Where we rediscover ourselves and others

Ramon R. Jimenez Jr

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The real power of social media is its ability to validate or invalidate personal conviction

DOT Secretary Ramon JimenezIn the aftermath of the launch of the Philippines’ tourism brand campaign, I asked myself whether we were the beneficiary or the benefactor in what could be described as one of the most successful “feel good” campaigns in recent years.

“Beneficiary” because, clearly, we had nothing to spend on traditional media to help disseminate the new brand image. As has always been pointed out, as soon as we ceded control over the theme to the social media, we found it trending on Twitter and even propagating itself with meme versions (75,000 versions) from the sublime to the downright ridiculous. From amateur and professional photographers, peripatetic travel bloggers to just plain bakasyonistas who wanted to share the fun.

Yes, we had stumbled upon a reservoir of goodwill and love of country that lay dormant, buried as it were, beneath a pile of self-doubt and self-loathing inflicted by years and years of bad discouraging news.

We were the beneficiary of a massive outpouring of good news, good vibes, and good ideas coming from a place that people rarely visit in this country: the Filipino soul.

“Fun” was more than a claim to a superior travel experience.

“Fun” was an apt way, nay, an exact description of what Filipinos have always felt about themselves and the life they have chosen to live. In the face of all hardship and uncertainty, they have chosen to make the most of things by turning to the one thing they knew, for sure, they could count on: each other.

“It’s more fun” means “It’s more meaningful” when we face life together.

It is said very often that Filipinos take life in groups, and that is very rare that you would enter a restaurant and find a Filipino by himself at a table. And if you did, you would find that he would be extremely unhappy. Like two friends turning to each other after a brush with danger, FUN is all about laughing your heads off. “More fun in the Philippines” is the Filipino’s way of thumbing his nose at those who want him to feel sorry for himself and transform his new-found confidence into the energy it will take to grow and to prosper.

Which is why, the campaign made us feel sometimes like benefactors.

For truly, we had given so many people a channel for their pride in being Filipino, for knowing about the Philippines.

Power of social

Consequently, our “fun” in the social media made people realize that they were not alone. That others shared their pride of country. What people self-consciously had kept to themselves, they could now openly share. That open sharing caught on in a fashion that many would call “viral” alluding to a contagion of sorts.

And while that description could be apt, it doesn’t quite capture what to me is the real power of social media. For its true power is not in its tendency to spread news and ideas quickly and broadly, the real power of social media is its ability to validate or invalidate personal conviction.

It is here that the Internet has come full circle. It started as a place where one could personalize media. Choosing to see and hear only what we wanted to. Choosing to be visible only when we wanted to be visible.

And then it blossomed into a social medium – allowing us to share with the community and the community with us. Today it is, once again, a deeply personal medium where, what the rest of the world thinks is laid before us for our understanding – to accept or reject as we please – with information that is almost as limitless as our need to be informed, to be sure of our choice we make. To be strong in that choice.

“It’s more fun in the Philippines” therefore helped Filipinos to (1) share their feelings (2) validate those feelings by seeing that others felt the same way (3) confirm that they were right to feel as they did.

A word about encouragement. Very often, I tell people that the Filipino thrives in an atmosphere of encouragement. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is proof positive of that. We are tired of discouragement. We are tired of the notion that the truth is hard to take. The truth about the truth is that it is equal times good as it is bad. Encouragement, therefore especially in social media, is good news put to good use.

Indeed, social good begins and ends with personal conviction.

The web is not just a place to learn new things, for surely traditional media – books, newspapers, and broadcast – have always offered us that opportunity. It is, however, the ultimate medium for rediscovering our fellow man and in so doing, rediscovering ourselves.

Social good. How good it is. – Rappler.com

(Secretary Jimenez delivered this speech on Saturday, September 22, at the Social Good Summit sponsored by Rappler, mashable and Tweetup Manila.)

Watch more: The Social Good Summit in Manila

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