Beyond Facebook
March 28, 2012
March 28, 2012

Wikipedia, a social media platform, lists hundreds of new social networking websites launched in only the past few years. In under five minutes, more than a hundred hours’ worth of video will find its way to Youtube, as you read this.

Twitter averages more than a hundred thousand tweets a minute, or two hundred million tweets a day, alongside hundreds of thousands of Tumblr reblogs, Flickr uploads, Formspring questions and more.

All this is not surprising for a country that is the “social networking capital of the world”. Around 83 per cent of Filipinos declared themselves members of a social network, as surveyed for a study released by Universal McCann in 2008. Filipinos also rank among the top photo uploaders and online video viewers in the world, and place second in terms of the number of blog readers and video uploaders.

And yes, Friendster is alive and well, with 13.2 million Filipino users – at least in 2008. In the same year, we uploaded around one million photographs to Multiply on a daily basis. But, today, Facebook is now the likely default go-to page on every web browser in the Philippines, trailed closely by the other “Big Three”: Youtube, Multiply, and Twitter (not necessarily in that order).  While statistics vary, roughly 28 million Filipinos are on Facebook, making us Mark Zuckerberg’s 8th biggest fan as a country in a survey by SocialBakers.

 As a sovereign nation of its own, Facebook would be the third most populous in the world with 845 million active members as of the end of last year.

From Social Networking to Social Change

Through its sheer breadth and scope, social networking has redefined democracy in its few years of existence. Defying centuries of silencing the ordinary man, it has liberated people from all ages, from all nations and from all lifestyles to join in an ongoing discussion for what may indeed be the ultimate destiny of the human race – live, on air, 24/7.

Behind the figures mentioned thus far lies incredible potential.  The growing interconnectedness in cyberspace has linked individuals and societies beyond borders. Moreover, it has bridged the gap between the virtual world and the real one.

 Recent years have seen a surge in awareness and efforts to tackle major issues around the world.

Social Action Networks (SANs) for example sprung from abstract networking and concrete action.

Through a SAN, individuals can proactively engage the wider public through collaboration and communication, whether by organizing like-minded individuals around a common cause, building awareness on political issues, or mustering movements for sweeping social change.

David Murray on bivingsreport.com defines it as “an online community that allows members to connect and organize around shared political passions. If visiting a social network like Facebook is like walking into a bar, visiting a Social Action Network is like walking into a campaign headquarters.”

For the Activist, online platforms like Change.org connect nonprofits and people around the world  by  creating  petitions for various causes, and allowing members to  sign on them. Change.org says it has put pressure on politicians and corporations, effectively lobbied for justice, and even overturned a number of legal decisions in the United States.  The site writes, “from supporting curbside recycling programs to fighting wrongful deportation to protecting against anti-gay bullying, Change.org members start campaigns around thousands of different issues…  our mission is to build an international network of people empowered to fight for what is right locally, nationally, and globally.”

YouTrust is an interactive aggregator providing content “curated” by and targeted at development experts, aid and social workers, activists, and anyone who cares about issues as diverse as politics, climate change and human rights.  Supported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and an offshoot of its humanitarian news service AlertNet, it allows users to create multimedia packages, campaigns, portfolios, and visual narratives to be shared through social media.

For more local flavor, there is Rappler.com, an alternative news site cofounded by long-time journalist and former ABS-CBN news executive, Maria Ressa. For more feature-oriented content, there is p-3.ph, a counterculture corner that brands itself, “crowd-sourced and curated Progressive Pinoy Perspectives”, with a focus on environmental issues, holistic health, lifestyle and more.

While hardly as all encompassing as Facebook or Twitter, these less-mainstream alternatives appeal to counter-culture social niches, to the geeks, hippies, and heroes in us all.

But it is Global Voices’ manifesto that sums up the sentiments of citizen journalism and Social Action Networking in general: “We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech. To that end, we seek to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak, and everyone who wants to hear that speech – the means to listen to it.

Thanks to new tools, speech need no longer be controlled by those who own the means of publishing and distribution, or by governments that would restrict thought and communication. Now, anyone can wield the power of the press. Everyone can tell his or her stories to the world.