It’s an overcast Sunday afternoon in Singapore and I’m cozied up with my Macbook like a pretend hipster at arguably the coziest coffee shop in town. As I’m typing this, there’s a flurry of activity at my Google Chrome browser:
Tab 1: My Facebook’s news feed is constantly streaming updates from Manila-based friends’ rants, from the Napoleses’ unchecked wealth, to updates on the Million People March, to how “craptastic” the traffic was in EDSA this week.
Tab 3: I’m playing the Eugene Domingo Wasak episode from the tv5theeveningnews’s YouTube channel in the background, as Lourd De Veyra’s deep, velvet voice spews out compelling banter about the actress’s very brief breast exposure at theater roles earlier in her career.
Tab 4: The Rappler.com home page is open, while I briefly scan the Mood Meter for large red “angry story” circles for me to read later and vote on, which consequently will lead me to contribute to making those red circles just a bit larger.
Tab 5: MMDA’s Twitter page is streaming traffic updates across Metro Manila, as I check to see which of my relatives will be stranded on the road today.
This is essentially the landscape of my desktop browser in most days I have my laptop on. Living in Singapore, I know I should have more geographically relevant sites open, like the Straits Times or Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page, but I can’t help feeding my constant curiosity about the country I left behind a couple of times in my life.
Oddly enough, when I do find myself in the Philippines, I often turn off this curiosity and simply lavish myself with the daily minutia of living back home (i.e. cheap booze, Jollibee Chickenjoy, and an insane amount of flipping off reckless bus drivers while on the road).
To put it simply, when I’m home, when I’m in close proximity of the current events that I fascinate myself with while outside the country, it feels like I don’t care. Not as much as I’d really want to anyway.
Which has made me realize one thing: it’s only when I’m away from home that I’m truly interested in what’s going on in the Philippines.
I lived a huge chunk of my life abroad, but it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve felt a more compelling need to keep myself involved in the issues at home. This is the time when social media has become a truly important platform that pushes enhanced personal communications to the scale of influencing world events (remember the Arab Spring and Obama’s 2008 presidential win).
From optimistic (or pessimistic) economic news to juicy public figure scandals (corruption, sex…the whole shebang), I’m hooked to the daily goings-on that the Internet sphere feeds to me on my screen.
And the combined feelings I get of fascination, pride, annoyance, and occasional spurts of outrage, combines into a bittersweet longing for home.
So I know Singapore’s version of “interesting” headlines goes something like “Condo rental prices go up for the xth straight year.” Practical. Useful. But not as entertaining. (I love Singapore, but the news here is kind of boring).
I’m probably not alone in saying this, but as a Filipino abroad, my personal attachment to my country comes with embracing everything that I love and hate about it.
And all this stuff accumulates as bits of information on my Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds, from friends’ posts to news site updates.
Better than a ‘slacktivist’
Whatever gets fed to me on social media does more than incite my own odd sense of homesickness. It has also helped me form my own opinions about the issues back home.
I have specific stances on the Philippine’s socio-political issues, and I’ve been somewhat knowledgeable about them on Facebook. I’m all for the RH Law, the option to divorce, and the choice for abortion.
I think Metro Manila can be run more efficiently if there was only one office governing the region (not with all these cities run independently). Our government should allow 100% foreign ownership for businesses entering the country. And I hate our income tax system, because the working-class can’t directly feel its supposed “benefits.”
Oh, and there’s also that pork barrel thing, to which I haven’t given much thought yet.
But so what if I have opinions on how our country can be improved? And so what if I actively bombard my friend’s Facebook News Feeds with shared articles, posts, and pictures?
I am a “slacktivist” at best: I’m someone who gets some personal satisfaction from involving myself with social issues without taking real, direct action to help alleviate the situation.
And as a full-fledged OFW, perhaps my distance from home and lack of real motivation prevents me from becoming a more proactive supporter of the issues I advocate.
While I’m too busy living a life abroad to do anything direct, I still “share” because I care, and it’s probably not a bad thing.
It just feels that I could be doing more.
So now what?
My Facebook feed had buzzed all about the Million People March at Luneta, a loosely organized protest against pork barrel and the corruption it entails, that feels similar to the Occupy Wall Street protest staged a couple of years back.
Similar protests are currently being done in Australia, and there might be one underway in New York.
If I was still working in the Philippines, being an honest-to-goodness taxpayer, this was an issue that would really hit home. I would’ve loved to join this protest, to feel that accumulated frustration of the working class turn into passionate public outcries for change.
Instead, I’m still comfortably sitting in this coffee shop, looking at my news feed, reading comments, commenting and liking posts, and watching the red “angry” circles at rappler.com get larger.
Sure, like a lot of hard-working OFWs, we could be too busy to do anything. But I’m sure a lot of us aren’t too busy to care about what’s happening back in the Philippines.
Because the news back home we get from the Internet, more specifically from social media, good or bad, really keeps us in tune with the country. And for some, such as myself, gives us a sense of empowerment that maybe there’s something I can do to truly help.
But for the life of me, I really don’t know right now. Maybe this article is a good start.
For now there’s Facebook (and Rappler) to keep me amused, engaged, and yearning for home every now and then. – Rappler.com
Eric Oandasan likes the good news, bad news, and all the other stuff in between. Updates from social media keep him longing for home, and then some.