It’s the craziest, and oftentimes, heart-wrenching season in the country once again. It only comes every six years: Welcome to the general elections in the Philippines.
There are several factors why we turn out to be the more engaged online users come election season as compared to our international counterparts.
First, we’re always on the internet. According to the Digital 2021 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, “Filipinos spend an average of four hours and 15 minutes each day on social media.” This ranks Pinoys at the top—the global average for social media usage in 2020 was two hours and 25 minutes.
Pair this with the fact that the country has consistently struggled with both allegations and revelations of corruption in government, then social media during election season can be one intoxicating cocktail.
We’re three national elections in since the internet boom and here are some observations on some effects the internet can have during this important season of nation-building:
Social media has broken more friendships than made them
There’s an unwritten rule about engaging in conversations, especially in a social setting: Do not bring up politics and religion. When people understood this before, they would do their best in staying away from the topic, in the name of decency, and would be more understanding of the person in front of them.
In social media, users have the illusion that there is “nobody in front of them at the table” and that “their social media wall” means “their rules.” But this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Today, people feel entitled to their opinions and go to battle with others they barely know—or friends they’ve known for some time now.
Questions worth asking before posting your opinion: “Will this make things better?” “Is anybody asking for it?” “Am I asking for trouble when posting this?” “Am I the fountain of wisdom whence infallibility flows?”
Hodgepodge of information may be challenging
Social media gave people a voice, most especially during instances when credible news outlets could not reach them. However, this power seems to have been abused. Now anyone can create their own “news” and pass it off as verified information. There are others, too, who do it for the sake of gathering traffic to their social media pages and guise it under “satire.”
In fairness, some members of mainstream media, for the longest time, held themselves accountable to no one. However, there is no excuse for misinformation that can lead people to make wrong decisions—most especially during the elections.
One can also ask: “Are most social media users able to tell which is credible and fake news?” There’s that problem for you.
Historical data in front of everyone
An unfortunate but convincing argument is that, in terms of electing leaders to national positions, there will never be “the perfect choice.” It’s all a competition, and players will do whatever it takes to win—including marketing themselves as messiahs.
The best people can do is do research, study, and read more of what is posted online. There will be data available, and old news sources about what candidates have done in the past that would be telling of what they should be able to accomplish in the near future.
Social media brings elections to a full circle. When before, opinions of would-be leaders were formed solely by media—most times in entertainment—now, people have the power to dissect their choices better.
If only we, Filipinos, knew how. These things are always easier said than done.