Sunday, November 21, 2010

Expression Through Social Media

Because Presidential speechwriter Mai Mislang tweeted what she tweeted, it has begotten these two articles, which I bring up because they react to our capability of putting up on the web whatever we want to express through our Facebook status updates, our tweets, and in particular, through our blogs.

The first is this article, The Petty Perils of Tech and Sosyal Ek-Ek. An excerpt:

First it was blogs and blogsites and blogorrhea — opening up all that digital slumbook space to kids who think they enjoy anonymity behind virtual facelessness so that they can turn into an army of trolls, flamers, haters, and ranters — in brief a disputatious lot.

Then you had Multiply and WordPress and everyone became a photographer cum diarist, welcoming and pushing the envelope on all the shareware like so much block rosary rituals. So that it leads to phishing aggravation with Boxbe et al. that even tries to shame one into lighting candles in the name of feigned camaraderie.

All this excited, excitable talk about the glories of new media and sosyal ek-ek-working can really be only signposts to something possibly overrated. The jury should still be out on whether some benefits — like tweeting disasters and calls for relief aid, or finding long-lost cousins via Facebook to get up to speed on who's won any Lotto draw — outweigh the nakedness of public spectacle, or expose the sloth of universal interest in what anyone may have had for breakfast, or how many corny pictures one can take at a barbecue party, thence parade onscreen as an imposition of generosity.

But then geeks, techies and faddists tend to view everything new with rose-colored glasses, like Manong Johnny who only wanted to make you happy. So the darned bandwagon begins to creak under the weight of too many cock-eyed optimists hailing a brave new world called the kingdom of sharing.

Whatever happened to the fine memory of Groucho Marx begging off from joining any group that would have him?

Sure, it fills the vanity void, expands virtual friendships. But what about the sensitivities of the poor lot who are defriended, or maybe worse, ignored, denied entry into private settings, or laughed out of an unsolicited tag?

I still don't understand why one can't just join a specific e-loop, which is like having a more intimate soiree, rather than have to cast one's lot with a street hoedown where stalkers can turn up to foist their graceless manners and bad grammar on non-peers of greater cachet.

Well, if I reflect a little deeper, I do understand. After all, there have been religions since that first crack of lightning hit a tree, and it happened to have been witnessed by humanoid eyes. Had the event escaped observation, then it would have simply been Zen — like that other tree soundlessly crashing in a forest where there are no lurkers around.

All this tweeting and FB paging may indeed be the brave new world's version of one hand clapping — if only cuz the other hand may be too busy reaching out for the next novelty, so that no consensual applause is ever generated.

Okay, say that I'm so yesterday. Why, yes. We had real friends then. And we knew our manners, even when we played tag.

And the second is On The Petty And The Sosyal: A Defense Of Social Media. An excerpt:

This is about the Internet and the ways we use it. It’s about Twitter and tweeting, and why it is never just about responding to someone with 140 characters or less. It’s about the old pointing a finger at the young and new, highlighting our lack of manners, maybe our lack of knowledge and intelligence, too. It’s about being told that we are sosyal because we are online. It’s about pettiness.

Because only one who isn’t online every day, who doesn’t see it as part of his life, who doesn’t care much for it unless he’s got something published there (though the question does become why does he even publish here?), would talk about the Pinoy’s online behavior as if we were only being introduced to it now. There are meanwhile many things to say about one who sees the demonizing of someone who displays ill-breeding on Twitter to be exactly the same as the victimization of a woman in a Hayden Kho video. But I digress.

Anyone who has been engaging with the virtual Pinoy world, maybe someone who has tried blogging, would know that while in the mid-90s anonymous Blogspot blogs were the schtick, in the past decade or so, anonymity has slowly and surely been looked upon with disdain. You only need to look at current and relevant Pinoy blogs to see that most, if not all of them, have named owners usually with profiles and CVs to boot. Anonymous blogs still pop up once in a while, but these lose readership quickly enough, a measure really of an audience’s insistence on knowing whom they’re reading and why he’s writing. To a certain extent, anonymity has come to be seen as nothing but cowardly.

And so to even mention anonymity as a function of the Internet in this country at this point, is to reveal one’s limited experience of the Pinoy virtual community. To say that the Pinoy blogging community is still a disputatious lot is to point not to its immaturity, but to the fact that you’re out of touch and wrongfully judging something you don’t know about.

Meanwhile what we do know is that more than anything, it’s the insistence on personality and identity that has allowed for Twitter and Facebook to succeed. In these spaces we know whom we’re talking to, and they are “real" to us, albeit virtually. Our Facebook friends and Twitter followers know that when they respond to our statuses and tweets, they are interacting with a real person and not a machine.

This also means we are always ready for argument, because not everyone will agree with what we say. This means we are mindful of what we say, knowing when the 140 character-count will not suffice for the full idea, or when the 420-character count requires that we put in something in the FB comment box. This means we know when something is just about the funnies, e.g., I actually follow @Jesus on Twitter, and did too @PCOSmachine post-May elections.

Perhaps the solution lies in coming to the realization that discourtesy can and has made itself manifest both in reality and virtually. Wherever and whenever humans interact, be it online or face-to-face or group-to-group, the possibility of conflict arises. It's not like rudeness only came into existence with the invention of social media, after all. It then becomes a matter of treating others with respect and tolerance, and carrying ourselves with dignity, whether we're communicating with our computers and other gadgets, or through direct contact.

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