SONGSOPTOK : The internet revolution has deeply impacted our modern society that can be compared to the discovery of electricity. Today we can’t think of the internet without the social media. When and how did you first discover the social media?

EUNICE BARBARA:  I discovered social media in 1999. At first it was yahoo. Groups. Then in the early 2000, Friendster became the trend and of course I registered. I learned from these through a news feature. But when I was studying Master’s Degree at the University of the Philippines, most were using Facebook because it was more user friendly. So, in 2008, I was already in Facebook and started posting quotes, non-sense things, my political views and eventually I started writing notes in one of its application. In 2014, I started using twitter through the prodding of my then 12 year old daughter, Karina.

SONGSOPTOK : As far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, the power of the social media today is undeniable, allowing us to communicate in real time across the globe. What is your opinion about this? What are its advantages & disadvantages?

EUNICE BARBARA:  As I’ve said the social media, where I am actively participating are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is an advantage to me because I was able to connect with long lost friends and relatives. I also use it to communicate to my son who is in the Philippines.  Facebook is also my way of interviewing people whom I featured in Global Pinoy, a section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I am a regular contributor. In Twitter, it is advantageous to me because I can easily connect with government official who helps the migrants like me. He answers in twitter first before emailing confidential details. When it comes to disadvantages, there are lots. People got fired because of posts; some friends “unfriended” you because they are offended by your posts.  Posting pictures is also a disadvantage specially, in compromising situations. Even if you deleted your posts and pictures, someone out there could screen capture those and repost these on various social media.

SONGSOPTOK : We have noticed that social media has become a powerful vector for personal expression and creativity, because we no longer need the approval or approbation to publish. Our creativity has found a new channel for addressing a global audience. What is your opinion about this?

EUNICE BARBARA:   Personal expression like photos, images, quotes and other rants are okay unless these do not cross the boundary between the ethical and moral. For the young people, it is a way to express themselves freely. Thus, it is important for parents to monitor their kids.  There are many people who are discovered because of the social media. Like for example, a poor young girl singing was videotaped, posted in Facebook and it became viral, until the girl was discovered and eventually joined a national singing contest in the Philippines and won. Social media can make or “unmake” us.

SONGSOPTOK : In this context, it is also true that any and everybody today can claim to be a writer, a poet, or an artist on any number of social media. We no longer have a standard for appreciating true talent – a role that was played by editors or different types of experts. What is you point of view? Do you think that the power of social media have served to create more charlatans than proper artists?

EUNICE BARBARA:  A blogger is not a writer. But a writer can be a blogger. I am a writer since the advent of social media and I received rejection slips. My works were edited. There are lots of trashes in the internet, bloggers posing as intellectuals but if you read them, you would find out that they just copied their “intellectual rants” somewhere! Even in posting beautiful or interesting photographs, many stole the works of others and some created stories out of it, simply because they wanted recognition as a writer. One example of this is the photo of Graham Levery in Vietnam with a poor-looking kitten on his boots. This photo became viral with tear-jerking stories, until such time Levery explained that he could not take the kitten with him in the US and just let fate take care of it.

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that the social media has contributed to bringing societies and cultures across the globe closer? If not, what can be done to make it a more powerful tool?

EUNICE BARBARA:   Indeed it’s true. I learned a lot from other cultures from chatting with friends from all over the globe. Although many of my foreign friends are my personal friends even outside Facebook, they share issues and trends in their countries which I find interesting so I share it to the public.  Facebook or the internet makes our world smaller and closer, albeit, it also causes rift between the people who do not respect each other’s diversities.  Facebook is an effective tool when calling for protest actions and campaigns that eventually lead to positive changes.

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that in general the users of social media are actually aware of its potential, both in the positive and negative sense? In other words, do you think that the average user is aware of the possible reach of social media and the consequences it may have? What is your own experience?

EUNICE BARBARA:  In my own experience, I even advised many of my friends to take down their posts which are “too personal or offensive”. In fact, a lot of people rely on Facebook or other social media to express their disgusts, angsts, frustrations and even disagreements with family members. Social media is now a tool to express ourselves, negatively or positively. I think they know how powerful is the social media, but then, to many who do not have anybody to talk to or leading a double life, they somewhat think that their posts do not reach the other side of the world. One time, out of frustration because my son was not communicating with me, I posted on his wall “KARL, CALL ME OR ELSE I WILL CUT YOUR ALLOWANCE!” Then after a while, I was back to my senses and deleted it.

SONGSOPTOK : Social media is often considered to be a true reflection of human society. What is your opinion? How would you evaluate the image you see today in the context of the society you live in? How true or false is the reflection?

EUNICE BARBARA:   In the Philippine context, although I now live in Thailand, social media is a microcosm of our society. There you can find the intellectuals, the pseudo-intellectuals and the stupidest people. It is a virtual society where we mingled. Like in the real world, social media create animosity, and friendship. In the real society, we laugh and cry, and it’s true in social media.

SONGSOPTOK : The advent and the trivialization of social media is today’s society seem to be have erased the difference between virtual and real. Would you agree? What is you own experience?

EUNICE BARBARA:   Yes. Many people I know brought their disagreement from social media to their personal lives to the point of confronting each other and sometimes lead to intervention of the law. In my experience, I feel like living in a dual world.  Facebook is another world for me where I could believe what the people or the posts. And then the reality where I am just an ordinary teacher. My Facebook account is very private. So only few friends could take a peek of my life in Facebook. But wait, I am inspired by many stories in Facebook.  Famous people in the literary scene became my friends and even outside of Facebook I tried to connect to them by sending simple remembrance that I do exist in real life.

SONGSOPTOK : In your opinion, has social media contributed to breaking down of traditional rules of social relationships? In what way? How would you analyze the impact of social media in this context?

EUNICE BARBARA:   Yes, definitely. But it also depends on the person..  Relationship is a relative thing. I have a friend in Facebook who could tell his/her problems to me and I also have friends whom I have not met personally, but I can freely talk about my feelings and angst to them. Social relationship evolves and its evolution includes social media.

SONGSOPTOK : Do you believe that social media can play a constructive role for world peace and unity? Or on the contrary play a totally negative role by fuelling existing conflicts between nations and communities?

EUNICE BARBARA:   We have experienced the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy these place and that. Social media bring people together in one goal because it can reach worldwide audience in real time. Again, social media is a tool also to fuel conflicts between races. For example there are Facebook groups making tirades to Filipinos or anti-Chinese sentiments, that even in the real society they could feel hatred to certain ethnicity or communities.

SONGSOPTOK : How effective can be the role of social media as a tool of protest and action against all sorts of social ills and injustices?

EUNICE BARBARA:   In my experience our Facebook group launched the 100% Brownout Free Occidental Mindoro Campaign. For 20 years we have experiencing brownouts in our province in Occidental Mindoro. Then we use the power of social media to launch it. At first it was just laughed off by the local officials, but then media is more powerful. Now, our campaign already reach the President, the Senate and the Congress, and even the Energy Secretary visited our province; much to the chagrin of those who disapproved of our campaign.

SONGSOPTOK : Lastly, we would like to know the impact of social media, if any, in your own life. What kind of journey has it been? What are your own expectations about the evolution of social media?

EUNICE BARBARA:  For six years, social media is a part of my life. This is where I find respondents for my feature articles. I debated with ordinary and the intellectuals in certain issues. I found friends, real friends although we have not met. But you know, some people have this strong attachment to each other even far away. Some of my Facebook friends already visited us here in Thailand. Whenever I have time, I try to meet those “close friends” in Facebook.  Social media made my circle bigger; it made my world a little bit exciting. For years to come, social media would make us one or divide us.  Social media is a tool, but it is not “life”.




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