Social media: First steps to more democracy
Stories and ideas alight. Words and images easily catch fire and spread on the Internet. That is probably one of the most fundamental principles of the World Wide Web. And when such things go up in flames, their fate automatically depends on a large online crowd.
It seems that all the latest buzzwords on politics, entertainment, and everything in between are now embedded in an overwhelming network of people.
Owing to social media, this country engaged in collectively criticizing a senator who plagiarized, a student who crossed the line inside an LRT station, and other matters concerning the upcoming elections.
Such responses are merely small illustrations of how people can voice out their thoughts while asserting their individuality in the larger context.
I would like to affirm how Filipinos value democracy and relate some of its basic elements with social media. The changing landscape in online networks allow us to reconsider citizen empowerment in the light of media participation.
With others remaining pessimistic about democratizing and actualizing social media for social change, I think we should ask, “How can social media be an instrument for mass democracy?”
My affair with the Internet has led me to rethink some early lessons we learned from social media as a tool for a new kind of “democracy.”
The inclusion of social media in almost everything has definitely changed the way netizens participate.
In the realm of politics, many Filipino netizens have always been vocal in attempting to either support the current government and its policies, or change the existing social arrangements.
For the 2013 elections, one of the more valuable features we can harness from social media is interactivity among communities. Political actors and the citizenry joining the online bandwagon shape a mutual communication process where critical issues can be easily discussed and contested.
Such mediated interactions may contribute to a thriving electronic democracy as they provide and preserve open spaces in certain areas of government.
Perhaps time will come when the Philippines’ power holders and stakeholders can freely engage in actual socially-mediated conversations that can shape policy. Possibilities were seen when government got a glimpse of public sentiment against portions of the Cybercrime Law, a senator’s plagiarized speech, and the failure to pass the Freedom of Information bill.
Social media also calls us to contribute to democracy by constantly checking on the nation’s changing political landscape. Beyond mere awareness, this may bring netizens closer to politics and empower us to be involved in civic affairs as we foster our own political identity as citizens.
More studies are starting to show that social media’s personal benefits can lead to greater participation in traditional politics.
Although the power of social media to influence political outcomes has not yet been fully embraced by all, this should not be a reason for us to stop using it as a venue where public issues can be formed, discussed, and used as a basis for mobilization.
The movement is already here. By continuing this type of interactivity, greater participation in affairs of the nation may truly become more real. - Rappler.com
John Patrick Allanegui is a graduate student of sociology and anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University.