Friday, September 14, 2012

On the wall of shame

published September 5, 2012, MST page A5

Social networking sites have been known to play a role in political and social movements.

Recall how the Arab spring was aided by Facebook, Twitter and You Tube despite the controls these governments imposed on the Internet. People gathered on the streets to express their discontent. Images were broadcast to the rest of the world using smart phones. More joined. Some of these movements led to the toppling of dictators who had been ruling for decades.

The Occupy Movements are another example. What started on Wall Street in New York City quickly spread to other states and then to key cities around the world. The so-called 99 percent expressed their outrage over the greed of the 1 percent. The latter are executives of corporations and bankers who paid themselves lavishly even while the rest of the nation suffered the effects of the economic downturn.

Years ago, our uses of social networks were purely personal. It enabled a user, for instance, to share vacation photos with friends and family. Status updates gave the user’s friends a glimpse of what was going through his or her mind. Whether or not these updates were actual or idealized were, of course, another story.

It also connected long-lost relatives, old friends, and anything in between. Imagine being friends with your first boyfriend from 20 years (and many pounds) ago. Or the classmate who bullied you no end in grade school.

Much has been said about social networks – mostly how they are used by those who want to project a glammed-up version of themselves or celebrate the mundane details of life. Nobody will deny, however, that if used correctly, they can be a force for good.

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I talk about the power of social networking in the light of reining in our irrepressible politicians (and sometimes, their enterprising chiefs-of-staff).

Trawling the news feeds from my 500 or so Facebook friends, for instance, I have come across several “anti-epal” pages. Epal is street language for those who obsessively crave attention.

For instance, there is a general Anti-Epal page which now has more than 19,000 likes. The idea is for anybody to take pictures of banners, tarpaulins and billboards that promote the faces and names of shameless politicians, and post these pictures on this page for the world to see. Videos can also be uploaded.

Recall that President Aquino himself expressed aversion to self-promotion by politicians. But do today’s crop of leaders walk the talk?

A post on the Anti-Epal page breaks down Epal into five groups:

The credit grabber announces the sponsorship of a visible public infrastructure project using taxpayers’ money.

The fief welcomer welcomes visitors to his or her town as though it were his or her fiefdom.

The interloper shouts out uncalled-for public greetings during events like fiesta, graduation and Christmas.

The parasite basks in the reflected glory of another public official with mass appeal or sterling credentials, even though they may not even be acquainted with one another. An example of this would be that shameless official who used the death of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo to promote himself.

The issue bandwagon (rider) attaches his or her name to an issue deemed politically popular like the plight of migrant workers, protection of the environment, or assistance to senior citizens.

Do any names come to mind already?

Anybody is free to create a similar page, and that is exactly what other Facebook users have done. They have localized the campaign such that they only carry photos and videos of self-promoters in their own towns or cities. This way, residents of a specific town can keep closer watch over their opportunistic local officials.

It’s an exercise that crosses party lines. The idea is to take to task officials OF WHATEVER POLITICAL AFFILIATION. After all, party loyalties change often but the politicians’ instinct for self-preservation is in their DNA. All of them are the same—they just want us to believe otherwise.

The Anti-Epal watch is a simple but effective tool to keep in line our attention-starved politicos who would rather enhance their form than work on their substance. They want their names and faces visible, right? Let’s give it to them—on the wall of shame.

The effect is viral. The comments are amusing. The backlash is immediate. Anybody with a cell phone camera and an Internet connection can do it. Let’s all go epal-hunting and remember NOT to vote for these people in the next elections.

Now that’s Facebooking for a cause.



adellechua@gmail.com

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