Social media and the revenge of the voiceless

Social media and the revenge of the voiceless

Socmed has given the people their voices back - to like, comment, and share their ideas with the world

- in Opinion

This post has been updated to include the recent comments by Rappler co-founder Maria Ressa about “taking back the internet.”


Mga ka-DDS at Admin MindaVote, bumabanat na nman ang Inquirer. Anu masasabi nyo? Papakisupalpal naman cila. Bini-brainwash na nman nila ang mga mangmang n follower nila at ibang mga wlang alam sa nangyayari sa paligid. Admin, pakisagot itong post nila.

Dear Christopher,

Thank you very much for this because it allows us to talk about a topic that is very relevant to the country today.

The problem with the Inquirer, Rappler, and other mainstream media outlets is that they have grown used to the old mass media paradigm of one-way communications. Where they do all the talking, and everyone else just sits and listens. While this was an efficient way to transmit information, it came at the cost of one of the most important aspects of the communication process – the ability for people to respond to what is being said.

By removing the feedback mechanism, mass media effectively put a cork on the collective voices of the people. Unlike in a real discussion where one person says one thing and another person replies, there was no longer any way for people to express their own views. Except through the media itself. Which jealously guarded this privilege.

“Journalism” even evolved from a simple 9-to-five job to a calling, and journalists took on the self-appointed role as High Priests of the Temple of Truth. They became the Fourth Estate, an idealized institution that was meant to check the abuses of everyone else. But along the way no one bothered to check on the media for their own abuses.

The emergence of social media is a threat to this old system. Something that Rappler’s Maria Ressa has been fuming about. It isn’5 because Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are necessarily better sources of news and information, but simply because it restored the people’s power to like, comment, and share their ideas. Social media gave us our voices back.

When Ressa attacked Duterte’s supporters on the mistaken assumption that they are not real people, she is signaling the death knell of Rappler. Because few people realize, and obviously no one at Rappler does, that the real power of social media is that it has become more Social than media.

It is a community. A living, breathing, evolving community made up of the collective ideas, personalities, passions, and lives of those immersed in it. And when you attack a community, they band together and fight back.

In complaining that social media is full of inaccurate information and uncivil comments, the Inquirer, Rappler and the rest of the mainstream old guards misses the point entirely. By looking at social media through the mirror of their own eyes, they see an imperfect reflection of themselves and they call it ugly, vulgar, uncouth, wrong.

But what they fail to understand is that social media was never meant to mimic the role of mass media. Though that may have been the original purpose, to create a billboard where people can post the milestones of their lives, it has grown way beyond that now. It has taken a life of its own and what final form it will take no one as yet can foresee.

The irony of it is, much of the incivility that the Inquirer is complaining about is actually the direct result of mass media’s long held monopoly on information. The years of force-feeding people whatever crap they wanted to dish out, never a care whether or not it was good for the community is now coming back to haunt them.

All those years of sitting in front of the television set hopelessly arguing with an electronic signal, or all those nights writing letters to the editor that never got published – and you wonder why people are angry? You wonder why civility and decorum are the farthest from their minds? You’re lucky they don’t string you up from the nearest tree.

So Christopher, hayaan na natin sila sa kanilang kahibangan. By attacking social media because they think it is a rival, they have inadvertently started a war with their own audience. But unlike in the past when they controlled the conversation, it is now our turn to talk and theirs to listen. And how well they listen will determine their future relevance…and survival.

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