A 22-YEAR-OLD Computer Engineer has made a mobile game application out as a hobby. Some months later it would be downloaded in Google Play Store more than a thousand times. The game was "Bahog Duga," it is not pleasant to hear if you understand Bisaya, but it means a bodily fluid with a bad odor.
The game developer was Jun Lawrence Cordova, who hails from Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, but now lives and works in Davao City as web developer to a private firm. The inspiration of the game come from a raw video that went "viral" on social media.
It was in fact an unedited video from a TV network that apparently leaked, where a woman was being interviewed by a reporter who narrated how her son got involved of what would appear to be a stabbing incident.
The reason it went viral was how the woman honestly answered the reporter's inquiries without mincing any words especially on sexually explicit Bisaya terms that the Bisaya folks find it very funny. The viral video went on to become an Internet meme in 2017 with many mashups created and uploaded back to social media.
Cordova, like anyone else who've seen the video, didn't know personally who the woman was, and that her name was a mystery. Cordova made the woman a game character and was caricatured digitally.
"I am willing to make amends. I actually wanted to contact her first before releasing the game, to avoid any possible legal problems, but I really had no idea where to contact her. If the game generates income, I am more than willing to give her royalty," he would explain.
The woman, who was named by some as the "Bahog B* Girl," became a product of the Filipinos' insatiable appetite in social media consumption. A nation who has been a technology savvy since the mass production of mobile communications in the 90s - from the beepers/pagers to the cellular phones and tablets of today.
Despite the slow internet speeds, around 34.8 million Filipinos have access to the Internet, which is 58 percent of the estimated 60 million total population of the country based on the January 2017 data of the Digital in 2017 Global Overview by We Are Social and Hootsuite. From that same source, around 13 million Filipinos are active in Social media.
More than before, this has changed the media landscape in the country. Whatever content posted on social media it becomes a serious business prospect and a political agenda. Even traditional media platforms cited sources from social media especially in news media.
Because of the vast clout of social media platforms, especially Facebook which is widely used by Filipinos, business entities and organizations have put up their own social media presence and herein lies the beginning on the competition of contents and user engagements.
If print media go after readerships, TV and radio struggle for audience ratings; social media is to engagements and user following. And in order to provide massive following, one must produce content, a content that needs to be popular that it can become viral just like the woman who was interviewed on the video (but her case was candid and unprecedented as it was not staged).
Social media became a machinery, the very reason publicists are investing so much of it now, and why traditional media platforms especially in the foundations of journalism are in competition with alternative entities, such is also the proliferation of fake news and alternative facts.
Apparently, acknowledging the role of Facebook in the recent elections in the United States (of which some Philippine journalism pundits try to correlate the pattern in the 2016 Philippine elections), its founder and creator Mark Zuckerberg announced recently that his company altered the algorithm of the social media platform. That means you will see more posts from friends and relatives you have connected with than the posts and engagements from business entities and other organizations.
However, such move can still be bypassed, and in theory, the change in algorithm may give more importance and power to the so-called "influencers" who are individual social media users that can send advocacies, commercial or political messages across the vast number of people who "followed" or connected with them. Influencers have become the new norm for endorsers, and some of them were successful they have reached a celebrity status among their fields.
Should the mid-year elections continue next year, now is the time for preparations. As users, we should be more mindful of the content we see and be more vigilant on the information being peddled in Social Media. This can be a prelude to a massive movement, or part of a plot to push for an agenda in mind conditioning the public.
And the might employ various approaches from unsuspecting viral videos or mobile applications. Be wary.