Sunday, December 9, 2012

Social Media and the peace process

Angel Santos | With the current developments in the peace process, I cannot help but be amazed by the wave of support from the online community. From the #iamforpeace to #Bangsamoro to #givepeaceachance hashtag, two of which went trending in the Philippines. Suddenly, everyone wants to take part in peace building. Everyone is affirming their stake for peace. And that is something.
Some people think that tweeting and Facebook-ing for peace are not as significant as immersing oneself in conflict-affected areas. Some may think that posting online about peace cannot bring about change in the lives of those people on the ground. Some may think that social media is “all talk, no action,” because most of the people affected by war are “offline.”
But hear me when I say, social media matters in peace work. We live in a time when information technology is at its peak. Information is on our finger tips. Many Filipinos have Facebook accounts where they stay not only connected with their family and friends but also updated with current news. Based on a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2012, the Philippines is ranked 54th out of 70 countries with high prevalence of Internet-connected consumers, businesses and governments. It also pinned #7 in Asia in terms of number of Internet users in 2011.
In our country, there are about 33.6 million Internet users as of 2012 (from Internetwordlstats.com), in which 73.9% use Facebook, 18.1% YouTube, 6.1% Twitter, and 3.8% utilize blogs.  And that is an amazing and overwhelming number of Filipinos online—sharing information, telling stories, and connecting to each other on a real-time basis.
By taking advantage of  social networking sites, we can raise the awareness of these 1 million users on the situation of people affected by conflict. Through Twitter and Facebook, we can bring the “ground” closer to the online community. We can give face to individuals or groups and their struggle to live in peace through stories, photos and videos accessible to people in the virtual world.
The social media is an arena where people can pitch in ideas and exchange opinions on how to improve the peace situation in the Philippines. The effect of such may not be direct, but the mere act of creating a venue for engagement and raising awareness onpeace to other people who are “living in peace” is still an act for peace.
By letting those who have access to the Internet know about what’s happening on the ground, we are not only building an online community of peace advocates from different backgrounds and walks of life, but more importantly we are fueling change. By engaging these people, we are not only enforcing the number of peace builders but also supporting the peace workers on the ground.
In which I quote Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles: “Every new voice, every new tweet, every new Facebook post that comes out to support peace is a bead of ambrosia that will inspire and strengthen our quiet, conscientious, heroic peace workers on the ground who may be obscure or little known beyond the communities whom they serve.” #

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