Jyle Sulit. One of the four of the organization’s core principles is the practice of alternative activism—relatively silent service in contrast to the loud protests of the other dominant student political parties.

On the other hand, aside from service, activism also involves an act of struggle, which seems to be lacking among many young people today. “Student politics today has been a politics of governance,” Aguirre says. “There is no effort to question and ‘problematize.’ Politics is not just about governance.”

Occupy social media

The manner of how students engage in activism has also changed. “Before, there was no technology to promote a more civilized form of activism, which was why rallies were used to forward advocacies,” says Sulit. While others would reject online efforts as an armchair revolutionary’s tactics, the Twitter revolutions of the Arab Spring and the internet presence of the Occupy movement proves that social media is truly one of the weapons of today’s generation of activists.

However, Aguirre warns: “Instead of allowing us to be more critical, social media has contributed to the degeneration of our thinking ability.” Indeed, without a sense of struggle or purpose, the benefits of social media risk becoming arbitrary, resulting in a mass of unthinking people who simply follow online trends.

Occupy our minds

“ISA believes in the power of the individual, therefore the little change we can influence on others should already be something to be proud of,” says Sulit. And, as shown by the ongoing demonstrations of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, social media has the capacity to expand this virtual influence exponentially.

While activism continues to evolve, the mind’s ability to think critically should remain the constant armaments for any generation.

The world may have more access to information, but Aguirre reminds us: “there is a difference between thinking and knowing.”

Read other articles from Beyond Loyola here.

Hey Social Media Gang, Class of 2011!

Hey Social Media Gang, Class of 2011!

Five days left until ACOMM’s first ever Social Media Summit on December 10!

ACOMM with Yahoo! Philippines presents “Time Out: Is social media changing the online playground?” We want you to join our Social Media Summit and find out!

Social Media Summit is a whole day event where a series of talks and workshops will be conducted by prominent media practitioners and social media experts to Ateneans, and invited delegates from chosen high school and colleges.

Our theme “Time Out” revolves around the idea that the Internet is like an online playground where rules of social media etiquette are simultaneously broken and built by the citizens who play around and experiment in it. Through this event, ACOMM wants to take the “Time Out” to empower its participants to think critically and act responsibly about various issues that have been emerging.

Hear from our upperclassmen:

The Heavyweight Kid: MARIA RESSA
Former CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief and former Senior Vice President, ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs, Author-in-Residence, International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research
The Digital Diet: Is too much information bad for your health?

The Hyperactive Kid: JOEY ALARILLA
Yahoo! Philippines South East Asia Head of Social & Community
So Many Tabs, So Little Time: Are we expanding our grasp or spreading ourselves too thin?

The Delinquent: JIM PAREDES
Formerly with APO Hiking Society
Voted Best Personal Blog in the 2009 Philippine Blog Awards
Catch me if you can: Can you get away with social media?

Blogs on (Over 5,000 followers)
15 Likes to Fame: Are you #Trending now?

Multimedia producer for GMA News Online.
The News Doesn’t Break. It Tweet: Is the truth on twitter?

Philosophy Professor, ADMU
Burn Book 2.0: Is social media a bully-free zone?

Blogger Friendly: Does social media use you?
Best Travel Blog at the 2007 Philippine Blog Awards

Apply now! Limited slots per school. Priority will be given to those who can pay ahead of time. Details of the procedures below. Check out the album for more details of each topic!

Program Flow:

Application Form:

Application Fee: P300. (Inclusive of food & kits)
Late application and payment fee on or before Nov. 30: P320
Late application and payment fee after Nov.30: P350

Payment Procedures:


For questions email us at :)

* For the teachers accompanying the high school students, you have the option to become a delegate by applying and paying, or to attend the summit for free but food will not be provided.

Yahoo! Philippines pre-event article

Remembering Gaddafi: A Netizen’s Novena

On All Souls Day Filipino’s flock to cemeteries all over the country to commemorate their faithfully departed, the good people they have loved, lost and long to see again. But the death of slain leader Muammar Gaddafi last October 20 makes me wonder: How are the “evil” souls remembered?

Gaddafi’s case is beyond the tombstone inscriptions. His epitaph is a flurry of grotesque images flashed on screen. Despite paying their own respects, now more than ever does the media go beyond just whispering prayers for the dead, deceased dictators or otherwise.

Out of all the 42 years worth of human rights and geo-political implications of Gaddafi’s life and death,  I can’t help but focus on his gory last moments of life captured on a solider’s phone camera and shown for all the world to see. As a human being I am scarred. But as a communications major, aspiring broadcaster/journalist and internet addict, I am perturbed that it was leaked, published and shared in the first place.

Curiosity, it seems, can kill media ethics while the internet serves the often disturbing remains online. People demand proof and if news agencies don’t give it to them then netizens and social media savants will get the scoop instead. Not even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believed Gaddafi’s capture until she saw it with her own eyes on her Blackberry.

I remember the same flack of discernment was given to the coverage of the Rizal Park bus hostage situation. Even when Michael Jackson died or Anna Nicole Smith overdosed on drugs I remember those televised images appearing like ghosts of the persons they once were, haunting us even after the dead has been laid to rest. Who’s to blame for setting the standards of decency?

Using simple economics we can explain that agencies used to have a monopoly of the information market until social media started deteriorating the barriers of entry. They have to compete with netizens for the scoop resulting in the increasing inability to dictate the world price which for media translates into standards. Lets not forget news for circulations sake too. Can well respected news agencies such as CNN package and pass disturbing images as “bearable” and “classy”?

But it’s our fault as well.

Aside from wanting graphic (in all senses) proof, we are a culture of sharing. Indeed evidence is necessary but most likely it isn’t tasteful. When Osama Bin Laden died with no visual proof, skeptics revealed the appetite the public has for publishing such carnage. Even a fake photograph of Osama’s corpse circulated as a pseudo-appetizer, feeding the hunger but not completely. But unlike Osama’s last moments, Gaddafi’s was captured by a phone camera. The disclosure wasn’t made by the White House but by the netizens, us, who shared.

Today we celebrate All Souls Day. While Gaddafi’s corpse is finally put to rest in a secret location to prevent shrines and desecration, those images become his tombstone instead. Nowadays, it’s how netizens give their novena, for the “evil” souls and otherwise.

Information Overload

Something to think about a midst this crazy rainy season we’re having! Stay safe everyone.

Information Overload 

By Rica S. Facundo and Michael C. Cruz

Check out more articles on BL here. 

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.

Verified accounts

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.