At the tail-end of the ASEAN Summit here in Manila some weeks ago, we witnessed, mostly on social media platforms, a minor bickering by a certain “major blogger.”
In gist, what transpired was a derring-do of this self-assuming major political blogger to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Southeast Asia correspondent who initially seemed to be at lost on what’s the real reason behind the squabble. Apparently, major blogger wants to know the intention of BBC in choosing a minor blogger—by virtue of having fewer number of virtual followers—as an authority in shedding some light to Philippine Fiesta Politics.
Well, it all boils down to numbers. Number of followers that this major blogger with a much-emphasized and much-hyped master’s degree and is based somewhere in Europe had accumulated over Digong’s time.
You see, the number of followers in social media matters in these trying times. Five thousand or more followers can give you an access, as per almighty PCOO rules, to cover the President like a typical Palace beat mainstream media reporter can do during presscons.
Having hundreds of thousands of followers can land you to become a major blogger with an access to every major political carnival event in this land. And having millions? Well, it can make you a six-digit Philippine Peso earning mid-level government executive with an “Asec.” before your name.
Forget career-executive eligibility examinations. Having millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook will give you political legitimacy even if they are of the trolls or the fake accounts kinds, thus to counteract, gave rise to the social media nomenclature “organic following,” meaning the genuine, not paid, not fake, account type.
Really now, do numbers in social media matter? In a world where leaders are usually elected, and quality is often neglected in the holy name of democracy, a resounding—albeit sadly—yes.
But what we do need to understand is that these numbers don’t necessarily translate to intelligence or efficacy in representing these collective followers, say, in the number of “likes,” that is represented by that silly blue thumbs-up sign.
The “Like” icon, as what you may already know, morphed into something else. It could be something you might want to express, a pretext to not having any other means to say that a post is unpleasant, like in “One Like, One Amen” like-a-thon to some click-bait post. Enterprising organizers launched a like-and-share barrage in promoting a product or event; in voting the most liked contestant on a beaucon; students that rely on number of likes to obtain high grades given by some soulless clueless pedagogue.
The number of likes and shares gave a whole new meaning to the word virality. As in having viral element that spreads throughout the synthetic social media world.
The vagueness of “like” and other quick reactions (reax, as millennials would have it) poorly substitute for a more reasonable discourse on the comment space. And if, as would-be followers are created, you are interested to the kinds of posts a certain social media influencer are peddling, not necessarily you agree to every word these bloggers would tell, then you may click the “follow” button. To subscribe.
To follow someone on social media is a misnomer. “To follow” is a phrase construed by a privileged few as a sign to have loyal subjects and, worse, blind followers. You may be followed by a few or, as the case of this major blogger, by hundreds of thousands of social media accounts (I won’t use the term people nor netizen because an account doesn’t always necessarily translate to one individual, hello multiple account holders and troll farms) but you cannnot, and should not, consider these followings as something of the unthinking yes-people.
I have been following accounts of political bloggers of the Delawan and the ka-DDS species. While I may be following them, it cannot be said that I am of the same wavelength in trusting their wisdom and thereby, entrusting them my voice and opinion. It cannot also be said that I am always in agreement with their (dis)proposition on issues, and following their call on, say, entrusting this regime to declare an unfounded revgov due to more unfounded imagined reasons.
While I may be a follower, it cannot be said that I am a loyal blind subject. I subscribe. Just a subscription. To read news, rants, and delusions. And if my neurons can no longer take the beatings, I will always thank the social media gods in giving me the chance to unfollow, or to block.
Funny how someone who always doesn’t miss the chance to brag her education think of her followers as unthinking, unreflecting digital beings that can be peddled. Funnier thing too that someone who seemingly abhor mainstream media and is not short on supply of unminced words against mainstream media as biased or bayaran or delawan, yet trying very hard to be interviewed or be made to be an authority.
Well, what can be said about people with hyper-inflated egos that believe that numbers of followers determine their relevance in this world of social media fakery?