THE heat is on, so to speak, and it has nothing to do with the weather. Of the media platforms where one could push advocacy, social media or Facebook, in particular, is what is most used.
Not surprising, given that Filipinos spend the most time online in the world. The State of Digital Report by WeAreSocial and Hootsuite published in January 2021 (https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-philippines) showed that we are still the world’s biggest users of the internet, spending an average of 10:56 hours compared to Japan’s 4:25 hours. What do we do online? We go to Facebook as our main source of information on anything or to just know what others are saying. On social media, we spend an average of four hours and 15 minutes compared to Japan whose people spend less than an hour a day on social media, actually 51 minutes.
In the 11 months remaining to the national and local elections in May 2022, we will see more of the race on Facebook. I’m referring not only to the posts by potential candidates or their supporters but also to the comments posted, both positive or negative. The social activity extends to the laboratories or farms of trolls that may dominate the discussion in favor of or against a certain political personality.
We’re already seeing that in posts that push who they think will run in the elections. Take the case of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, whose pictures of her with Marcos siblings Bongbong and Imee were on social media over the weekend. It was Duterte’s birthday, and the children of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos visited to greet her. A similar visit was made to her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, months before the 2016 polls.
I do not know Mayor Duterte except for that 2011 news video that gets replayed in my mind of her punching a sheriff during a demolition operation in Davao City. She must have had reasons for her actions and that incident shouldn’t be the sole determination of her capacity to lead. Those who do not live in Davao City do not know much about her. But comments to those social media posts were hugely appreciative of her and supportive of a 2022 journey. Unless paid trolls were the ones dominating the comments sections. It’s a possibility not only for Mayor Duterte but for any other person being pushed to run in the presidential elections next year.
Social media is a powerful tool for anyone seeking elective position. Let social influence be driven by the candidates’ platform and beliefs, what they stand for on issues such as the government’s response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the killings and red-tagging, the West Philippine Sea debate, the growing influence of China etc.
Let Facebook be a venue for authentic discussion that we hope would lead to enlightenment.
Let not the trolls hijack social media to prevent a constructive discourse which will be important in the coming elections.