Toxicity on social media

There are people who operate a social media platform with a license to kill, spewing heat waves that are totally odious and foul, and yet it’s like staking one’s claim over a piece of meat that is bartered or paid as a business proposition of hitting people, creating a mess and hiding when confronted with facts.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on September 22, 2020

Social media has created goblins and monsters in all of us. There are cretins that do disinformation in the form of satire with kids speaking big, walking with a big stick, pretending they know things well, and there are individuals unable to tell the difference between facts and misinformation or disinformation. There are people who operate a social media platform with a license to kill, spewing heat waves that are totally odious and foul, and yet it’s like staking one’s claim over a piece of meat that is bartered or paid as a business proposition of hitting people, creating a mess and hiding when confronted with facts. There are instances of identity theft and burner accounts for a fee.


Then there are those pretending to have high acumen, supposedly graduating from Ivy League schools and yet can’t even respect individuals with sterling professional and academic records. Some would ridicule simply because they don’t have respect for elders full of wisdom. It is one thing to disagree, but there is a way to do it, respecting differences in opinion. Facts though are facts, and individuals who game social media need to be held accountable. Minors are not even allowed to have an account.

And there are those in social media who would like to whip up a storm just because they have a different narrative not shared by the proletariat, forgetting the fact that the reason they lost in 2016 and 2019 was because of their high-on-a-pedestal, self-proclaimed know-it-all attitude. And they continue to insult ordinary Filipinos because doing so gives them pleasure, gives them the wherewithal to last the month until another gig comes, because they believe they are better and their kind of a leader will see the light of day. When the opposition criticizes day in and day out, there is no brand salience. That is not contrast but a sure way of destroying their brand.

Digital landscape

In the 2020 We are Social, the report stated, “4.54 billion people are now online, a year-on-year increase of 298 million, or 7 percent — approaching internet penetration of 60 percent. However, roughly 3.2 billion people around the world remain offline,” and that is the great divide of the 22nd century.

“The average internet user will spend six hours and 43 minutes per day online in 2020 — more than 100 days in total. Globally, we will spend a collective 1.25 billion years online this year. People in the Philippines top the daily usage charts, spending an average of nine hours and 45 minutes per day online; Thailand (nine hours, one minute), Indonesia (seven hours, 59 minutes) and Malaysia (seven hours, 57 minutes). All fall in the top 10. Google and YouTube are, once again, the most visited websites, but Yahoo! still remains popular with its website continuing to receive more traffic than and the world’s top “adult” websites. Data concerns are high, globally, with almost two-thirds (64 percent) of internet users aged 16 to 64 saying they worry about how companies use their data. The report also shows that 56 percent of online over-18s are concerned about fake news while 49 percent of internet users aged 16 to 64 use ad blockers every month. The internet is now firmly embedded within TV habits with two-thirds of the world’s internet users aged 16 to 64 now watching TV content streamed over the internet. Other sources of popular internet-enabled entertainment include streamed music services (70 percent) and podcasts (41 percent).”

Gamification is felt. “Four in five internet users aged 16 to 64 say that they play video games each month. Internet users spend an average of one hour and 10 minutes a day using game consoles, 20 percent say they have watched a livestream of others playing games in the past month and 14 percent have tuned into an e-sports tournament in the past 30 days. Internet users aged 16 to 64 in Thailand (one hour, 43 minutes per day) and the Philippines (one hour, 33 minutes per day) spend the most time in the world using game consoles.”

“Southeast Asia demonstrates an interesting and thriving digital landscape. People in the Philippines are power-users of the internet with nearly 10 hours a day spent online; Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia join them in the top 10. We’re also a very social corner of the globe with Filipinos spending the most time on social media globally; and Indonesians in fifth. It appears this social media use isn’t limited to our personal lives – interestingly, people in Indonesia have the highest percentage of people who use social media for work. And if it’s speed you’re after, head to Singapore — it has the highest fixed internet connection speed globally at a ripping 200.1 Mbps.”

All the data changed with Covid-19 per the Pahayag SONA done in Aug. 1 to 11, 2020. In the case of the Philippines, “79 percent read news on social media (Facebook and Twitter); 61.70 percent watch news on streaming platforms [such as] YouTube while watching news on TV was at 64.50 percent during the lockdown to the present. Most watched social media was Facebook at 61.40 percent, YouTube was at second at 23.30 percent and Twitter was at 10.40 percent.

Campaigning online and digitally

With Covid-19, the political terrain has also changed, and as the examples in other countries show, campaigning has been online and digital. How does it all stack up? Facebook and YouTube are the online platforms most frequently used among the survey population with roughly half of respondents using them since the start of the lockdown. Instagram and Twitter were far behind in third and fourth place. Facebook Messenger registered virtually universal usage among respondents. Second-placer Zoom was used by more than half of respondents. At least one-quarter of respondents also used Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Google Meet or Telegram.

More than half of respondents chose Facebook Messenger as their preferred video conferencing service. One out of four respondents signified their preference for Zoom. The remaining 20 percent of respondents were split among other platforms.

Netflix is the most popular streaming service (65 percent) among respondents, followed by iWant TV and ABS-CBN TVplus.

What do all these mean? Online and digital communication is the way to go for Election 2022. A candidate who does not have a database will have a hard time getting in touch with the voters. The gold standard would be a database that is geo-targeted and can be reached digitally whether by computer or smart phone. With communities proliferating on various platforms, issues can be vetted quite easily. Still, the challenges abound simply because keyboard warriors will proliferate and taunting becomes the name of the game. The toxicity will increase as we hit 2022. Authenticity will remain the currency to get the message out, and the team that offers a clear program of action and solutions to perceived weaknesses will win. Those who continually complain and hit leading personalities without any solutions offered will remain just echo chambers; nothing more.

“There are three broad sets of qualities that citizens might expect politicians to display: competence, integrity and authenticity. To be authentic, a politician must be judged to be in touch with the lives and outlooks of ordinary people. Some groups give the highest absolute importance to integrity traits, distracting citizens are significantly more likely to prioritize authenticity. For political elites and journalists, authenticity is less valued than among citizens: politicians place more relative importance on integrity traits while journalists value competence most.”

Election 2016 was about authenticity. 2019 was a referendum in support of the administration. Those who fail to realize the reasons behind such victories will have a hard time convincing voters why one camp may seem to have an advantage despite public health and economic issues. Remember the man who kept kissing the flag and the rest are just TV ads.


About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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