I was invited to the Yahoo! Purple Thumb last February 16, 2010 with the topic “How Will Social Media Change The Way Elections Are Covered” at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati and I’m glad I was able to come for the afternoon sessions. The seminar opened my eyes on the position of social media and blogs when it comes to influencing public opinion and creating the desired change.
Janette Toral and Manuel Quezon III were speakers that day and both presented very interesting points.
Some statistics given by Ms. Toral were the number of voters in relation to the number of people online. According to the data she gathered out of 46-50 million voters 24 million of them are internet users with at least 50% are of voting age. Giving that we assume tha that 12-15 million voters uses either Facebook, Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Friendster, Multiply (etc).
Given this premise she asked how many votes does it take to win an election. Because if it takes half of the registered voters then the politicians should tap social media users to win. Which is what I think is happening lately. There are two prominent Presidential candidates that are tapping the cyberspace Noynoy Aquino and Manny Villar, but it was Mar Roxas who was first seen in the blogosphere before and there are others are following the lead like Loren Legarda, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Dick Gordon. It also cuts the expense on candidates as creating a buzz via blogs and Internet advertizing is more cheaper than in traditional media.
Meanwhile, Mr. Quezon presented some statistics from a study made by Smart Communication debunking the influence of the social media and the internet as a whole. According to the study, Internet sites ranks the lowest as being the most influential source of information in choosing a President with just 0.2% . Television still remains the king with 68% followed by Family, Relatives and Friends ranks the second most influential source with the rate of 21%, radio stations (national and local combined), church and surveys rate 3%, local and national officials 2%, local newspapers with 1%.
But with this study in mind showing Family, Relatives and Friends can be influential in choosing a president or someone to vote we can assume that blogs can still be influential since most who read and write blogs are either friends, relatives and family. Most bloggers write their personal thoughts, experience and opinion and this is as almost good as word of mouth endorsement or criticism.
Arlene of ABC-CBN interactive showed how social media and the internet can bring about change and cooperation in everyone especially when Ondoy hit Metro Manila. Social media was the best means to locate, update, help friends, families, relatives and strangers. The social media’s influence was all good but that was social media not blog per se.
We blogged against Willie Revillame and you know what? That bastard is still on air. We blogged against the Pangandamans and they are still very much in favor. We blogged against Esperanza Cabral (or at least, some people did, including the pre-eminent blogger MLQ3) and har-di-har-di-har… Nothing happened (well, not exactly nothing, Ella Ganda’s real identity has been found and she has been slapped with libel).
He has a point.
However, blogging and active use of social networks awakens active participation of citizens concern with what is happening around them. The danger however is when blogs and social networks are used to demean and mock others to the point that its not just damaging to the person being ridiculed or shamed but also to the one writing it.
I agree when Ms. Toral said that we can only see how influential blogs and social media are after the elections because blogs recognition as the new media is still young.
Now ask yourself does your blog matter? If not do you want to make it matter especially in the upcoming election? Blog according to what you see and feel and make sure you can back it up with photos or videos. Don’t write positively just because you are paid to do so. Or if you have to post a press release make it clear that it is that and nothing else if it contradicts to your beliefs and what you know is the truth. Uploading photos and videos and reading blogs are the top things people do on the internet, make use of it if you want your blogs to matter.
Be an instrument of change if you want change.
Yahoo! Purple Thumb photos: