Teaching the youth to use social media responsibly

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I've never believed the common complaint that "the youth is apathetic." As we've seen during natural disasters like typhoon Ondoy and the more recent Sendong, and in the first automated Philippine elections in 2010, young Filipinos are more than willing to volunteer for causes, talk about their passions and share their views on issues.

The idea that the youth doesn't care sometimes boils down to a failure to communicate—often, the unwillingness of others to learn the language and preferred medium of today's youth.

A dialogue is what the Ateneo Association of Communication Majors (ACOMM) had in mind when it organized its first Social Media Summit, with Yahoo! Philippines as its online event partner.

ACOMM holds its first Social Media Summit

ACOMM used the metaphor of the social media playground, with speakers assuming roles in their presentations. Thus, former CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief and Senior Vice President of ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs Maria Ressa was The Heavyweight Kid; I was The Hyperactive Kid; singer-songwriter and OPM stalwart Jim Paredes played The Delinquent; Pilar Pedrosa Pilar of itouchtouchthings.tumblr.com was The Popular Kid; GMA News Online multimedia producer Candice Montenegro was The Tattletale; Ateneo de Manila University philosophy professor Rowena Azada-Palacios was The Bully; and travel blogger Ivan Henares played The Hustler.

Media summit extends reach with Twitter

"When you find a worthy cause or issue, don't underestimate the capacity of the youth to be interested about it and most importantly to act upon it afterwards," said Rica Facundo, Vice President for Projects of ACOMM.

Facundo shared how ACOMM saw the power of social media firsthand not only in the responses of the delegates who were there, but also from those who followed the livetweet via @sms_by_acomm and the hashtag #SocialMediaSummit

"Even strangers were thanking us for tweeting the uplifting and thought-provoking lessons and quotes from the summit. Afterwards, classmates who are not even part of our immediate network said that our event was all over Twitter," she said.

Within 24 hours, 426 tweets used the hashtag #SocialMediaSummit, generating 1,384,351 impressions and reaching an audience of 168,012 Twitter followers, based on statistics from hashtracking.com.

Ressa: 'This is the age of collaborative journalism'

This is the Social Age, where many people are no longer just passive readers or consumers, but content producers in their own right.

"We are living in an incredible time, when technology is not just changing the world, but changing us," Ressa said.

While acknowledging that many traditional journalists are worried about being "replaced," Ressa stressed the need for journalists to evolve and embrace these new tools.

"This is the best time to be a professional journalist. This is the age of collaborative journalism," Ressa said.

She said journalists must recognize that they can't do everything. Instead, they should focus on their strengths and collaborate with other journalists and citizen journalists.

Alarilla: 'Being virtual is no excuse for being vicious'

In my presentation, I talked about this new ecosystem where "news is no longer what happened, but what's happening." Unlike the days when a news organization did all the talking, journalists and readers are now both active participants in an ongoing conversation, with readers deciding what news is for them.

The balance of power has shifted to individuals, with ordinary citizens enjoying access to powerful digital tools. Knowing how to use these tools, however, is not the same as knowing how to use them responsibly—and having something worthwhile to say.

Worse, some use this power recklessly to hurt others, which is why I reminded the audience that "being virtual is no excuse for being vicious."

Paredes: 'Give something of value to the world'

The responsible use of social media was echoed by Paredes in his talk.

"You want the world to hear you online. But please, give something of value to the world," Paredes said.

In fact, he joked that he told his son: "Gusto mo ba puro kababawan ang nakikita sa Facebook mo? Once in a while, quote Shakespeare para mukha kang profound."

Paredes, whose own band the Apo Hiking Society was the victim of censorship during the Marcos dictatorship, talked about how social media is being used to give ordinary citizens a voice.

Social media, he said, is a way for ordinary citizens to tell politicians what they think of issues and policies. Paredes, however, emphasized that we must not limit ourselves to virtual activities but also support our causes in real life.

Pilar: 'Don't confuse popularity for relevance'

For her part, Pilar talked about her love for social media and how it can be a powerful tool for sharing our passions and ideas with others.

"I don't fan girl over [Maroon 5 frontman] Adam Levine's abs. I fan girl over social media," she quipped.

Pilar stressed the need, however, particularly among young people, not to confuse popularity for relevance.

"It's easy to be popular. Just have a scandal video," Pilar said. What's harder is to come up with meaningful content and add value to the online conversation.

She decried how some people wrongly think that social media is an excuse to be lazy and just regurgitate other people's content.

"In this age of copy and paste, I think we should put a premium on originality," she said.

After all, at the end of the day, you are what you tweet.

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Joey Alarilla is the Southeast Asia Head of Social and Community of Yahoo! Southeast Asia. Visit his personal blog at JoeyAlarilla.com and follow him on Twitter: @joeyalarilla