About the author: Jay Catalan is the cofounder of The Network Hub and Tulayan
The other day, he sent a provocative email addressed to me and our group of friends. In it, he quoted several articles from psychology magazines that in essence claims the only value of Twitter is to create and nurture a narcissistic society. My friend goes on to say that there is no real use for it other than for marketing and creating ‘plastic relationships’.
I understood, in part, where my friend was coming from. There are definitely aspects of social media that are narcissistic and plastic. But that’s because the online world is made up of people from the real world, which is a mix of the good and the bad. Unfortunately, just like the real world, it takes time and a bit of effort to find and connect with the good people amongst all the noise.
I also understand that his email was partly motivated by the difficulty he’s been having in getting in touch with me via phone, email or in person. He’s right to be frustrated, and he’s right that I need to put in more face time with my friends. However, I take exception with the claim that these tools create nothing but ‘plastic relationships’.
I’ve been using these social media tools lately to reach out to Filipinos in Vancouver, as well as across the globe. My friend, RJ Aquino, and I have been trying to connect with the younger generation of Filipinos in Vancouver, in an effort to bridge the perceived gaps between the more established Filipinos in Vancouver and the more recent Filipino immigrants and overseas foreign workers. The experience I have had with this group these past few weeks has shown me that these relationships do not have to be merely ‘plastic’.
Below is an excerpt of the email response that I sent out to my friend. Please forgive the slightly brassy tone of the email, as it was sent to an old friend and we’re used to talking to each other in this manner :
Through my experience in the past few weeks, I’ve met a lot of caring and passionate Filipinos online, some through Facebook, and some through Twitter.
I’ve always emphasized that these tools, if you wanna use them to make connections, should only be a starting point. (Using it as a curative tool for finding reliable interesting info is a totally different application)
By sharing ideas, articles or engaging in conversation through Twitter, you get an idea of where people’s minds and hearts are at.
At this point you can move from being like-minded strangers online and into a real-world community.
This is what’s happened with our little Filipino group. We are slowly but surely, building a community of passionate and caring young Filipinos, who wants to a) connect with other Filipinos and their culture b) Help pass our heritage onto 2nd and 3rd
generation Filipinos c) Enable positive cultural identification in a group that is sorely lacking it, and d) Help new immigrants who have a difficult time adjusting to this new land due to point c.
The open system of Twitter has allowed us to find each other here, and connect with Filipinos back home, through exchange of ideas. Lacking a geographic centre was no longer as big of a drawback. Nothing replaces face to face contact, and we have had several events since then, including the Wine & Keso night on Friday, where several young people spoke up about being tremendously excited and happy to find this ‘Community’ that we’re building. Everyone is enthusiastic about finding out what the others are doing, and seeing what they can do to support each other’s causes and events, and learning from each other through volunteer run workshops.
….., my very good friend, do you want to attend our next gathering and speak to these teens that have been sparked up with hope and excitement, and tell them what they are feeling in their heart is all merely ‘plastic’.