Wake Up, Philippines!

Virtual Rallies and Cyberactivism vs Con Ass

Posted in Charter Change, Cyberactivism, Internet by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Carlo S. Ople

I was just reading the latest articles on the recently concluded Anti Con-Ass rally on Inquirer.Net. According to the police, this rally had the lowest turnout, around 6,000 based on their estimates.

The organizers, on the other hand, claim that they had 13,000-15,000 warm bodies. You got to ask yourself the question: despite all the outrage this issue has generated, why only 15,000 people went to the streets?

I’m sure there are varied reasons but at the end of the day the measurement of success for events like this is the number of participants. Sadly 15,000 is not representative of the majority of the Filipino people and can easily be dismissed by the politicians pushing for Con Ass.

However, the good news is that on the Internet, we have almost double the number of the people who went to the rally sign up on the “Stop Con Ass Now” cause on Facebook. As of this writing, there are almost 28,000 sign-ups on the cause.

With that in mind, I came up with this short article explaining the strengths of Cyberactivism and why it should be taken seriously not just by the proponents, but also by politicians and organizers who want to provide a platform for the citizens to be part of a cause.

Physical Rallies can be Inconvenient
Let’s face it, life these days is hard. Missing a day of work means a salary deduction or a lost vacation/sick leave. The reality is a lot of Filipinos will not “pay” to be part of a rally by missing work. I think this was the biggest hurdle a lot of office workers had to face in Makati when they wanted to join the rally last night. This was the sentiment of several colleagues I have here in the office.

Rallies also need a convergence point. You physically have to be in one spot on a specific time to be able to make the effort count. This literally makes the rally limited since those who are outside of Manila, especially those in Visayas and Mindanao, cannot participate because they won’t buy a plane ticket and fly all the way here to protest Con Ass.

Virtual Rallies, on the other hand, are completely the opposite. All you need to have to be part of it is to have access to the Internet. The good thing these days is that there are more than 10,000+ Internet cafes spread all over the Philippines and most of them charge very reasonable and affordable rates.

There are a few cafes in Davao that charge as low as P5/hour. By going to the worldwide web, you transcend the inconveniences brought about by physical rallies. You’re still counted and your part of the movement without having to spend that much time, resources, and effort.

Physical Rallies end when they’re finished

This, I think, is the biggest weakness of physical rallies. When the crowd disperses, the event ends, especially if there were only a few or an average number of attendees. Other succeeding rallies are usually treated as separate efforts and they don’t really all add up in terms of metrics.

And that I think is one of the strongest qualities of Virtual Rallies. The moment a person joins, he’s in it for the long haul. The count is cumulative regardless of the time and space. As long as the website is up and running, people will be counted. That’s the reason why the Facebook Cause against Con Ass is already nearing 30,000 sign-ups. Imagine if we give it more time? That number will continue to grow and eventually might even end up more than 100,000.

What is more effective in pushing for a cause? An unsure attendance of 6,000-15,000 in a rally in Makati or a virtual representation of more than 100,000?

Organizers of the Anti Con Ass Campaign should really take Cyberactivism seriously. Given the right firepower, the Facebook approach might actually be more effective in the long run.

Carlo Ople is the main author of New Media Philippines (http://newmedia.com.ph), a blog that aims to help Filipinos maximize and realize the potential of New Media. Apart from being a blogger, Carlo also serves as a Marketing Manager for one of the leading online gaming companies in the Philippines. He is also a freelance digital marketing consultant and has worked with various politicians and business owners expand their reach and influence through the use of social media. Read more about him at New Media Philippines (http://newmedia.com.ph)